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Buehrle, Verlander took different paths

Buehrle, Verlander took different paths

PHILADELPHIA -- Mark Buehrle and Justin Verlander now have both thrown no-hitters during the 2007 season. They also each have made starts during World Series competition.

But the similarities between these two talented hurlers pretty much end there.

Detroit selected Verlander with the second overall pick of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. The White Sox picked Buehrle as a 38th round draft-and-follow in 1998. Verlander was voted the 2006 American League Rookie of the Year, wining 17 games and posting a 3.63 ERA, while Buehrle worked in relief for all but three of his 28 games during his inaugural professional campaign in 2000.

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When Verlander tossed his no-hitter Tuesday night against Milwaukee, the hard-throwing right-hander struck out 12 and walked four while throwing 112 pitches. Verlander hit 100 mph on the radar gun twice before retiring J.J. Hardy for the game's final out on a fly ball to right fielder Magglio Ordonez.

During Buehrle's no-hitter on April 18, the crafty left-hander struck out eight and allowed only one baserunner via a Sammy Sosa walk. Buehrle promptly picked off Sosa from first base. As for the speed of Buehrle's fastball on his final few pitches before Gerald Laird grounded out to Joe Crede to complete this piece of history...

Well, Buehrle didn't quite have the same velocity as the Tigers' hurler.

"Yeah, 82 mph maybe. Not 102," said Buehrle with a laugh, in recounting his no-hitter the morning after Verlander dominated the Brewers. "I'm not a strikeout pitcher. If I threw 102, I think I would be able to strike out 12, too."

Verlander's no-hitter actually featured a number of Chicago ties. Ordonez, the one-time White Sox standout, caught the final out and saved the no-hitter in the seventh when he made a sliding catch of Corey Hart's sinking line drive.

Neifi Perez, a Cubs utility infielder during the Dusty Baker regime, made his defensive contribution one inning later, turning a hard-hit ball up the middle into a slick double play with the help of second baseman Placido Polanco. Then, there was Tony Graffanino, the affable infielder who once practiced his craft for the White Sox.

Graffanino struck out in all four of his at-bats against Verlander, including the second out of the ninth inning. As Graffanino stepped to the plate following a Craig Counsell strikeout, Buehrle was in the visitors' clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park and admittedly was rooting for his old friend to come through.

"Yeah, I was in here rooting them on, hoping they would get a hit," said Buehrle of the Brewers. "When Graffanino came up, I was saying, 'Come on Graff, get a hit.'

"Obviously, it's one of those things that I knew wouldn't last forever, but at least for a little bit. You still can't take mine away."

The White Sox have great familiarity with the young Detroit ace, having handed him more losses than any other team in baseball during his short but yet highly prosperous career. When Ozzie Guillen was asked about Verlander's no-hitter following his team's loss on Tuesday night, the White Sox manager pointed out how Verlander takes no-hit stuff with him every time he steps to the mound.

Guillen expanded the high praise for Verlander before Wednesday afternoon's series finale in Philadelphia.

"This kid is different. It's amazing the way he goes about his business," said Guillen of Verlander. "He's a workaholic.

"One-hundred and two? 103 [mph]? God bless him. He was throwing strikes. That's more important than velocity. It's great. Enjoy it. I think that's something he's never going to forget and nobody can take that away from him."

Along with Buehrle's masterpiece against the Rangers, the left-hander took no-hit stuff to the mound during a 2-0 loss to Toronto on May 31. Aaron Hill and Frank Thomas both homered, but nobody else from the Blue Jays reached base.

There certainly has been no shortage of success for Buehrle over his parts of eight seasons in the big leagues and his seven seasons as a starter. With Sunday's 6-3 victory over Houston, Buehrle reached 100 wins for his career against just 69 losses.

Yet, he probably would be the last of the five White Sox starters someone would pick in a no-hit pool. That fact becomes even more clear-cut when taking a glance at Buehrle's 3-7 record and 6.44 ERA over 81 innings after the 2006 All-Star break, turning Buehrle from someone who pitches to contact to a pitcher who simply was hit hard.

So, what has changed for the easy-going 28-year-old? Aside from getting into better physical condition during the offseason, Buehrle doesn't see a difference.

"To be honest, I don't know," Buehrle said. "I credit myself for working out in the offseason and doing all that training, to get my velocity a little bit higher. Other than that, I don't know. I guess that velocity difference is making a difference.

"I'm keeping guys off balance and hitting my spots. I can't really say I'm working inside more or throwing a certain pitch more than I have been. The catcher pretty much puts it down and I throw it.

"It's one of those things where I told the [personal] trainer how I want to keep up on this for how good I felt," Buehrle added. "I could almost see a difference in my body. I was losing fat. I told myself during the season I want to try to stick with it."

Baseball's no-hitter fraternity has expanded by two during this season, and the two pitchers who threw them couldn't be more different in mound style. Is there a way to judge which special effort was more impressive?

Buehrle's teammates joked as to how his no-hitter won out. When you throw a fastball at 102 mph in the ninth inning and a curve at 86 mph, as Verlander does, it's almost not fair to the hitters.

In Buehrle's mind, though, the whole process is something to never be forgotten for the individual or the team who helped make it possible.

"For a guy like me, when I'm hitting my spots and guys are putting the ball in play, it's a little more difficult for it to happen," Buehrle said. "But a no-hitter is a no-hitter. It's still great.

"So much stuff has to happen to have a no-hitter. You have to have a lot of luck, and the defense has to be behind you."

Scott Merkin 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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