"For me to sit here and say, 'A loss is a loss...'" said Brewers manager Ned Yost, finishing his thought with a shrug. "I don't think anybody likes to be no-hit. We go home feeling a lot better after losing 4-0 with one hit than losing 4-0 with no hits. If you want real honesty, that's the case."
More real honesty came from outfielder Corey Hart, whose sinking line drive in the seventh inning was Milwaukee's only real chance to spoil Verlander's historic night.
"He had ridiculous stuff tonight," Hart said.
How ridiculous? The Brewers were coming off a season-high 22 hits in Sunday's win at Texas, but 48 hours later were blanked by a hard-throwing 24-year-old who had only one complete game to his credit in 45 career starts. And along the way, they managed to hit only three balls out of the infield: J.J. Hardy fly outs in the first and ninth innings and the one by Hart in the seventh, which was caught with a sliding effort by Magglio Ordonez.
Verlander (7-2) consistently touched -- and topped -- 100 mph with his fastball and set a career high with 12 strikeouts. He walked four batters, including Bill Hall three times and Hardy once, but the Brewers never moved a runner past first base.
"When I hit it, I thought it was a hit," Hart said of his close call. "[Ordonez] made a nice play."
Yost had the same hunch.
"With Magglio in the outfield, I didn't think he was going to catch it," Yost said. "You always get, like, one or two real nice place. Other plays, we smoked the ball but it was right at them."
Those "other plays" included Gabe Gross' hard grounder in the eighth. Gross followed Hall's third walk with a smash that was fielded by shortstop Neifi Perez, who initiated a tough, inning-ending double play.
"I knew I hit it real hard, but as soon as I looked up it was right at him," Gross said. "I thought it maybe had a chance to skip by or get over his glove, but as soon as I looked up, it was right at him," Gross said. "I thought it maybe had a chance to skip by or get over his glove, but he made a good play. [If he's standing] A step toward [third base] and maybe it's by him. It wasn't going to happen tonight."
The Brewers were held hitless for the third time in franchise history and the first time in 13 years. Minnesota's Scott Erickson blanked the Brewers on April 27, 1994, at the Metrodome, and Kansas City's Steve Busby blanked them on June 19, 1974, at Milwaukee County Stadium.
Jack Morris was the last Tiger to throw a no-hitter, on April 7, 1984, against the White Sox at Comiskey Park. No pitcher had thrown a no-hitter in Detroit since Nolan Ryan at Tiger Stadium on July 15, 1973, and no Tiger had thrown a no-hitter in Detroit since Virgil Trucks on May 15, 1952, at what was then known as Briggs Stadium.
The last out Tuesday was made by Hardy, one of only three Brewers hitters who did not become a Verlander strikeout victim. Hardy took a called strike, then fouled off a curveball that Verlander left up in the strike zone. The next pitch was another curveball, which Hardy lofted to Ordonez in right field.
"With one strike left and two outs, I stepped off the back of the mound and really just took a breather," Verlander said. "I kind of looked around for a second. I wasn't soaking it up or anything, I was just trying to calm myself down. I had so much adrenaline going because the pitch before that was up in the zone and pretty hittable. I had to make an adjustment."
Verlander's previous career high for strikeouts was eight, a mark he passed when Tony Graffanino whiffed in the sixth. Graffanino whiffed in all four of his at-bats.
Brewers starter Jeff Suppan (7-7) matched Verlander early on, allowing only two hits through the first five innings, including Brandon Inge's third-inning solo home run. Inge led off the sixth inning with a walk and scored the first of two Tigers runs in the inning, and added an RBI single in the seventh that gave Detroit a 4-0 lead.
In 6 1/3 innings, Suppan surrendered four earned runs on seven hits with two walks and just one strikeout. He lost for the fifth time in his last seven starts.
"We had a good game plan and tried to stick to the game plan," Suppan said. "In the sixth inning, basically location [led to] some damage up there. That was it."
As for those birds, the Brewers admitted they were a factor but were careful not to take away from Verlander's effort.
"I was more distracted in the outfield," Hart said. "It felt like they were playing a game with me out there. Every time I looked around, one would be coming at my head. But at the plate, it was [Verlander's] stuff. He threw me two changeups that I thought were right down the middle, but I looked [on video] and they were moving all over the place. And some of his fastballs away weren't even strikes, because they were sinking and diving off the plate. He was definitely impressive to watch. I wish the outcome was different."
Said Yost: "It plays for both teams. [The birds were] kind of a non-issue, but it is something you normally don't contend with in a Major League Baseball game. But don't get me wrong, that didn't have any impact on Verlander's no-hitter."
And Graffanino, who swung at a bird instead of a pitch in the first inning: "There's nothing you can do about it. You have to stay focused. I would rather play without the birds."