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Half Of Mariners' Pitching Staff No-Hits Dodgers

everything about this picture
everything about this picture

There have been enough threats over the years, going both ways, that I figured at some point I should come up with a plan in the event of a no-hitter. I never did come up with a plan, and not too long ago the Mariners were perfect game'd by Philip Humber. Unprepared, I raged a little bit about a controversial call and the lack of attention it received, and that worked well enough for a Saturday afternoon.

Tonight, the Mariners threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers, who had and still have the best record in baseball. I was also unprepared for this one, because who would be prepared for a no-hitter against the best team in baseball in a game started by Kevin Millwood? But as with the perfect game, this was weird enough that a plan wouldn't have done much good. This no-hitter wasn't thrown by one pitcher - it was thrown by six of them, with the last five combining for three innings.

After the perfect game, I spent paragraph after paragraph talking about Brendan Ryan's check-swing at the very end. I wasn't convinced that Ryan went around in a full count, and I wanted to see a side-angle replay the broadcast never provided. Given that, I have to lead here with Dee Gordon. Gordon led off the top of the ninth against Tom Wilhelmsen, and hit a slow roller in front of short. It was picked up by Brendan Ryan, who'd just come in as a defensive replacement for Munenori Kawasaki, and Ryan made a smooth pick-up and strong throw to first. But Gordon is one of baseball's very fastest runners, and, this. That is what happened.

I honestly have no idea if Gordon was safe or out. Obviously, he was called out, but as with Carlos Beltran's liner in Johan Santana's no-no, this could've been a case where a team with no hits was robbed of a hit. Beltran's hit was certain, though. There's no mistaking that the ball was fair when you look at a replay. I've looked at a lot of Dee Gordon replays, and I'm stumped. I don't think it could have possibly been any closer.

So maybe Dee Gordon was safe. In the fourth inning, Gordon led off with a bunt, and he was only thrown out by a millisecond by Kyle Seager, who made a fantastic play. Gordon nearly prevented this all from happening. Maybe Gordon should have prevented this from happening, and so in a way this is kind of our Brendan Ryan situation in reverse.

But all that being said, controversial calls are for the other side to dwell on. It was the White Sox fans' right to celebrate a perfect game, and it's the Mariners fan's right to celebrate a no-hitter that's arguably the strangest no-hitter that's ever been thrown.

I think we all figured the next Mariners no-hitter, if there was to be one, would be thrown by Felix. When Felix takes the mound, we think about the possibility of a no-hitter until somebody gets a hit, which so far they've done every time. In some ways it might've been something of a letdown if the next Mariners no-hitter were thrown by someone else, someone inferior or far less exciting, because that ought to be Felix's accomplishment. But this no-hitter was sufficiently bizarre that I don't think anything's lost. Felix can still throw the next individual no-hitter. This effort was something else entirely.

If Felix were to throw a no-hitter, it would be an exhilarating occasion, because we've been waiting for it for so long, and because we're more emotionally invested in Felix than we are in other players. But consider, say, a Jason Vargas no-hitter, or a Hector Noesi no-hitter, or a Kevin Millwood no-hitter. I wonder if tonight's game was actually even better than one of those would be. You get the same dominance of the opponent, and you also get an element of hilarity and absurdity that only improves the sensation. I can't say for sure, because I'd never before watched the Mariners throw a no-hitter, but after the final out was recorded tonight I couldn't stop laughing. Plenty of teams have thrown no-hitters before, but far, far fewer have thrown a no-hitter like this.

It's such an anti-history way of going about things. So much is lost when a guy who's throwing a no-hitter has to be removed. Much of the charm is gone, and the fans watching resign themselves to the reality that they won't see one guy turn in a legendary performance. But then you remove the guy who replaced the first guy, and then you remove the guy who replaced the second guy, and then you remove the guy who replaced the third guy, and then you remove the guy who replaced the fourth guy, and you go all the way back around again to being incredible. The Mariners have a twelve-man pitching staff. Half of them combined to no-hit a team.

Improbably, while the Mariners were working on a no-hitter in Seattle, the Rainiers were working on a no-hitter in Tacoma. Neither team had allowed a hit through the first seven innings. Neither team, at that point, had a lead. It wasn't until the bottom of the seventh that the Mariners finally scored a run, and it scored with two outs and two strikes. This is Kyle Seager's RBI single:


At that point, we could finally start thinking about the no-hitter without wondering if it would have to go to extra innings. Before that, it felt a lot like a regular, close baseball game. Afterward, it still felt like a close baseball game, but there were two things being protected.

Which made the late moments all the better. Stephen Pryor was the winning pitcher in this game because he retired the last batter in the seventh, but he walked the first two batters in the eighth and was removed. The winning pitcher finished with the game's lowest win probability added. After Lucas Luetge induced a sac bunt, Brandon League came in with one out and a pair of runners in scoring position. League did excellent work. Against A.J. Ellis, he got ahead 0-and-2 and stayed down. Ellis hit something of a liner to left field in an 0-and-2 count, but it wasn't because League made a mistake; League threw a split well below the zone, and Ellis went after it and made contact. Chone Figgins caught the ball in shallow left - too shallow for Bobby Abreu to test him - and just to make sure, Figgins immediately unleashed as powerful a throw to home as he's probably got in his quiver. In that moment, Chone Figgins was worthy of an ovation.

But there was still another batter to go, and it was Tony Gwynn Jr., who has a brief history of spoiling things. League got ahead 0-and-2 again, and after missing with a split outside, he got Gwynn to swing through another split, less outside. Dave Sims breathlessly declared "HE'S BACK!" in response, referring to League, which might be hasty, but in those moments, Brandon League looked like the closer he's supposed to be. He protected both delicate eggs, and the bullpen had three outs to go.

The ninth was over in nine pitches. Gordon came the closest, and after he was called out, he fumed back to the bench. The narrative-builder would say that was the Dodgers' last bid, their last gasp, and that Elian Herrera and Andre Ethier didn't have anything left in the tank. That would be incorrect, but Herrera hit into an easy out, and Ethier hit into an easy out. Tom Wilhelmsen thus completed the unorthodox no-hitter, and shortly thereafter found out that the Mariners had thrown a no-hitter.

When the Mariners managed zero baserunners against the White Sox, it was just one game, and ultimately it was just a loss. The Mariners have lost a bunch. Tonight was just one game, and just one win, and the fact that the Mariners no-hit the Dodgers doesn't mean much of anything when it comes to tomorrow. We care about context, but all baseball games should be viewed in isolation.

But while this win doesn't have gigantic significance, this was a Mariners game that, on account of its unusual course, many of us won't ever forget, or at least many of us won't forget for a long long time. I'm guessing most of you still remember, say, Felix's one-hitter, or the Ryan Langerhans games, or the Ichiro walk-off against Rivera, or the Luis Rodriguez walk-off against the Jays, or any number of other dramatic Mariners wins from the past few years. If you were watching this game tonight, it's already embedded. The next time some guy on another team threatens to throw a no-hitter, you'll think, "sure, great, but now try including five other guys." We'll be talking about this and laughing about this after many of your most distant plans become matters more urgent.

You hope that Kevin Millwood's groin strain isn't too bad, and thank God he's already thrown a no-hitter once before. Otherwise, he'd be playing what-if for the rest of his life. This way, he can rest securely in the knowledge that he has one, and he can cockily tell his friends and family that he would've sealed this one, too. He didn't show a lot of emotion as he walked off the field. I don't know what that means but he wasn't visibly upset. That would've been hard to watch.

And kudos to Jesus Montero for calling and catching a nine-inning no-hitter at the age of 22. He's the one guy who was directly involved in nine innings of pitcher performance, so he had every reason to celebrate more than everybody else. Not many catchers get to experience what Montero just did, and he's a guy people have felt isn't actually a catcher. Regardless of what might be his long-term position, he did this as a backstop, and that can never be taken away, unless in the future baseball gets super anal about instant replay and retroactively awards Dee Gordon with a base hit. And then we'd have to pick up the game from where it left off and by then certain players might be dead.

Six Mariners threw a no-hitter. Felix wasn't involved. The Mariners won by the slimmest of margins. The team that lost has the best record in baseball. The Mariners least-helpful player was awarded the win. So many times, Mariners games have made me jealous of other peoples' Friday nights. It's nice to be on the other side of that.