TORONTO — Justin Verlander pitched his third career no-hitter, punctuating a dominant season by striking out 14 to lead the Houston Astros past the Toronto Blue Jays, 2-0, on Sunday.
Verlander is just the sixth pitcher in major league history to throw at least three no-hitters.
The righthander became the first pitcher to throw two no-hitters as a visitor in the same park — he also threw one at Rogers Centre in 2011 with Detroit. His other no-no was in 2007 for the Tigers against Milwaukee.
Verlander allowed only one runner, with Cavan Biggio drawing a one-out walk in the first inning. The Blue Jays, with a lineup full of young, aggressive batters, never came close to a hit.
“I can’t put it into words,” Verlander said, moments after the final out.
The 36-year-old Verlander joined Nolan Ryan (seven), Sandy Koufax (four) and Bob Feller, Cy Young and 1880s-era Larry Corcoran (three) in rarefied air on the no-hitter list.
“Some of the guys I’ve idolized,” Verlander said.
And it came after a series of near-misses over the years.
Verlander lost a no-hit try in the eighth inning late in 2011, had bids broken in the ninth in 2012 and 2015 and had another attempt spoiled last May in the seventh by Jose Abreu of the White Sox.
“I’ve come so close to the third one so many times,” Verlander said.
On this afternoon, he brought it home. Verlander threw a season-high 120 pitches, mixing a fastball that reached the upper 90s mph with a sharp curve.
Verlander retired the last 26 hitters in a row. But he still needed help because the game was scoreless going into the last inning — according to baseball rules, Verlander had to pitch a complete game to get credit for a no-hitter.
That’s when Canadian-born rookie Abraham Toro stepped up for the AL West leaders. The Astros newcomer hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning off Ken Giles (2-3) that cleared the way for Verlander to complete the no-hitter.
Toro made a routine play on Bo Bichette’s grounder to third base for the last out.
Verlander joked the 22-year-old Toro, playing just his eighth game in the majors, was in for quite a nice reward.
This was the fourth no-hitter in the majors this year. The last one was by the Astros, too, a combined effort from Aaron Sanchez, Will Harris, Joe Biagini and Chris Devenski (9) against Seattle on Aug. 3.
Oakland’s Mike Fiers and a tandem effort by Taylor Cole and Felix Pena of the Angels accounted for this year’s other gems.
Verlander (17-5) is tied for the big league lead in wins. He tops the majors in strikeouts (257) and innings (193) and leads the AL with a 2.56 ERA.
With the crowd of 24,104 getting to its feet to begin the ninth, Verlander retired Brandon Drury on an easy grounder and struck out Reese McGuire.
After that second out, catcher Robinson Chirinos went to the mound for a quick visit with Verlander. The count went full on Bichette, who fouled off a pitch before hitting a bouncer to Toro.
Verlander took a couple hops toward first as he watched Toro field the ball, saw the throw on target and then began the celebration in the middle of the diamond.
Not bad for an ace who was ejected in his previous start. Verlander was tossed last Tuesday at home shortly after a close pitch didn’t go his way against Tampa Bay.
It was Verlander’s ninth career shutout. This was the 13th no-hitter for the Astros, including one by Ryan.
The Blue Jays were no-hit for the sixth time. Before Sunday, the last to do it was Seattle’s James Paxton, who became the first Canadian pitcher to throw a big league no-hitter north of the border when he beat the Blue Jays on May 8, 2018.