DETROIT — Justin Verlander hasn’t had a vintage season. Still, he has never stopped believing that he can perform like an ace.
In his last three starts, he’s proving his point.
On Wednesday night, Verlander allowed one hit over eight innings as the Detroit Tigers routed the Pittsburgh Pirates 10-0.
“I know I can still be a dominant pitcher,” said Verlander, who hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start since July 2. “People think we are robots, and write us off after a bad stretch, but I just needed to get my mechanics back. Now I’ve done that.”
Josh Bell ended Verlander’s attempt at a third career no-hitter in the sixth inning with a grounder off the glove of a diving Nicholas Castellanos at third base. Bell ended up with a double after Castellanos was slow to chase down the ball.
“I was so mad at myself that I forgot there was still someone running,” he said. “A ball like that hit by a lefty is always tailing away from you, and I just missed it.”
Verlander said he had been about to focus on getting his third career no-hitter. Only Nolan Ryan, Bob Feller and Sandy Koufax have thrown three or more since the start of the 20th century.
“My feeling has always been that if I get through six, I’m going to put my foot on the gas and go for it,” he said. “I was one out away.”
Ian Kinsler homered, scored four times and drove in four runs and Castellanos had five RBIs. The Tigers lost the first two games of the home-and-home series in Pittsburgh. The series concludes Thursday afternoon.
“This is a great day at the park for all us,” Castellanos said. “We had a couple ugly games in Pittsburgh where we couldn’t find any offense, so this was nice.”
Verlander (8-7) won for the third straight start, allowing three walks while striking out six. He has allowed two runs in 21 innings in wins over the Astros, Orioles and Pirates. His ERA is 3.97, the first time it has been under 4.00 since April.
“We all knew the stuff was still there and the velocity was still there,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “He just needed to straighten out his mechanics, and he’s been able to do that.”
Verlander received a standing ovation at the end of the sixth, and a longer one after retiring the side in the eighth. Still the subject of constant trade rumors, he tipped his cap to the fans after the eighth.
“We had good at-bats against him, but he was throwing up in the zone and hitting the corners,” said Josh Harrison, who broke up a Verlander no-hit attempt in the ninth inning in 2012. “We were just trying to make him work.”
Ivan Nova (10-9) allowed six runs, 10 hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five in his first outing against the Tigers in exactly four years.
“I stayed aggressive, but I kept missing,” he said. “Obviously, I didn’t get the results I wanted.”
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first on singles by Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera and Castellanos.
Detroit made it 3-0 in the second. John Hicks doubled, took third on right fielder Gregory Polanco’s fielding error and scored on Andrew Romine’s sacrifice fly. After Jose Iglesias struck out, Kinsler hit his 11th homer.
Jim Aducci kept Verlander’s no-hitter alive with a running catch of Francisco Cervelli’s sinking liner in the fifth, then had to make a quick recovery on the next batter when he misjudged Starling Marte’s line drive.
Castellanos made up for his defensive lapse in the seventh, lining a bases-clearing triple into the right-centerfield gap after Nova walked two batters and hit a third.
“I lost my command and turned what could have been a good night into a horrible one,” Nova said.
Castellanos leads the American League with eight triples.
“Next year, I’m going to get an incentive for that into my contract,” he said.
Kinsler made it 9-0 with a three-run double in the eighth.
Bell got his second hit of the night with a double off Shane Greene in the ninth.
Pirates: Bell broke up Verlander’s no-hitter on a day where he was getting a partial day off. With the Pirates playing in an American League park, he was serving as the designated hitter instead of his usual spot at first base.
Tigers: OF Alex Presley (oblique strain) was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday. … Iglesias returned from the bereavement list on Wednesday, so 3B Jeimer Candelario was optioned back to Toledo.
Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (9-8, 4.00) will face the Tigers in the final game of the four-game, two-city series. Cole is 1-1 with a 2.41 ERA in three career starts against Detroit.
Tigers: RHP Drew VerHagen (0-1, 5.00) will start the series finale for the Tigers, his second start of the season. VerHagen has never started against Pittsburgh, but has faced them three times as a reliever, going 0-0 with an 11.57 ERA.