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."
Four of the five pitchers with at least three no-hitters are in the Hall of Fame: Ryan (seven), Sandy Koufax (four), Bob Feller (three) and Young (three). Larry Corcoran, an ambidextrous pitcher who won 177 games from 1880-85, is the other one.
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.
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.