Justin Verlander was at his best in a marquee pitching matchup that lived up to its billing.
Verlander came within four outs of another no-hitter, outdueling an angry Jered Weaver as the Detroit Tigers beat the Los Angeles Angels 3-2 on Sunday in a testy game that grew particularly heated in the late innings.
"That was a lot of fun," Verlander said.
The game was hyped as a battle between AL Cy Young Award candidates, and it sure was entertaining.
Maicer Izturis lined an RBI single to left field with two outs in the eighth for the Angels' only hit. Verlander (15-5) was trying for his third career no-hitter and second this season.
"Even when we were playing catch before the game, I knew the ball felt really good coming out of my hand," he said. "I knew it was going to come down to a couple swings one way or the other, and I wanted to be on the right side."
Verlander's dominant outing was almost overshadowed by a feud between Weaver and Carlos Guillen.
Weaver was ejected for throwing a pitch over Alex Avila's head in the seventh, right after Guillen showboated on a home run — infuriating the right-hander.
Guillen flipped his bat, posed at the plate and skipped a few steps sideways, prompting Weaver to yell at him before Guillen rounded the bases.
Sensing trouble was coming, plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt warned both benches. But Weaver threw the next pitch near Avila's head and was quickly ejected along with Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia.
Knowing he would be tossed, Weaver started walking off the field immediately, gesturing angrily and cursing in the direction of Detroit's bench.
"I had a lot of respect for those guys, but then they stand at the plate and do something like that," Weaver said. "I'm not going to try to hit someone, but what Guillen did crossed the line."
The problems started when Magglio Ordonez hit a two-run homer in the third. The ball easily cleared the fence but barely stayed fair, and Ordonez stayed near the plate to watch.
Weaver (14-5) took that as an attempt to show him up, but Ordonez pleaded innocent.
"I don't hit many homers anymore, and I wanted to make sure that it stayed fair," Ordonez said. "After that, he was yelling at me to run faster, and I told him that I'm old — that's as fast as I run.
"I'm not going to show anyone up. That's not me."
Things calmed down until the seventh, when Guillen's solo homer made it 3-0.
"Magglio has 14 years in the major leagues," said Guillen, one of Ordonez's closest friends. "You don't tell him to run. I respect people when they respect us. If you don't respect us, you don't get it."
All this was happening with Verlander just six outs from joining Bob Feller (three), Sandy Koufax (four) and Nolan Ryan (seven) as the only pitchers since 1900 with three or more no-hitters. Verlander threw one earlier this season in Toronto and has taken two more bids into the eighth inning this year.
"Justin and Jered was the matchup that everyone wanted to see, and I don't think anyone left here disappointed," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I think they were both pumped up, and it was exciting for the fans."
There was more, too. Erick Aybar tried to bunt for a hit leading off the eighth against Verlander, often considered a violation of baseball etiquette when a pitcher has a no-hitter going in the late innings.
Leyland and Scioscia defended the play because the score was close. Verlander wasn't happy, though.
"I know it was only 3-0, so I can understand there are arguments on both sides. But as a pitcher, we call that bush league," he said. "I think he was trying to get his team back into the game, but I also think it was a response to things that had happened before."
Aybar said he was just trying to help his team.
"That's my game — I don't have power," he said. "(Verlander) told me he'd get me next year, and I said that was OK."
Aybar reached second when Verlander threw the ball away for an error, and the right-hander stared at him as he stood on the bag.
Aybar scored from third when the Tigers botched a rundown. Izturis' single made it 3-2, but Verlander threw a 101 mph fastball to strike out Torii Hunter and end the inning.
Jose Valverde pitched the ninth for his 28th save in 28 tries, and Hunter had the final word on a wild game.
"That was stupid — it was all stupid. Everybody was stupid," he said. "That was unprofessional on both sides."
NOTES: The giveaway for kids in attendance was a poster commemorating, of all things, Verlander's no-hitter against Toronto in May. ... For several moments in the eighth inning, the Comerica Park scoreboard listed the Angels as leading 8-3 despite not having a hit. ... Despite the tension between the teams, Valverde did his normal dance after recording the final out. ... Before Izturis' single, the closest the Angels came to a hit was Alberto Callaspo's hard grounder in the second inning. Guillen made a backhand stop at second.