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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Verlander has no-hit bid vs. Rangers broken up with two outs in the seventh

DETROIT — Justin Verlander knew he was going to get a week off, so why not make his final start before the All-Star break a memorable one?

The Tigers’ ace went chasing after his third career no-hitter in Sunday’s game against the Rangers, getting within seven outs before Mitch Moreland it up with a two-out double in the seventh.

Before Moreland’s double, Verlander was cruising, having retired all but three of the 22 batters he faced, issuing only three walks.

But it took him a ton of pitches to get it done.

It looked for a while like one of those tough decisions a manager faces, when a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter, but his pitch count is steadily rising. Verlander had 97 pitches after six innings.

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy faced the same decision Saturday night, when he let Tim Lincecum throw 148 pitches to complete his first career no-hitter.

“You’re in a tough spot, between a rock and a hard place,” Leyland said of Bochy’s dilemma. “It came at a good time. Really, I mean it came at a good time because he can put him at the back end after the break.”

Verlander finished with 105 pitches through seven innings, and with tightness in his right quadriceps, according to the team. But like Lincecum, won’t pitch in the All-Star Game, having been replaced on the roster by Baltimore’s Chris Tillman earlier in the afternoon. Starters who pitch Sunday, by rule, are only allowed to pitch in the All-Star Game with their manager’s permission.

Maybe he was treating Sunday’s start as his All-Star Game.

Maybe he was using it as redemption for last year’s All-Star start, when he gave up

Last time he pitched against Texas, he gave up seven runs in one inning.

Last time he pitched at all, he gave up a career-high 12 hits to the White Sox.

As the game wore on, he’d get some of those hit-saving defensive plays that always seem so prevalent in no-hit bids.

Alex Avila gunned out Leonys Martin trying to steal in the first inning, erasing the only baserunner Verlander allowed in the first 13 batters he faced. He’d issue a second walk to Mitch Moreland with one out in the fifth — ending a streak of 11 straight retired — but get a running, fading catch by Torii Hunter in right field, and a diving stop by Victor Martinez at first to strand Moreland.

Prior to that, Matt Tuiasosopo had nearly screwed himself into the ground, reversing field three times in an effort to catch a knuckling liner off the bat of Adrian Beltre to end the fourth.

When Moreland’s hit came, it was a spot that no one could make a play on it, a line-shot double to the gap in right-center field, more than 20 feet from either Austin Jackson in center or Hunter in right.

The Tigers staked Verlander to a 3-0 lead with a trio of solo home runs, one by Hunter in the first, and back-to-back shots by Martinez and Jhonny Peralta in the fourth.

They would add two runs in the sixth, knocking Rangers starter Martin Perez out of the game, after singles by Peralta and Tuiasosopo drove in the two Perez had walked to start the inning.


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