BOSTON -- Justin Verlander has made six All-Star teams and won seven postseason games. He's won the American League Rookie of the Year Award and an AL Most Valuable Player Award. Verlander owns one AL Cy Young Award and could have had two others, after a pair of runner-up finishes.In
BOSTON -- Justin Verlander has made six All-Star teams and won seven postseason games. He's won the American League Rookie of the Year Award and an AL Most Valuable Player Award. Verlander owns one AL Cy Young Award and could have had two others, after a pair of runner-up finishes.
In a career woven together by milestones, the 34-year-old Verlander has sustained himself long enough in the Major Leagues to pitch through his own anniversaries. Monday marks a significant one: The first of his two career no-hitters was 10 years ago, on June 12, 2007, against the Brewers.
"I didn't know that," said a smiling Verlander, during a conversation at Fenway Park, ahead of Saturday's showdown with Chris Sale. "I'm getting old, man."
After a moment's pause, Verlander's memories rushed back.
"When it comes down to time -- you're talking 10 years -- you end up remembering the poster-board picture," Verlander said. "I remember Magglio [Ordonez] catching [the final out]. I wanted to wait until Magglio caught it, but Pudge [Rodriguez] was on top of me already. I remember him not letting me go.
"I was jumping up and down. I wanted to celebrate with everybody, but Pudge just had me. I couldn't get away. I just wanted to hug everybody, you know? Pudge just had me tight."
Verlander's no-hitter was notable in a few ways: Tigers left fielder Craig Monroe did not record a putout. (In other words, no right-handed hitter pulled the ball in the air with any depth.) Verlander was so efficient -- even as he walked four batters -- that light remained in the sky after J.J. Hardy flew to right field for the final out of a 7:05 p.m. start.
And Verlander reached 101 mph on the Comerica Park radar gun -- in the ninth inning.
"The start before that, against Texas, I had the best stuff of my career," Verlander recalled. "I don't think I was throwing a slider yet, but my curveball -- all of a sudden, out of nowhere -- was 85, 86 and just like this."
Verlander stopped, his arm swooping toward the ground.
"I was like, 'What is that? How did I start doing that?' Really, my stuff in the start before was better than the no-hitter. Somebody told me, 'You're going to strike out 20 someday,' after seeing me in Texas. The next start, it just carried over. I felt like I could throw a curveball whenever I wanted. ... I've seen some videos. Whenever I wanted it, I had 99, 100, 101."
Even then, Verlander needed help. After Bill Hall walked with one out in the eighth inning, Gabe Gross sent a perilous ground ball up the middle that shortstop Neifi Perez turned into an inning-ending double play.
"Something happened right before that, to have [Perez] play a step back, as opposed to a step in," Verlander said. "At regular double-play depth, it would have been a hit. [Tigers infield coach Rafael] Belliard moved him back a step or two, and he was just able to get it. It was one of those things that no one in the ballpark would notice."
Verlander still remembers his conversation -- or lack thereof -- with Tigers manager Jim Leyland as he walked off the field amid the euphoria. Leyland, known for an endearing tendency to be overcome with emotion in triumphant moments, resolutely approached his young ace near the foul line -- "typically stoic Leyland," Verlander said.
And then? Waterworks.
Leyland simply rested his head on Verlander's shoulder.
"He was just crying," Verlander said. "He didn't even say anything."
Verlander took a number of keepsakes away from the night -- at least, he thinks he did.
"I think it's still in a cardboard box, honestly," Verlander said. "The baseball, dirt from the mound, my cleats, my jersey. ... I think my hat's in the Hall of Fame. Something's in the Hall of Fame. I've got it all in a box.
"I don't think I've broken it out. Every year, I pile everything into one of these [duffel] bags and ship it home. At the end of my career, man, I'm going to have to go through everything. I'll be pulling out some pretty cool stuff."
The more Verlander talked about the anniversary, the more reflective he became. From the earliest years of his career, he has spoken publicly about his goal of earning election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The mathematics of winning 300 games will be difficult -- he's at 177 now -- but a resurgent 2016 season restored Verlander's confidence following an injury-plagued '15.
"I feel great," said Verlander, who threw his second career no-no vs. the Blue Jays on May 7, 2011. "A lot of hard work went into that. I feel like I could play another 10 [years]. Just keep chugging away. I've always said I'm going to play until the wheels fall off. And if I play as long as I can, the numbers will take care of themselves."
Jon Paul Morosi is a national columnist for MLB.com.