- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2007

DETROIT — Justin Verlander threw 100 mph heat, crazy curves and a tantalizing change-up.

No-hit stuff, indeed.

With a big assist from his shortstop, Verlander pitched the first no-hitter in Comerica Park history, leading the Detroit Tigers over the Milwaukee Brewers 4-0 last night.

“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said.

The 2006 AL Rookie of the Year came back with the game of his career, striking out 12. He benefited from several stellar defensive plays, the best by Neifi Perez, who turned a possible single up the middle in the eighth into an inning-ending double play.

“About the fifth or sixth you can’t help but think about it a little,” Verlander said. “Everyone kept giving me high-fives, and nobody came and sat next to me.”

The NL Central-leading Brewers didn’t have a chance against him.

“We only hit four or five balls hard all night … that’s how dominant he was,” said Craig Counsell, twice called out on strikes.

Verlander (7-2) worked around four walks in the Tigers’ first no-hitter since Jack Morris in 1984.

The 24-year-old trotted to the mound for the ninth to a standing ovation from the crowd of 33,555.

“I had way too much adrenaline, to be honest,” Verlander said.

Amped up, he struck out Counsell and Tony Graffanino. That brought up J.J. Hardy, and Verlander had a momentary lapse, throwing a high breaking ball. At that point, Verlander stepped off the mound.

“I said, ‘Let’s get it back down,’ ” he said.

Verlander then got Hardy to lift a high fly ball that right fielder Magglio Ordonez caught at the edge of the warning track.

Verlander didn’t even see the ball settle into Ordonez’s glove.

“I wanted to watch the catch, but Pudge was yelling in my ear,” he said.

Catcher Ivan Rodriguez was already at the mound and hugged Verlander as the pitcher wheeled around.

“I think I was more excited than he was,” Rodriguez said.

This was the first no-hitter in Detroit since Nolan Ryan of the Angels pitched one at Tiger Stadium in 1973. Comerica opened in 2000.

Milwaukee was last no-hit on April 27, 1994, by Scott Erickson at Minnesota. This was the third no-hitter since interleague play began — David Cone did it for the Yankees against Montreal, and six Houston Astros pitchers blanked the Yankees.

Verlander was greeted by manager Jim Leyland as he walked off the field.

“A lot of things go through your mind when something like this happens,” Leyland said, fighting back tears. “I’m very happy for him, happy for the team, happy for the fans to see something special.”

Verlander’s girlfriend, Emily Yuen, also was on the field to celebrate. He also got a shaving-cream pie to the face after his first no-hitter since he was 12 years old.

It was the second no-hitter of the season in the majors, with Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox doing it against the Texas Rangers on April 18. Boston’s Curt Schilling came within one out of a no-hitter last week in Oakland.

Perez preserved this one with his glove.

After Bill Hall walked for the third time, Gabe Gross hit a hard grounder up the middle. Perez skidded to his left to glove it, but the force of the ball knocked him over.

Perez managed to make a backhanded flip to second baseman Placido Polanco, who completed the inning-ending double play. Verlander pumped his fist near the mound and was one of the first to congratulate Perez in the dugout.

“Neifi was right there,” he said.

Among those to congratulate Verlander after it was over was teammate Kenny Rogers, who has pitched a perfect game.

Plenty of other teammates had a much more active role than Rogers.

Verlander himself made a sharp grab, jumping to snare Prince Fielder’s one-hopper for the first out in the seventh. Corey Hart then hit a liner, and Ordonez made a sliding catch while running in.

Verlander had all of his pitches working in his second career complete game and first of the season. He finished with 112 pitches in the no-hitter.

“The guy was throwing 99 with a great hook and a good change,” Graffanino said. “That’s tough to beat.”

Verlander, 17-9 last year in helping the surprising Tigers reach the World Series for the first time since 1984, set the tone early by striking out Counsell and Graffanino to start the game.

Milwaukee didn’t get its first baserunner until Hall walked with one out in the third. But Verlander then struck out Gross and got Counsell on a hard one-hopper that first baseman Sean Casey neatly handled.

Brandon Inge homered and drove in two runs. Jeff Suppan (7-7) took the loss.

Suppan almost matched Verlander pitch for pitch the first five innings. He only allowed two hits in that span, and his only mistake was to Inge, who hit his 11th homer in the third.

The Tigers made it 3-0 in the sixth on an RBI triple by Curtis Granderson and a sacrifice fly by Polanco. Inge hit an RBI single in the seventh.

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