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Justin Verlander throws third no-hitter

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Houston Astros starter Justin Verlander reacts after pitching a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays in a baseball game in Toronto, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. Houston Astros starter Justin Verlander reacts after pitching a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays in a baseball game in Toronto, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)

Justin Verlander had a game for the history books.

The Houston Astros pitcher’s already-storied career saw another highlight etched into it this weekend when the 36-year-old hurler threw a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays, winning 2-0. The game missed perfection by just a single walk, issued to Cavan Biggio in just the second at-bat of the contest, but there’s no mistaking the dominance – Verlander struck out 14 along the way. The no-hitter marked his third, and his first since his 2011 MVP/Cy Young-winning season with the Detroit Tigers.

Throwing a no-hitter in the big leagues is a big deal – there have only been just over 300 such games in MLB history, counting combined no-hitters. Throwing two is even more rare – fewer than 40 pitchers in the game’s storied past have ever managed multiple no-hitters.

Three? Three is when you get to the truly rarified air – air now being breathed deeply by Justin Verlander.

He joins Bob Feller, Cy Young and Larry Corcoran as the only men to throw three no-hitters in a career. Appropriately enough, this ties them for third on the all-time list, behind only Sandy Koufax, who had seven, and Nolan Ryan, who holds the (probably unbreakable) record of seven.

That’s impressive company, Larry Corcoran notwithstanding; Corcoran threw all three between August of 1880 and June of 1884 – the game was barely recognizable then – though it’s worth noting that with his third, he had pitched over 20% of all no-hitters ever. Fun fact!

The other guys are MLB legends. Cy Young was a pretty good pitcher; it says something when they literally name the award for the best pitcher after you. Bob Feller is one of those wartime guys who maybe gets a touch underappreciated these days, but he was a longtime holder of the record for fastest fastball and put up a Hall-worthy career even while losing significant time to the military.

The next rung up is Sandy Koufax, whose four no-nos happened in four straight seasons – 1962-1965 – as part of one of the most dominant stretches of pitching the game has ever seen. And then, of course, there’s Nolan Ryan, the most unhittable pitcher ever. He passed Koufax with his fifth in 1981, only to stick around for another decade and get a couple in back-to-back seasons in 1990 and 1991.

But we’re here for Justin Verlander.

His first two – one in 2007 and the aforementioned 2011 gem – took place while he was still in a Tigers uniform. The gap between his second and third no-hitter – a little over eight years – is one of the longest in history, behind only the decade-plus gap between Randy Johnson’s two no-hitters and the nine or so years between Ryan’s fifth and sixth. He is the first to no-hit the same team twice on the road.

And on and on and on – when you land on a list like this, with only half-a-dozen dudes on it, there’s a lot of historic stuff happening.

If there was any doubt that Justin Verlander was going to be making his way to Cooperstown someday, this almost certainly eliminates it.

We’re burnishing an already-impressive resume – Verlander has a 2006 Rookie of the Year Award to go with the Cy Young/MVP double dip of 2011. He has six other top-five Cy Young finishes, including three seconds, and has garnered MVP votes in five other seasons.

As for the numbers, they’re awfully impressive as well. If you like the advanced stats, he’s up over 70 WAR and has a JAWS score of 59.1, 36th all-time. Traditional numbers? We’ve got those too. Barring something catastrophic, he’ll become the 18th pitcher to ever top 3,000 strikeouts – he’s led the league five times. He’s led the league in wins twice, ERA once and WHIP three times (although he’s currently leading the AL in all three categories for 2019, so those numbers could go up).

All that, plus three no-hitters. That’s one heck of a CV.

Pitching a no-hitter is hard, but it’s possible to get lucky and stumble into one. Even two, while undeniably impressive, allows for a little wiggle room regarding talent – dudes like Mike Fiers and Homer Bailey each have a couple. But three – three is a number you don’t reach by accident. A magic number, if you will.

So congratulations to Justin Verlander, whose dominance has etched his name just a little deeper into the annals of the game.

Last modified on Wednesday, 04 September 2019 11:55

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