The Detroit Tigers hadn’t seen the Justin Verlander they were used to for most of 2013. Although the Tigers reached the playoffs without a dominant Verlander, his 13-12 regular season and less than untouchable arm were a cause for concern in October. Yet with the season on the line on Oct. 10, the supposedly weaker Verlander put on a show that even topped his highest standards.
The Oakland Athletics meekly went down to Verlander in an ALDS Game 5 at home for the second straight year. But this time was even more dominant than the last, as the Athletics didn’t get a hit until the seventh inning.
The 3-0 loss capped off an ALDS where the Athletics didn’t score off Verlander in two straight games. Whereas Sonny Gray matched Verlander in Game 2 until Oakland finally won in the ninth, Detroit struck first in Game 5 with a home run from the hobbled Miguel Cabrera. After that, the Tigers could have booked their flight for Game 1 of the ALCS in Boston then and there.
Verlander has two no-hitters, a Cy Young and an MVP award, although the stuff that earned him those honors came and went in 2013. However, given the high stakes of this elimination game and how Verlander could have had a third no-hitter anyway, this may well have been the performance of his career anyway. Of course, the Tigers hope he has a few more shots to top that during the rest of October.
An actual no-hitter to clinch the pennant or World Series -- or any kind of win to clinch a championship -- may be the only way to top this. Here is a list of Verlander’s most legendary performances to date, although it seems the best is always yet to come from him, even in off years.