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In an instant, no-no duel slammed away

In an instant, no-no duel slammed away

ST. PETERSBURG -- Justin Verlander was still in his usual game pose at the dugout railing for a good long while after Matt Garza finished off his no-hitter. He was stunned.

Seemingly minutes earlier, Verlander and the rest of the Tigers dugout was trying to avoid talk about a no-hitter, but it was their own guy, Max Scherzer, they were trying not to jinx. Now, Verlander didn't really know what to say. All he could do was applaud, then walk back into the dugout.

"Obviously it's not something you want to see," said Verlander, who threw a no-hitter on June 12, 2007. "Don't get me wrong. I'm rooting for [Ramon Santiago] to get a hit there, give us a chance to win. But once it's over, you've got to give credit where credit's due. He came right at our guys, made good pitches. Not an easy thing to do."

Gerald Laird was seemingly frozen near the tunnel when Verlander went back in.

"That's why it's a weird game," Laird said afterward. "In the dugout after the home run, I'm like, 'We've given up one hit and we're down 4-0.' It's just amazing how in this game, one pitch, you can get beat. That's the way it went. They both had no-hitters into the sixth inning."

One out after another, Garza and Scherzer not only were trying to keep their chance at history, they were trying to keep their team in the game. A walk or two too many killed Scherzer's chance. One walk was all Garza gave up all night.

"He was in total command," manager Jim Leyland said of Scherzer. "He started missing with his changeup a little bit, got out of whack a little bit. He was tremendous. Tonight, Garza was better. Garza was close to perfect. I tip my hat to Garza. He pitched a great game. Scherzer did as well."

In what was already the year of the no-hitter, it's only fitting that Major League Baseball had barely gone a month since the last time two pitchers took no-hit bids into the sixth inning. White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd and Cubs lefty Ted Lilly took their no-nos into the seventh on June 13. Floyd gave up back-to-back hits and a run in the seventh, while Lilly's bid ended in the ninth inning of a 1-0 Cubs win.

Monday night at Tropicana Field was different on both ends. Garza took his no-hitter the distance, retiring the last 22 Tigers he faced. And when Scherzer lost his no-hit bid, he lost it with the biggest hit of all.

Matt Garza, No-hitter

"Scherzer was tremendous," Leyland said. "He just got a little bit out of sync with his changeup, couldn't control it real good that one inning, and it ended up hurting him. But he was tremendous. The ball was flying out of his hand nice and easy."

Scherzer's stuff was biting, and Rays hitters struggled to connect. He racked up more strikeouts (eight) over 5 2/3 innings than Garza (six) did over the distance. But compared with Garza's fastball-heavy arsenal, Scherzer's stuff also deserted him first.

A pair of one-out walks -- one to B.J. Upton in the third inning, the other to Jason Bartlett in the fifth -- comprised all the damage against Scherzer until he worked his way into a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth. A catcher's interference call against Gerald Laird sandwiched in between walks to Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, presenting the possibility Scherzer could fall behind without giving up a hit.

"That inning, he threw a lot of pitches," Laird said. "You could tell he was kind of getting tired."

Twice, Scherzer came within a pitch of a bases-loaded walk. He had a 1-2 count against Carlos Pena, ran it full and sent him down swinging late at a high fastball. After missing on a first-pitch changeup to Joyce, he went all fastballs from there. He had little choice once the count went to 3-1.

"Fell behind 3-1, came back with a fastball and he fouled it off," Scherzer said. "I wanted to keep challenging. I didn't want to walk him in that situation. I didn't want to walk in a run, so I had to throw a fastball because my changeup was running side-to-side.

"I grooved it and he hit it."

This time, it stayed inside the right-field foul pole, and it took the no-hitter, shutout and, basically, the result with it. It was the first no-hitter broken up by a grand slam since then-Met Frank Viola walked the bases loaded ahead of a Dickie Thon grand slam with one out in the sixth inning on July 23, 1990 at Philadelphia.

"If I could have that one pitch back," Laird lamented. "Changeup crossed my mind, but I wanted to make him earn it. He just got around the fastball and it kind of cut in."

To hear it from the Tigers, they had plenty of fastballs from Garza to hit. There was little deceptive about what Garza did Monday in the first no-hitter against the Tigers since then-Mariner Randy Johnson did it on June 2, 1990 at the Kingdome.

"Garza just threw, for the most part, high fastball after high fastball all night long," Leyland said. "He mixed in a few outstanding curveballs, but really didn't use much else. Just threw fastball after fastball up top, and we just didn't get to it."

Said Johnny Damon: "That's what I think makes this a little bit tougher, because he came right after us. We had some pitches to hit and we couldn't get anything going. Normally when you see a guy throw a no-hitter, you see a lot of chases in the dirt or whatnot. Tonight wasn't like that, so you have to tip your cap to him for coming after us. We hit a couple balls hard, but that really doesn't matter in this game."

Symmetry doesn't matter, either, but it's thick in this one. Joyce's home run avoided what could've been the third no-hitter thrown against the Rays this year. Arizona's Edwin Jackson threw the second just last month. The Tigers traded Jackson to the D-backs last December to get Scherzer. A year earlier, the Tigers acquired Jackson from Tampa Bay for Joyce.

Garza, in the past, has credited his old minor league pitching instructor for helping him learn to attack hitters. That instructor is current Tigers pitching coach Rick Knapp, who had to console his current pitcher, Scherzer, Monday.

"He's well past me now," Knapp said of Garza. "Can't say I don't wish we would've knocked the crap out of him."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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