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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Verlander's second no-hitter is no surprise


The night Justin Verlander threw his first career shutout, he was still throwing 99 mph in the ninth inning.

99 in the ninth.

We were all impressed. As I remember, he wasn't.

Five years later, we know why.

The days Verlander is really good, he throws 100 mph.

The days he's really good, the hitters have no chance -- and no hits.

Ask the Brewers, Verlander's no-hit victims in 2007. Ask the Blue Jays, his no-hit (and nearly perfect game) victims Saturday.

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Or ask the next team he no-hits.

It's going to happen.

I shouldn't say that. The only four modern-era pitchers with more than two no-hitters are maybe the four biggest names in pitching history: Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller and Cy Young.

But did I tell you this guy was still throwing 100 mph in the ninth inning?

His average fastball Saturday, according to Brooksbaseball.net, was 97.5 mph. He threw changeups at 86, and curveballs at 79. That's a curveball that a scout once described as "a Bert Blyleven curveball, only 10 mph faster."

And Saturday, he threw 74 of his 108 pitches for strikes.

This Verlander no-hitter didn't feel as dramatic as the first one. Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge described that night as "one of the coolest things ever."

Verlander said he was more calm this time. He didn't step off the mound in the ninth, as he did in the first game.

"I wasn't soaking it in," he said that night. "I was just trying to calm myself down."

He looked calmer this time, as calm as Justin Verlander can look. He went back and forth between the clubhouse and the dugout in the top of the ninth, but anyone who knows Verlander knows that he can rarely stay in one place for long.

And anyone who has seen Verlander pitch knows that days like this are possible.

Four years ago, I wrote that Verlander has the stuff to strike out 20 batters in a game -- and the mental makeup to realize that he doesn't have to.

That night, Verlander struck out 12 in his first no-hitter. Saturday, he struck out only four in his second one.

He can overpower hitters. But he can also pitch well enough to simply get outs.

He's strong enough to throw 120 pitches in a game, as he has done 29 times in his career (including last Monday night against the Yankees). But he has so many weapons that on days when he is throwing strikes, hitters fear falling behind in the count.

He had such good command Saturday that the only walk -- the only Blue Jays baserunner -- came on J.P. Arencibia's 12-pitch at-bat in the eighth. Some umpires would have called the final pitch a strike, especially in the eighth inning of a perfect-game bid, but Jerry Meals correctly ruled it ball four.

The chart on Brooksbaseball.net, taken from mlb.com's PitchFX tool, shows that 100 mph pitch as touching the edge of the strike zone, but just outside it.

Verlander was that close to perfection.

The night Verlander no-hit the Brewers, I wrote that it was "a no-doubt no-hitter." But that game included at least three fine defensive plays (by Magglio Ordonez, Sean Casey and Neifi Perez), and that night Verlander walked two.

Looking back, I might have gotten a little carried away.

This one was the no-doubt no-hitter.

In this one, the only real close call was on a ball Edwin Encarnacion hit in the fifth, which caromed off Verlander's right forearm. Verlander went to collect it, and his throw just beat Encarnacion to first base.

Everything else, it seemed, was either a strikeout a pop-up or an easy ground ball.

As then-teammate Kenny Rogers said after Verlander's first no-hitter, "When he's got it together like that, it's not fair."

On Saturday, as that night against the Brewers, it wasn't fair.

And yes, on Saturday, Verlander threw a ninth-inning pitch that was clocked at 100 mph. Just as he did against the Brewers (when he actually threw 102).

Not 99 in the ninth. 100 in the ninth.

And no hits. Again.


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