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Category: Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander comes within four outs of no-hitter to beat Angels

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Fans filing into Comerica Park on Sunday were handed a poster commemorating Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander's no-hitter in Toronto in May.  Then they were nearly treated to an encore, with Verlander coming within four outs of another no-hitter in Detroit's 3-2 win over the Angels.

Maicer Izturis ended Verlander's bid for his third career no-hitter with a soft liner to left field on an 0-1 pitch with two outs in the eighth inning. An out later Verlander's day was over as well with the Tigers pulling their ace after 114 pitches.

The game was touted as a duel between Cy Young award favorites Verlander and Jered Weaver, and it lived up to the billing. But Weaver, who was nearly as brilliant as his rival, wasn't around to see the finish, getting ejected with two outs in the bottom of seventh inning after throwing over the head of Tigers catcher Alex Avila.

The background to that incident goes back to the third inning, when Magglio Ordonez put the Tigers in front to stay with a two-out, two-run home run. But Ordonez lingered in the batter's box, admiring his work, and Weaver made his displeasure known.

The right-hander didn't allow another hit until there were two outs in the seventh when Carlos Guillen homered. And Guillen stood at the plate even longer, then baited Weaver as he made his way around the bases.

Plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt went out to the mound to calm Weaver, then warned both benches. Weaver, however, ignored the warning, throwing his next pitch high and tight to Avila, earning an ejection.

He got his money's worth as he left, though, gesturing wildly and shouting profanities toward the Tigers dugout as players from the Angels bench came onto the field.

As it turned out, all the histrionics might have cost Verlander his no-hitter. Not only did the Tigers pitcher have to sit through an unusually long delay since Angels reliever Hisanori Takahashi was given unlimited time to warm up, but in the top of the eighth inning the Angels' Erick Aybar led off with a bunt, a provocative gesture in a no-hitter and one clearly intended to anger the Tigers.

It surely succeeded in rattling Verlander, who threw wildly to first, allowing Aybar to continue to second on the error. Then two batters later Verlander dropped a throw at the plate, allowing Aybar to escape a rundown to score the Angels' first run.

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Angels sit Howie Kendrick for Jered Weaver-Justin Verlander duel

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The Angels will go into Sunday's marquee pitching matching between Jered Weaver and the Tigers' Justin Verlander with one of their chief offensive weapons, All-Star infielder Howie Kendrick, on the bench.

Kendrick, the team's leadng hitter at .304, is sitting out his third game on the team's 10-game road trip but Manager Mike Scioscia said his day off has nothing to do with injury and everything to do with matchups. Kendrick has hit .235 in his career against Verlander while switch-hitter Maicer Izturis, the man who will take his place, is batting .455 against the Tigers right-hander.

The pitching matchup, which the Tigers have been hyping in billboard ads around town, figures to be one of the best of the season. Weaver (14-4) and Verlander (14-5) are tied for second in the majors in wins. Verlander won nine consecutive decisions between May 7 and June 30 this season, while Weaver has won eight in a row.

Weaver leads the majors with a 1.79 ERA and a 1.04 ERA in day games. Verlander in second-best in day-game ERA at 1.32.

"You never know how that ball's going to bounce on the field," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Both guys have a different gear when you do happen to put pressure on them, they get in trouble. And they both have a knack for getting out of a jam. They both command the game very well.

"I'm sure, as good as those guys are, the margin [for error] is going to be probably very slim who comes out on top."

The lineups:

Angels

2B -- Maicer Izturis
RF -- Torii Hunter
DH -- Bobby Abreu
LF -- Vernon Wells
3B -- Alberto Callaspo
SS -- Erick Aybar
1B -- Mark Trumbo
CF -- Peter Bourjos
C -- Jeff Mathis
P -- Jered Weaver

Detroit Tigers

CF -- Austin Jackson
LF -- Brennan Boesch
RF -- Magglio Ordonez
DH -- Miguel Cabrera
1B -- Victor Martinez
SS -- Jhonny Peralta
2B -- Carlos  Guillen
C -- Alex Avila
3B -- Don Kelly
P -- Justin Velander

-- Kevin Baxter in Detroit

Photos: Jered Weaver (36) and Justin Verlander lead the majors in earned-run average and the American League in strikeouts, respectively, heading into Sunday's matchup. Credits: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times and Kyndell Harkness / McClatchy-Tribune

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