If anyone else has thrown a no-hitter in their first outing after one during which he was ejected, I have no record of it. So it’s entirely possible that, in that sense, Justin Verlander’s Sunday afternoon special in Toronto’s Rogers Centre was unprecedented.
Can you just picture some pitcher somewhere arguing with an ump and answering, if and when the ump in question asks why he’s trying to get himself an early trip to the clubhouse, “Nothing personal, but I’d kinda like to throw a no-hitter in my next start, too.”
Or some umpire answering when a pitcher asks why the unexpected or undeserved ho-heave, “Relax, kid, I’m doing you a favour, now you got a good chance of throwing a no-hitter your next time out.”
That assumed those pitchers have anything resembling Verlander’s ability and intelligence. And you can line those who do up on one surfboard. With a little room to spare.
If anyone else’s no-hitter was consummated by an obscure rookie third baseman hitting a two-run homer in the top of the ninth for the game’s only score, then throwing out a far less obscure rookie for the game’s final out, I’m also unaware of it as I write. So Verlander better not have been kidding when he said Abraham Toro was due for a big reward.
Toro ought to get at least a new car (Verlander can afford to buy a dealership, after all, we think) for going above and beyond to make Verlander only the sixth man in Show history to throw at least three no-hitters. Maybe from a Canadian dealership, since Verlander’s the first to throw more than one no-no in the same visitors’ park.
The company he joins? Four Hall of Famers (Bob Feller, Cy Young, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan) and a nineteenth-century deadballer. (Larry Corcoran.)
But I’m pretty sure none of Corcoran’s, Young’s, Feller’s, Koufax’s, or Ryan’s no-hitters featured having to dispatch three sons of former major leaguers (Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggo, and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.), including two sons of Hall of Famers (Biggio, Guerrero), at the very top of the enemy batting order.
Verlander did. He struck Bichette and Biggio out twice, walked Biggio once, and rid himself of Guerrero on a pair of ground outs to third base and a foul pop to first.
Joining the deadballer may be the most appropriate for Verlander considering he did his Sunday work with a fastball that barely reached 90 mph if at all but a curve ball with more bite than a piranha in danger of missing its three squares on the day. He worked up and down the zone like an elevator operator, back and forth like a vacuum cleaner, and the only thing he had to worry about was whether the American League West-leading Astros would ever get a run on the board for him before his day was finished.
The Blue Jays went to a bullpen game beginning with former Met Wilmer Font, acquired in the Marcus Stroman trade, striking out three with one hit in two innings. Then two more Jays bulls, Sam Gaviglio and Zack Godley, worked three runless innings each, Gaviglio working three perfect with three punchouts and Godley shaking away two Astro hits while punching out two, plunking one, and surviving first and third in the seventh.
Then the Jays turned it over to Ken Giles, the closer and former Astro, having a renaissance season until he hit the injured list for a brief spell around the trade deadline, but who took a staggering 1.67 ERA into Sunday’s contest. And this was a day after he struck out the side to end a 6-4 Blue Jays win.
But Astros third baseman Alex Bregman opened Sunday’s top of the ninth with a double dunked into shallow right field. Giles flicked it off more or less with a three-pitch, swinging strikeout on the Astros’s explosive rookie outfielder/DH Yordan Alvarez, followed by a third-pitch fly out to center by Astros first baseman Aledmys Diaz.
Then came Toro, the switch hitter batting left.. Then came two Giles sliders, the first fouled off and the second ball one down and inside. Then came a four-seam fastball right down the pipe. And there it went the other way into the left field seats. Leaving Verlander to finish what he started, sandwiching a nasty swinging fourteenth strikeout between a pair of ground outs.
And leaving him to history.
“I can’t put it into words,” said the righthander who had four previous shots at a third no-hitter broken up in 2011, 2012, 2015, and last year. “I’ve come so close to the third one so many times.”
Maybe he should have been ejected in the starts immediately preceding those bids, too.