DETROIT (AP) - One day, it's a no-hitter. Another night, a career high in strikeouts.
Right now, Justin Verlander seems capable of something special every time he takes the mound.
Verlander struck out a career-high 14 in his latest masterful performance, and the Detroit Tigers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-0 on Saturday night. Less than two months after throwing a no-hitter at Toronto, Verlander is still in a groove. He allowed four hits over eight innings to help Detroit pull into a virtual tie with Cleveland atop the AL Central.
``I feel like I'm throwing the ball really well,' Verlander said. ``I feel like my fastball control has been outstanding, for the most part, during this stretch. Most of the good games I have are built off of that, being able to locate that and mixing the off-speed off of that.
``I feel like I was able to do that tonight pretty well, keep guys off balance and kind of start to get them guessing.'
Verlander (10-3) walked only one batter. In the eighth inning, he reached 100 miles per hour on the stadium scoreboard - on his 116th pitch.
``He was everything we heard he was,' Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. ``We had two chances off him, and he turned it up another notch both times. You just have to tip your cap to him.'
Verlander pitched a no-hitter May 7 against the Blue Jays - the second of his career. In his next start, he reached the sixth inning before allowing a hit, and he took a no-hitter into the eighth earlier this month.
Fans at Comerica Park have become so accustomed to his dominance that there was a quiet but perceptible cheer Saturday when third baseman Brandon Inge was charged with an error on a hard groundball in the third inning, keeping the Diamondbacks hitless.
One out later, Gerardo Parra hit a clean double down the line in right field, but Verlander struck out Ryan Roberts and retired Kelly Johnson on a comebacker to get out of the jam.
That was nothing compared to the eighth inning, when he allowed a walk and a double, then struck out Roberts, Johnson and Justin Upton in succession to keep Arizona scoreless.
``That was pretty incredible,' Detroit catcher Alex Avila said.
The sellout crowd came to its feet with two strikes on Upton before the outfielder chased a ball that was low and outside on Verlander's 119th and last pitch of the night.
``I kind of took a minute and took it all in after I struck out the second guy. I just kind of stepped off the mound because it's easy to let your adrenaline get to you in that situation,' Verlander said. ``That's not often you hear a roar like that. I've heard it a few times in this stadium. I've been through some pretty special moments here, but that was one of the most vocal performances the fans have put on.'
Verlander had struck out 13 in a game twice, most recently in 2009. In his last six starts, he's 6-0 with a 0.72 ERA. He's struck out 51 and walked six over that span, which doesn't even include his no-hitter.
Every Arizona hitter struck out at least once Saturday. The Diamondbacks fell a half-game behind first-place San Francisco in the NL West.
Arizona rookie Josh Collmenter (4-4), from the town of Homer in south-central Michigan, allowed six runs and 10 hits in six-plus innings. Collmenter walked two and struck out four. The 2007 draftee out of Central Michigan University had plenty of fans in attendance and got a nice cheer when he struck out Austin Jackson, the first Detroit hitter of the game.
Detroit took a 1-0 lead in the second when Avila doubled to the gap in right-center. Victor Martinez was able to score from first, sliding home just ahead of the relay.
The Tigers scored four in the fourth. Miguel Cabrera and Martinez led off with singles, Jhonny Peralta hit an RBI double and Avila followed with his 10th homer of the season, a three-run shot that made it 5-0.
Verlander wasn't the first major leaguer to reach 10 wins this season. That honor went to CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees earlier in the day. Verlander did pass ``Wild Bill' Donovan to move into 10th place on Detroit's career strikeout list. Verlander now has 1,089. Donovan had 1,079.
Verlander lowered his season ERA to 2.38, and he leads the majors with 124 strikeouts.
NOTES: Avila made an embarrassing out in the eighth when he hit a ball over Parra's head in left field but slowed down rounding first and was easily thrown out at second. ``You've got to watch the ball when you're running,' Avila said. ... Gibson said before the game he hasn't really thought about whether Wily Mo Pena will remain in the lineup for the Diamondbacks' next series, at home against Cleveland. Arizona has been using Pena as its DH in American League ballparks. ... It was the first sellout at Comerica since the home opener. ... On Friday night, Gibson wore the initials of sister-in-law Lori Sklarski on his hat. She has been in the hospital battling a serious illness.
The Associated Press News Service
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