Posted on September 1, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Houston Astros Justin Verlander
Image via usatoday.com

On Sunday, Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander joined a group that has fewer than 10 members. That group consists of the pitchers who have thrown at least three no-hitters in their career. Verlander threw nine hitless innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday in a 2-0 win for the Astros. It was the third no-hitter of his career, putting him on a list with only five other pitchers with at least three no-no’s.

“I can’t put it into words,” Verlander said moments after getting the final out of the game. “You start thinking about it a little bit [in the] 3rd, 4th, 5th inning. After that, it’s definitely on your mind and then, 8th inning, it’s very prevalent. 9th inning — I had memories of blowing a few in the past in the 9th inning, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about that.”

The 36-year-old Verlander was nothing short of dominate against Toronto’s lineup, which is young but filled with talented hitters, including three sons of former major leaguers. He needed just 120 pitches to get through all nine innings. A walk to Cavan Biggio in the bottom of the 1st was the only blemish of the day for Verlander. If not for that, he would have thrown a perfect game. Verlander faced 28 batters, one over the minimum, striking out 14 of them.

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“I think my fastball had been good all day, it had really good life on it,” explained Verlander. “My slider was a little bit inconsistent, so I think I would have kicked myself in the butt a little bit had I gotten beat on a bad one. Just kind of leaned on the fastball the last inning, I was able to get some outs.”

This was the fourth no-hitter in the majors this season, and the second by the Astros. Houston had four pitchers, including starter Aaron Sanchez, combine for a no-hitter against the Mariners in early August. More importantly, it was the third of Verlander’s career. Oddly enough, his second no-hitter was also against the Blue Jays in 2011 when he was pitching for the Detroit Tigers.

As mentioned, Verlander now sits in exclusive company. Along with Bob Feller, Larry Corcoran, and Cy Young, Verlander has thrown three no-hitters in his career. If he throws another one, he will tie Sandy Koufax with four no-hitters, the second most of all-time. Of course, Nolan Ryan sits alone with seven no-hitters in his career. Verlander may not be able to match that, but he’s proud to be sitting alongside some of the greatest the game has ever seen.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know that the list of guys who have thrown three instead of two gets pretty small — some of the guys I’ve idolized,” Verlander said after the game. “It’s a special moment. I’m so happy to be able to celebrate this with my teammates.”

For the sake of the game, Verlander had to be sharp, as the Astros didn’t get their two runs until the top half of the 9th inning. It was rookie third baseman Abraham Toro, playing his eighth big league game, who broke the tie with a two-run home run. Heading into the bottom of the 9th, Verlander finally had some breathing room. In the end, it was Toro who also helped record the final out of the game on a ground ball to third base, helping to seal the historic day for Verlander.

“I cant put it into words,” said Verlander. “I mean, I’ve been so close to the third one so many times, it just didn’t happen and then tonight, Abraham Toro comes up with a huge homer. Only fitting that he was able to make the last out. Ball is in play, you’re just hoping that it’s an out. Make an out, make an out, make an out, good throw, good throw, good throw. Let’s celebrate.”

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