Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 11/14/11
If you had to point to one game that separated Justin Verlander from the rest of the American League Cy Young contenders, look no further than July 31. That day, Verlander squared off against Los Angeles Angels ace Jered Weaver, younger brother of former Tigers' first-round draft pick Jeff Weaver. Weaver came into the game with a better ERA than Verlander, and the two were considered to be the early front runners, along with New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, for the AL Cy Young. All Verlander did was come within four outs of another no-hitter, allowing just an RBI single to Maicer Izturis with two outs in the eighth. Meanwhile, Weaver not only lost the game but also his cool as Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen hit home runs against him. An angry Weaver was ejected after throwing over Alex Avila's head following Guillen's home run. "Justin and Jered was the matchup that everyone wanted to see, and I don't think anyone left here disappointed," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I think they were both pumped up, and it was exciting for the fans." Although Weaver's feud with Ordonez and Guillen overshadowed the game, nothing could change the fact that Verlander had dominated again. That was the third victory for Verlander in a string of a team-record 12 straight that took him to a 24-5 record. Earlier in the season, Verlander threw the second no-hitter of his career, on May 7 at Toronto. He joined Virgil Trucks as the only Tiger with two no-hitters. Verlander became the first Tiger to throw a no-hitter on the road since Jack Morris did so in 1984 against the Chicago White Sox. "After the no-hitter, I got into a stretch of starts where I was really dominant," Verlander said in a recent conference call. "I thought I would be able to keep that up for the rest of the season, which is when I realized something really great might happen." Verlander won seven in a row from May 29-June 30, becoming the first pitcher to have two winning streaks of seven or more consecutive starts in a single season since Minnesota's Frank Viola did it in 1988. Verlander is also the first Tiger to accomplish the feat since Denny McLain did it in 1968. Verlander also won the pitching Triple Crown, leading the AL in wins with 24, strikeouts with 250 and ERA at 2.40. He became the first American League pitcher to do so since Minnesota's Johan Santana in 2006. The last Tiger to accomplish the feat was Hal Newhouser in 1945. Verlander's 24 wins were the most in the AL since Bob Welch won 27 in 1990. "He accomplished something that you probably won't see happen in a long time," Avila said. "It's very impressive. He definitely has the ability to do that, and as impressive as it is, I don't think any of us are really surprised. "I don't think he's surprised. Knowing him, he expects that out of himself. Really it's been a lot of fun to be able to be a part of it." Verlander led the AL with 251 innings, in winning percentage at .828, a .192 opponents' batting average and a 0.92 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). It's the third straight season Verlander had more than 200 strikeouts and the fifth straight in which he threw more than 200 innings. It proved to be one of the most dominating seasons by a starter since Roger Clemens went 24-4 for the Boston Red Sox in 1986. Former Baltimore Orioles general manager Jim Duquette, now an analyst for MLB Network Radio, has no doubt that Verlander will be the name announced Tuesday as the AL Cy Young winner. "There's no more dominating pitcher in the game than Justin Verlander in either league," Duquette said. "We know the stuff is ridiculously good. It's electric, mid to high-90s. The fastball, the breaking ball, the change-up is at 90 miles an hour, it looks like it's coming in at 65. He makes hitters look silly. "The other thing that he did this year is he pitched to contact. He was much more efficient with his pitches, and therefore, he was able to go deeper in the game. You look at the translation with the wins. He led in wins. He led in innings pitched, in all of the major leagues. That's very hard to do for any starting pitcher." Verlander has already won the Sporting News Player of the Year Award, Players Choice Player of the Year Award, Players Choice AL Outstanding Pitcher Award and Tiger of the Year Award. During his 12-start winning streak, the national conversation switched from debating who would win the AL Cy Young to whether Verlander might be the rare pitcher to win the MVP Award. That announcement will come a week from Tuesday.
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