Tigers' Verlander throws 2nd career no-hitter

Tribune News Service • Jul 21, 2015 at 10:54 AM

Which was nice, said catcher Alex Avila, even though “me and Rick (Porcello) and Max (Scherzer) and Donnie (Kelly) planned on paying the bill.”

Wine flowed and filets arrived and Verlander and his crew relived one of the most dominant pitching performances in recent memory. A performance manager Jim Leyland hopes will be a turning point in Verlander’s career.

“I don’t want to start getting dramatic because it doesn’t work out that way sometimes, but to me this very easily could be the game that turns his career,” Leyland said. “The reason I say that is that in the five years I’ve been here, (that was) the calmest I’ve ever seen his demeanor — by far.”

Leyland called the performance a masterpiece. He was most impressed with his understated approach in the beginning. Verlander often fights himself early in games. His stuff is so lethal that he wants to throw it past hitters.

But as his effort showed against the Blue Jays on Saturday, Leyland said, “you don’t have to strike everybody out to win games up here — or to be dominant.”

Verlander decided after his start last week against the Yankees that he needed to relax early on and begin by throwing 92-94 mph, to establish a rhythm, to be use his off-speed pitches and be economical. Three innings into his no-hitter, he had thrown only 31 pitches.

“I was shocked,” Leyland said. “And thrilled.”

Leyland has long thought that Verlander has the most gifted arm in baseball.

“Now he’s still got to mold that into being the best pitcher,” Leyland said. “(Saturday) to be honest with you, was the first time I saw him do that. And it was freaking impressive.”

Combined with his slider, Verlander so thoroughly baffled the Blue Jays they squared the bat onto the ball maybe five times all game. The slider is a relatively new pitch in his repertoire.

“I invented that pitch for Jim Thome,” Verlander said of the Twins’ slugger. “The first time I threw it to him he hit a bomb.”

Verlander’s second no-hitter put him on a path to greatness. Now he wants more. How many?

“Seven,” he quickly answered, referring to the number Nolan Ryan tossed.

And why not?

“Things have to work out right to throw a no-hitter,” he said, but “as long as I continue to mature, there will be some opportunities there.”

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