Detroit — For much of Sunday afternoon, I thought we would need a baseball historian to put the Tigers-Angels game in perspective. As it turns out, we needed a mediator.
Justin Verlander nearly threw another no-hitter, but it’s hard to pitch in the middle of a pro wrestling match. We’ll never know if Verlander would have finished his no-hitter if everybody else had behaved like an adult. But, man, he sure looked like he was on his way.
Verlander had pitched seven no-hit innings. He had thrown just 91 pitches. He was hitting triple digits on the radar gun. His breaking ball was barely visible, let alone hittable. This was Verlander in full, seemingly unstoppable.
Unfortunately, the foolishness was already percolating.
Magglio Ordonez had hit a home run inside the left foul pole in the third inning and watched the ball clear the fence before he began his trot. Ordonez said later, “I was making sure it was a fair ball and I started running.”
I believe him. Alas, Angels pitcher Jered Weaver did not. Weaver responded by trying to expand Ordonez’s vocabulary.
Ordonez said, “If you get mad because somebody hits a home run against you ... you gotta take it like a man.”
Yes, you do. The Tigers had the moral high ground, and Carlos Guillen promptly pulled them off it. Guillen took Weaver deep, then stood admiring his home run, and stared at Weaver and pointed toward the fence. He did everything but give Weaver the finger. I’ve seen still-life paintings that moved faster than Guillen. “We’re all teammates,” Guillen said afterward. “Not because Magglio is from Venezuela (like Guillen). Somebody put down my teammate.”
Call him an idiot after the game.
Don’t embarrass yourself like that.
“I’ve never showed anybody up in this game,” Weaver said. “I respected those guys. I thought they respected me. I just felt I got disrespected.”
Weaver responded by respectfully throwing a pitch over Alex Avila’s head. (“I had a feeling he was gonna throw one at me,” Avila said. “I was just hoping it wasn’t near my head.”) Weaver was ejected, of course, and could be suspended.
Meanwhile, Justin Verlander was still trying to throw a no-hitter.
The game had unraveled. Thanks to the Weaver ejection, the bottom of the seventh had taken forever — when a pitcher is ejected, the reliever gets a million warmup pitches.
And the Angels opened the eighth inning by trying to bunt. I don’t have a problem with that. The Angels are in the pennant race, they were down only 3-0, and speed is a big part of their game. But now Verlander was ticked.
And I think Verlander started to get a bit rattled. Who wouldn’t? It’s hard enough to pitch a no-hitter under normal circumstances. Verlander fielded the bunt and made a throwing error. (Nothing in sports makes me shake my head like pitchers making throwing errors.) Two batters later, Don Kelly threw the ball late to Verlander on a rundown and the Angels scored.
Verlander struck out Howie Kendrick, but Maicer Izturis broke up the no-hitter with a clean single. The inning should have been over; Verlander later wondered if he would have pitched Izturis differently to start the ninth.
We’ll never know. Hey, the Tigers won the game. Verlander has already pitched two no-hitters, and I suspect he will throw more. He is that gifted. It’s just a shame that one of the memorable games of the season turned into a lesson in how not to behave.