TORONTO — Justin Verlander took the mound for the ninth inning, fully aware of the no-hitters he finished — and his close calls, too.
Zeroed in, he wouldn’t be denied
Verlander pitched his third career no-hitter, punctuating a dominant season by striking out 14 to lead the Astros past Toronto 2-0 on Sunday.
Verlander became the sixth major-leaguer to throw at least three no-hitters, an elite club that includes Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax and Cy Young.
“It means a lot,” Verlander said. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know that. I’ve come so close. Since I’ve had two, I think I’ve blown two in the ninth and another couple in the eighth.”
Verlander became the first pitcher to throw two no-hitters as a visitor in the same park — he also threw one at Rogers Centre in 2011 with Detroit. His other no-no was in 2007 for the Tigers against Milwaukee.
“I guess I have to like this mound a lot now,” Verlander joked.
Photo: Vaughn Ridley / Getty Images
Image 1 4
Verlander allowed only one runner, with Cavan Biggio drawing a one-out walk in the first inning. The Blue Jays, with a lineup full of young, aggressive batters, didn’t come close to a hit.
While throwing a season-high 120 pitches, Verlander mixed a fastball that reached the upper 90s mph with a sharp curve. He retired the last 26 hitters.
But it wasn’t until after Abraham Toro — a 22-year-old rookie third baseman from Longueuil, Quebec — hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning off Ken Giles that Verlander was pitching with a lead.
“The whole dugout was going crazy because everybody knew what was on the line,” Toro said of his hit.
Toro made a routine play on Bo Bichette’s grounder to third base for the last out. Verlander joked that Toro, playing just his eighth game in the majors, was in for quite a nice reward.
“I could not be happier for that kid,” said Verlander, who sought out Toro for an on-field hug after the game. “Just an incredible moment for him, from Canada, to able to do that and then get the last out as well. Such a special moment and I’m happy I’m able to celebrate with him.”
Ian Harrison is an Associated Press writer.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Astros-Verlander-tosses-third-career-14406108.php.