Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 5/18/12
DETROIT -- Clint Hurdle grew up in Michigan and dreamed about watching one of his beloved Tigers pitch a no-hitter. Friday night, he almost got his wish. The Big Rapids native, now the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, could only watch helplessly as Justin Verlander took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against his team. Even when Josh Harrison's soft liner up the middle ended Verlander's chance at history, Hurdle wasn't sure how to feel. "I've wanted to be part of Tigers history since I was a little kid, and I almost was tonight," Hurdle said after Verlander's 12-strikeout one-hitter. "It would have been bittersweet, that's for sure, but that was a thing of beauty to watch." Hurdle has been around baseball for a long time -- his playing career began in 1977 -- but he was quick to acknowledge that he's never seen a pitcher like Verlander. "That's a master craftsman with a power tool," he said. "For six innings, he's throwing a 93-mph fastball on the corners, and he can spin the ball anywhere he wants. Then, for the last three innings, he puts it into another gear, and he's throwing 100, and he's still got the same breaking ball. "In all my years in this game, I've never seen anyone else who could do that." Since Verlander was throwing 100 in the ninth, Hurdle was asked if he thought it was a mistake to throw Harrison five straight breaking balls. Harrison missed the first two badly, took a ball, fouled the fourth pitch off and then looped the single just past Jhonny Peralta. "It would take someone who lived in a perfect world to second-guess anything that kid did tonight," he said. "He had a fantastic game plan, and he executed it perfectly. He knows Josh can hit a fastball, and he threw the pitches that he thought would get him out. "That guy won two big trophies last year -- the Cy Young and the MVP. They don't give those two to pitchers who don't know what they are doing." SLUMP BUSTERS For most of the 41,661 fans that showed up Friday night, Verlander's brush with history will be the only thing they remember. For the Tigers, though, there were some other crucial moments in the game. The first was Delmon Young's fourth-inning homer. Typically for Young, he swung at a pitch well out of the strike zone, but he slammed it deep into the left-field stands. Young, who has been slumping badly since his arrest in New York, hadn't hit a homer since April 13. Young followed that with a two-run double in the seventh, but Pirates starter Charlie Morton was still shaking his head about the home run. "That pitch was six inches off the ground, and it was in the right-hander's batting box," he said. "I have no idea how he dropped the head of the bat on that ball and hit it that far." The other big moment was Peralta's three-hit game. He hadn't had an extra-base hit since his walk-off homer on May 4, but he had a double and hit the ball hard all four times he came to the plate. LEYLAND DOESN'T MIND THE BOOS During Verlander's masterpiece, the fans at Comerica Park spent most of the time on their feet, cheering the no-hit attempt. That was a complete turnaround from the ugly mood they were in while the Tigers were getting swept by the Twins. Leyland didn't mind, saying the Tigers deserved everything they were getting from the crowd and more. "We have it coming right now," he said before Friday's game. "We're not performing well, and we haven't performed well this season." Leyland knows that, if his team doesn't like being jeered at home, there's a simple way to change it. "Does anyone like it?," he asked. "No. But do we expect it? Yes. We got it last year when we didn't play well, and as soon as we turned it around, things changed. "You better have broad shoulders in this game." Other than a few hardcore fans who continued booing Ryan Raburn's 0-for-4 night all the way to the end, the Tigers won over Friday's crowd completely. It's going to take their first winning streak in a month to keep them, though. "I'm tired of talking about turning things around," Leyland said after the game. "We just have to go out there and win some games."
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