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Published: Thursday, 6/14/2007

Tigers' Verlander wows mates, foes alike


DETROIT - Justin Verlander quickly found out how much a no-hitter changed his life.

When the Detroit Tigers' young ace walked into a restaurant shortly after his feat, he was greeted with a standing ovation.

"Yeah, the second one of the night," Verlander said yesterday, about 17 hours after pitching a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Verlander was not-so-special when he reported to Comerica Park for last night's game.

"I had a drug test," he said. "I guess that happens when you throw 100-something in the ninth inning."

Brewers slugger Prince Fielder said Verlander does more than simply fire away.

"He never throws his fastball down the middle," Fielder said. "When you're hitting your spots at 100, to be honest, it's going to be a tough day.

"The guy throws 95 to 100, so you're not looking for a slider, and when he throws it that good for a strike it just kind of buckles you and you have to tip your cap."

The NL-Central leading Brewers had 22 hits in their previous game, the most by a team before being held hitless since 1900, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Bill Hall drew three walks, the first to reach base three times for a hitless team since 1970 according to Elias. He declared himself lucky.

"He's got electric stuff. It won't be his only no-hitter," Hall said. "There's nobody in the National League like him, not with the control and power that he has."

Verlander, last season's AL rookie of the year, struck out a career-high 12. He reached 99 mph on the radar gun in the first eight innings, then hit 102 in the ninth.

Verlander also mixed in a wildly breaking curve and an outstanding changeup.

Detroit designated hitter Gary Sheffield said only a young Roger Clemens could compare to the 24-year-old Verlander.

"He has an overpowering fastball like Roger did when he came into the league and [Clemens] had other pitches he could go to. When those pitches were working, you had no chance," said Sheffield, whose major league debut was in 1988 with Milwaukee. "I would compare him to my uncle [Doc Gooden], but he was a two-pitch pitcher. Verlander has more pitches, so I can only compare him to Clemens."

He threw the first no-hitter for the Tigers since Jack Morris in 1984 and was the first to do it in the Motor City since Virgil Trucks in 1952.

"I'm glad he did it," Morris said. "I told all the 50,000 people I talked to today that I won't be shocked if he does it again because he's got that kind of God-given talent that rarely comes along in baseball."

When Morris no-hit the White Sox in Chicago, Tigers manager Jim Leyland was a third-base coach for the opposition. When Tuesday night's game was over and Verlander was being mobbed by his teammates, Leyland kept himself and his coaches behind the third-base line.

"The celebrating is for the players - not us," Leyland said.

Leyland did enjoy a poignant moment with Verlander, however, in an emotional embrace before the pitcher got to the dugout.

"I just lost it," Leyland said.

Verlander's famed catcher said he can't lose if he keeps striving to improve.

"He can be the best pitcher in the game," 13-time all-star and 12-time Gold Glover Ivan Rodriguez said. "He has the stuff to do it.

"You can talk to all the hitters on all the teams, 'How do you feel facing Justin?' They're going to tell you he's tough because he has a nasty breaking ball, a good fastball and a good changeup."

Verlander had the Brewers guessing and flailing meekly throughout his gem. Only three balls were hit to outfielders.

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