By IAN HARRISON Associated Press
TORONTO (AP) — Justin Verlander pitched his third career no-hitter, punctuating a dominant season with an overpowering performance to lead the Houston Astros past the Toronto Blue Jays 2-0 on Sunday.
Verlander struck out 14 and allowed just one runner, walking Cavan Biggio with one out in the first inning.
“I can’t put it into words,” Verlander said, moments after the final out.
Verlander also 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.
The 36-year-old Verlander joined Nolan Ryan (seven), Sandy Koufax (four) and Bob Feller, Cy Young and Larry Corcoran (three) in rarefied air on the no-hitter list.
“Some of the guys I’ve idolized,” Verlander said.
Verlander threw a season-high 120 pitches, mixing a fastball that reached the upper 90s mph with a sharp curve. The Blue Jays, with a lineup full of young, aggressive batters, never came close to a hit.
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.
Verlander retired the last 26 hitters in a row. But the game was scoreless going into the last inning — according to baseball rules, Verlander needed 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.
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.
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.