DETROIT -- The Indians had a feeling they'd be no-hit after the first batter of the game stuck out.
Twenty-three batters later, Orlando Cabrera ended the suspense with the Indians' first hit of the game in Tuesday's 4-0 loss to the Tigers.
Along the way, the smell of Justin Verlander's second no-hitter of the season was in the air. And although the Indians have been one of baseball's worst offensive teams in the last few weeks, a no-hitter is always difficult to predict.
"He was dominant," manager Manny Acta said. "He had every one of his pitches working, and throwing for a strike every one of them. He started early with the one sequence and later on, he changed, but it didn't matter, because he was throwing all his pitches for strikes, and every one of his pitches are above to way-above average.
"We've been struggling, but I don't think too many teams could hit him the way he was throwing the ball today."
Cabrera has been on the wrong side of a no-hitter before. Last season, Roy Halladay of the Phillies threw a no-hitter against Cabrera and the Reds in the National League Division Series. When Verlander starting rolling on Tuesday, Cabrera said that the Indians focused on waiting for good pitches and staying focused on each individual at-bat.
"We're trying to get everybody who goes to the plate pumped up and trying to get a good at-bat, a good pitch to hit, put a good swing on it," Cabrera said. "It's hard to be no-hit and all that stuff. I think I've done it before, so you really feel down."
The near no-no was especially frustrating for the struggling Indians because it knocked them out of first place in the American League Central for the first time since the first week of the season. But the fact that Verlander had already thrown a no-hitter earlier this year -- and another in 2007 -- shows that when he's on, there's not much an opponent can do.
"You feel, not embarrassed, because you're giving it up to a guy who already threw one this year and threw one a couple years ago," Cabrera said. "He's one of the best pitchers in the league. But especially in the situation we are in now, we're battling for first place in the division."
Acta said that Verlander has established himself as one of the top five pitchers in baseball, and that he can go for a no-hitter every time he touches the mound.
"He's still evolving and maturing as a pitcher, but he could go any given night and do what he did tonight with his repertoire and the quality of his pitches," Acta said. "To me, he's top five in the game, without a doubt the best in our division."
Last season, Detroit's Armando Galarraga nearly threw a perfect game against the Indians before Jason Donald reached on a controversial single with two outs in the ninth. But as in that one, Tuesday's score was close enough that the Indians felt they were still in it.
"It was still a close enough game where you're more worried about getting guys on base and getting runs as opposed to breaking up a no-hitter," Grady Sizemore said.
But when Verlander smells a no-hitter, he goes after it. Cabrera, who said he always feels lucky when he gets a hit off Verlander, is actually tied for the fourth-most all-time against him, with 14, but the Indians came too close to making some more history for Verlander.
"He's a tough guy that [when] he goes into the fourth and the fifth innings, once he starts smelling that wind, he gets tougher and tougher," Cabrera said. "We tried to put something together, we couldn't do it."
Chris Vannini is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.