Tigers’ Verlander loses no-no to first batter in 9th, one-hits Angels
DETROIT — Justin Verlander leaned forward a bit, hoping this line drive would land foul.
Then he arched his back in disappointment when the ball hit the line, kicking up chalk on its way to the left-field corner.
Verlander lost a bid for his third no-hitter when Chris Iannetta hit a leadoff double in the ninth inning, and the Detroit Tigers beat the Los Angeles Angels 5-0 Wednesday night.
Trying to become the sixth major leaguer to throw three no-hitters, Verlander settled instead for a one-hit shutout.
He was an inch away from so much more.
"That’s the toughest part of a no-hitter is getting through that last inning," Verlander said. "How many times have you seen guys break it up in the ninth? It happens. Guys really lock in and if you make a mistake guys can hit it."
Verlander (2-6) retired the next three batters after Iannetta, who is hitting .188, to finish his seventh career shutout and first in the regular season since May 18, 2012, against Pittsburgh. The right-hander struck out nine and walked two in his first win since July 29.
He faced only 28 hitters — one more than the minimum — after inducing double plays following both walks.
Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos homered to help the Tigers stop a five-game slide.
Verlander’s most recent no-hitter came at Toronto on May 7, 2011. He also pitched one against Milwaukee on June 12, 2007.
This effort marked the seventh time in the last five seasons Verlander carried a no-hit bid into at least the seventh inning. He took one into the ninth in that 2012 shutout against the Pirates before Josh Harrison broke it up with one out.
Verlander is a different pitcher now, no longer reaching triple digits on the radar gun with regularity. He showed Wednesday how tough he can still be.
"You don’t need 100 (mph) — 97 plays," he said. "I think going back to spring training, my last start there when I hurt myself, felt like the ball was jumping out of my hand better than it had in a while. It’s nice to see that carry over and get some swings and misses on my fastball."
Following a triceps injury in the spring, Verlander didn’t make his first start this season until June 13. He won only once in his first 12 outings.
In July, he allowed seven runs over 3 2/3 innings against Baltimore and was booed as he left the mound — the first time that had happened in his Tigers career.
In seven starts since that game, he’s posted a 1.38 ERA and struck out 49 while walking only eight.
"He spotted everything, all night," catcher James McCann said. "He had all of his pitches working, spotting them, followed the game plan, stuck with it."
Verlander’s latest gem came five days after Houston right-hander Mike Fiers tossed the fifth no-hitter in the majors this season.
Four times now in 2015 a no-hit bid has been broken up in the ninth inning.
Verlander struck out five consecutive batters before walking David Murphy on four pitches to start the eighth, including Mike Trout looking at a breaking ball for the second out in the seventh. Albert Pujols then went down swinging at an inside fastball.
"You always start to think about it probably in the third or fourth inning. But I really keyed the seventh inning with Trout and Pujols coming up, saying, if I can get through this I’ve got a good shot," Verlander said. "And I’ve got to tip my cap to Iannetta. He hit a pretty good pitch. My fastball’s been working for me all night. I went with it."
Verlander’s second career one-hitter was his first complete game since he shut out Oakland on the road in the decisive fifth game of the 2012 AL Division Series.
Hector Santiago (7-8) allowed five runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings for the Angels.
The only major-league pitchers to throw three or more no-hitters are Larry Corcoran (3 in the 1880s), Cy Young (3), Bob Feller (3), Sandy Koufax (4) and Nolan Ryan (7).
"It’d be nice to be in that group, especially some of the names in there," Verlander said. "I think Nolan Ryan had some ridiculous amount of no-hitters broken up in the ninth inning. It happens."
Iannetta said before his last at-bat, he looked at video from 2011, when he was hitting better while using a leg kick and holding his hands high. He made an adjustment and broke up Verlander’s no-hit bid.
"He pitched a great game. He’s always great," Iannetta said. "He’s a tough pitcher. He’s one of the best in the game for a reason. He’s been that way for a long time, and he is the same as he’s always been."
Angels: OF Grant Green (right knee) could have played in an emergency but was not used.
Tigers: LHP Kyle Lobstein (left shoulder) made his fifth rehab start Tuesday night, going five innings and allowing one run for Triple-A Toledo.
Detroit LHP Randy Wolf (0-1) will start Thursday, and the Angels are expected to call up RHP Matt Shoemaker from the minors. Los Angeles optioned RHP Drew Rucinski to Triple-A Salt Lake after Wednesday’s game.