DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland has spent much of his managerial career trying not to go overboard on praise. After 48 years in baseball, there isn't much he hasn't seen.
As he reflected back Saturday on Justin Verlander's no-hit bid Friday night, however, he couldn't stop the praise. He couldn't recall a better pitching performance -- not just from Verlander, who has two no-hitters to his credit, but from anyone.
"I've never seen anything like that," he said. "That's probably the best game I've ever seen pitched. I've seen a lot of games -- over 3,000. I don't know how you explain that. That's freaky. ...
"Anybody who was here last night probably saw one of the best games ever pitched in baseball."
The freakiness, he said, is in the velocity.
"Most guys go from 95 [mph] and then by the seventh inning they're down to 92, 91," Leyland continued. "This guy goes from 92 to 94 to 95 in the middle [innings] to 99 to 100 late. That's what is a freak. I'm not calling him a freak. I'm saying it's a freaky thing. I've never seen anything like it."
That's something Leyland and Tigers coaches spent years working with Verlander on doing. Leyland still remembers Hall of Famer Tom Seaver talking with Verlander about it when the Tigers visited the Mets two years ago. It wasn't just about pacing velocity for late, but looking at a lineup, knowing the tough outs and saving his max effort for them.
The way Verlander worked the Pirates lineup, saving his 98-99 mph fastballs for the seventh inning and the middle of the Pirates lineup, was a classic example. Yet it still might not have been at his maximum effort.
"The average person sees 98 on the scoreboard, but they don't see the same 98 I see," Leyland said. "I see the difference between the 98 that's more effort and the 98 that's effortless. There's a major difference in that. And that's what he did last night. When he got to 98-100, it was fluid. He wasn't muscling way up. If you really watch close you can see it. It's amazing to me."