And Tigers manager Jim Leyland was worried the whole way through the Tigers' 3-1 win on Friday night, for the same reason many others were probably still tuned in after Melky Cabrera broke up Verlander's no-hitter.
"That game did not have a real good feel," Leyland said. "If he had gotten five or six runs, it would've been a little bit different. But I've seen it happen: You're ahead 2-0, you get a no-hitter, and all of a sudden, a guy bloops one, the next guy hits a gapper and this guy hits a home run, and we're down 3-2.
"Everybody thinks that's an easy game, Verlander only gave up two hits. It wasn't an easy game. That was a tough game. [Closer Jose] Valverde did a heckuva job."
Keep in mind, this is the same Detroit club that lost four straight games in the eighth inning or later as part of their seven-game losing streak a couple weeks ago. That seems like last year by now, with the Tigers now on a six-game winning streak, their longest since their Interleague homestand last June. They're three games over .500 for the first time since last September, before Miguel Cabrera's final-week injury sent them tumbling back to break-even at season's end.
Their current winning streak started with his no-hitter last Saturday at Toronto, and the momentum seems to have carried through since. For five-plus innings on Friday night at Comerica Park, it was building again, the buzz in the crowd of 33,641 seemingly increasing with each out.
Encore -- Once MoreFewest hits allowed in consecutive starts (17 or more innings) in Major League history
|No. of Hits||Pitcher||Team||Dates|
|0||Vander Meer||CIN||June 11-15, 1938|
|1||Tobin||BOS-N||April 23-27, 1944|
|Vance||BRO||Sept. 8-13, 1925|
|Ehmke||BOS-A||Sept. 7-11, 1923|
|2||Verlander||DET*||May 7-13, 2011|
|Jones||NYY||Sept. 4-10, 1923|
|Warneke||CC||April 17-22, 1934|
|Cooper||STL-N||May 31-June 4, 1943|
|Blackwell||CIN||June 18-22, 1947|
|Ford||NYY||Sept. 2-7, 1955|
|Spahn||MILW||April 28-May 3, 1961|
|McDowell||CLE||April 25-May 1, 1966|
|Bibby||TEX||July 26-30, 1973|
|Ryan||CAL||June 1-6, 1975|
|Stieb||TOR||Sept 24-30, 1988|
|Nomo||LAD*||Sept. 12-17, 1996|
|Gooden||NYY*||May 8-14, 1996|
They didn't have that buzz when Verlander no-hit the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre last weekend. They were seemingly feeding off of it Friday, starting with Saturday. It couldn't help them turn this into a runaway victory by the late innings, but it didn't allow them to let this game fall from their control once the prime attraction of the night -- Verlander's no-hit bid -- went away.
A walk to Billy Butler, 13-for-32 lifetime off Verlander entering the game, was the only runner Verlander allowed through five innings. A four-pitch walk to ninth hitter Alcides Escobar with one out in the sixth ended a string of 13 straight Royals retired.
Chris Getz's groundout on a hit-and-run play, on an 0-2 pitch, kept the no-hitter going but moved Escobar into scoring position. Once Melky Cabrera pounced on a changeup and drove it into right-center field for a triple, the shutout was gone with the no-hitter. A mistake to Alex Gordon would've sent the lead out with it.
"We're not thinking in the dugout like we're going to get no-hit or anything," Gordon said. "It was a close game anyway, so we were thinking we were going to win the game. We weren't thinking about no-hitter or anything like that."
Butler was on deck. Verlander, his chase of Johnny Vander Meer's standard of back-to-back no-hitters gone, and admittedly upset at himself for his pitch to Cabrera, now had to get his focus back on the game. Because the Royals certainly had their attention on it.
Verlander had that same feel Leyland had.
"That can be a momentum changer," Verlander said of the situation. "In the sixth inning, they get their first hit. How many times have you guys seen a pitcher go deeper into a game and give up a hit and then kind of the wheels come off a little bit, and they give up a few hits in a row? So I was really cognizant of that, just told myself to make my pitches and get this guy."
Verlander geared up three fastballs at 98 during the six-pitch at-bat, two of which Gordon fouled off. He fouled back a tough one up above his belt to stay alive with a 2-2 count. But after Verlander dropped a curveball on the outside corner earlier to put him in a two-strike count, Gordon wasn't going to take the next one over the plate.
Gordon swung and missed. Verlander took another standing ovation on his way off the mound, and raised his hand to acknowledge it. That's about as far out of focus as he gets in an outing lately.
"He really beared down on that at-bat, knowing that Butler's the next hitter," catcher Alex Avila said. "Butler's a dangerous hitter for whoever's pitching, and if you've got two guys on, it would be tough to pitch against him. He just beared down and threw his best stuff against Gordon."
Matt Treanor, whose block of Austin Jackson's hand prevented another Tigers run at the plate earlier, put the potential tying run back at bat in the eighth with his leadoff double. Verlander retired the side in order from there, leading to Valverde in the ninth.
"I was giving everybody in the city of Detroit a good reason to second-guess," Leyland said. "And you know what? It would've been legitimate. But I'll explain to you why I did it: He's had a little phobia about Butler, he's hitting .400 something against him, he's walked him twice tonight. If somebody gets on, you're going take him out anyway. That's why I made the move.
"The other part of the equation is, that's what the closer's there for. If it had been a different part of the lineup, I would've left him in. But with Butler coming up, I wasn't going to do it."
Valverde allowed a leadoff single to Gordon, bringing Butler up as the tying run, then retired him, Jeff Francoeur and Eric Hosmer in order. They'd lost the no-hitter, but they lost that bad feeling about the game, too.