DETROIT - Two outs were all that separated Justin Verlander from yet another rare achievement - and an exclusive club that includes Cy Young, Nolan Ryan and only three other pitchers.
With the crowd on its feet in anticipation of Verlander's third no-hitter, the Detroit ace threw a sharp breaking ball, just off the outside corner. Josh Harrison stuck his bat out and flicked a soft line drive agonizingly toward center field.
"That's why throwing no-hitters is so difficult," Verlander said. "It doesn't take a hard one, it just takes the right placement."
Harrison's ninth-inning single broke up Verlander's latest no-hit bid, but the powerful right-hander was brilliant again for the Tigers, striking out 12 in a 6-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night. Verlander allowed two walks and settled for his first career one-hitter. He nearly became the sixth major leaguer to throw at least three no-hitters.
Verlander also fell just short of the third no-hitter in the majors already this season. Philip Humber pitched a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox at Seattle on April 21, and Jered Weaver tossed a no-hitter for the Los Angeles Angels against Minnesota on May 2.
"The adrenaline is like nothing else. You don't really feel anything. My legs were just kind of tingling," Verlander said. "Everything's amplified in that situation. You're like, `Man, I don't want to throw the wrong one.' But you've just got to trust your instincts and go with what you feel."
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
The 29-year-old Verlander, last year's AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner, really brought the crowd to life in the eighth with three straight strikeouts. Casey McGehee went down looking at a 98 mph fastball, then Nate McLouth struck out swinging on a pitch that hit 99.
Verlander reached 100 mph with his first pitch to Clint Barmes, and after getting him to chase an outside pitch for strike three, he walked slowly to the Detroit dugout and down the steps closest to home plate on the third-base side - while teammates used another entrance at the opposite end.
In the ninth, Michael McKenry grounded to shortstop Jhonny Peralta on a 3-2 offering, and Verlander got ahead of Harrison before he reached for a 1-2 slider and sent a clean single up the middle that Peralta couldn't get to.
"I was so amped to hit his 100 mph fastball that I didn't even know where the ball was going," Harrison said. "He never threw me a fastball in that at-bat, but I finally got a pitch I could put my bat on."
Verlander (5-1) saw the ball drop in shallow center and bent backward on the mound, knowing how close he came. He settled for his sixth career shutout and 16th complete game. He threw 109 pitches.
"Would I rather it be hard-hit? Of course," Verlander said. "But a hit's a hit's a hit."
The sellout crowd at Comerica Park gave Verlander a big ovation and he quickly finished off the Pirates with a pair of groundouts. After the Tigers lined up for high-fives, Verlander saluted fans with a wave.
Verlander no-hit Toronto on May 7, 2011. His other no-hitter came June 12, 2007, against Milwaukee.
This was his first one-hitter, although he allowed one hit in eight innings against the Los Angeles Angels last season, one of several close calls to go with the no-hitter against the Blue Jays.
After rolling to the AL Central title in 2011 and adding Prince Fielder in the offseason, Detroit was just 18-20 entering Friday night's game. Against the Pirates, the Tigers provided a glimpse of what Motown was hoping to see this season.
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.