Colby Lewis was on the cusp of making baseball history … and then he wasn’t.
That’s baseball for you.
Thursday the Rangers right-hander came within four outs of throwing the 24th perfect game in major league history. When that ship sailed—Oakland first baseman Yonder Alonso drew a two-out walk in the eighth inning—Lewis still had a chance for his first career no-hitter.
Soon that dream went out the window as well. Nomar Mazara had a bead on Max Muncy’s fly ball to right field to open the ninth inning, but he let the ball slip through his glove right before hitting the wall. The no-hit bid fell short by three outs. Two batters later, the shutout was gone too—Muncy touched home on Coco Crisp’s double to center field. That was it for the A’s offense, but Lewis couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed.
"I feel like any time you go into the ninth and you haven't given up a hit, when it happens there's a disappointment there," he said. "I'm not getting any younger.” No-hitter or not, Texas still won in convincing fashion, 5-1.
No-hitters have been hard to come by for the Rangers. Their last one came on July 24, 1994 when Kenny Rogers threw a perfect game (the only one in Texas history) against California. The A’s, on the other hand, have been notoriously difficult to no-hit. The last time they finished with a zero in the hit column was all the way back in 1991. That’s about the time Colby Lewis was starting middle school.
Lewis flirted with perfection when he faced the A’s back in September. That day he took a perfect game into the eighth inning before Danny Valencia broke it up with a leadoff double. Maybe the stars will align when the A’s come to Texas July 25-27. But more likely, the baseball gods will continue to taunt Lewis, letting him get close enough to touch the no-hitter before pulling it away from him like Lucy snatching the football from Charlie Brown. Good grief.
No-hitters used to be like unicorns. In 1998 when the Steroid Era was at its peak, the only no-hitter we saw was David Wells’ famous “hangover game.” Last year there were seven including one by a pitcher who’s not even in the major leagues anymore (Chris Heston).
In the grand scheme of things, no-hitters don’t mean much. Pedro Martinez never threw one. Neither did Roger Clemens. Homer Bailey threw two in one calendar year but has never been to an All-Star Game. The number of no-hitters you throw doesn’t determine the quality of pitcher you are. But they’re fun and exciting and kind of poetic. But mostly they’re heartbreaking because for every no-hitter that’s thrown there are at least 100 close calls that never make the record books.
As disappointed as Lewis must feel, I bet Nomar Mazara feels a lot worse. It was right there for the taking. Would it have been a tough play? Sure. But Mazara had the ball in his glove, and when that happens in the big leagues, you’re supposed to make the catch. But I’ll cut the guy some slack. Mazara is having a phenomenal rookie year (.295, 10 HR, 28 RBI) and Lewis allowed another hit anyway so it wouldn’t have mattered.
Lewis didn’t finish the job but he still pitched a heck of a game. The right-hander is having one of his best seasons. He’s undefeated in 14 starts with a stellar 2.81 ERA. That’s fifth-best in the American League. He also owns the league’s third-lowest WHIP at 1.01. Not bad for a guy who turns 37 in August.
It’s not as extreme as Coors Field but Globe Life Park tends to favor hitters. You’ll notice Lewis’ home and road splits look quite different: he’s pitched to a 1.29 ERA on the road compared to 4.50 in Arlington. Also concerning is Lewis’ relatively low strikeout rate. He only fanned four hitters Thursday, bringing his season total to 58. That’s a 5.61 K/9, sixth-lowest out of 49 qualified starters in the American League. That might explain why Lewis is still available in 48 percent of Yahoo leagues. Wins and ERA will only get you so far in fantasy.
You know the saying, “if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” What about throwing a no-hitter in an empty ballpark? If Lewis had made history Thursday, only 14,236 people would have been there to see it. I guess A’s fans were saving their energy for the Warriors game Thursday night. How’d that work out?
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Wright Goes Under the Knife
We’ve come to expect the worst when it comes to David Wright’s health. The Mets captain has always been prone to injury but the last few years have really done a number on him. Wright only suited up for 112 games in 2013 while battling hamstring issues. Two years later he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a condition that limited him to just 38 games in 2015. Now he’s recovering from neck surgery.
The operation took place on Thursday, about two weeks after Wright was placed on the disabled list with a herniated disk. The team was hoping rehab and rest would do the trick but over the last few days, it became obvious that nothing would change without surgery. Now he’s looking at a 3-4 month recovery, which puts Wright’s season in jeopardy.
Some have wondered aloud (including ESPN’s Buster Olney) if this is the end for Wright. Even before he got hurt this year, Wright didn’t look like himself. He struck out 55 times in 137 at-bats while hitting a career-worst .226. Wright is still under contract through 2020, but after having two straight years ruined by injury, you wonder how much more he can take.
Meanwhile, his replacement at third base, Wilmer Flores, bowed out of Thursday’s game with a bruised hand. Flores didn’t immediately leave the game after getting hit by a pitch in the second inning but was lifted for a pinch-hitter the next time through the batting order. Kelly Johnson, a .251 career hitter who has played for eight teams in his last six seasons, took over at third base. The hope is that Flores only has to sit out one or two games but the team’s third base depth without Wright is still pretty bleak.
Injuries are beginning to mount for the reigning NL champs. Juan Lagares, a valuable fourth outfielder in the midst of his best season (.289 AVG), was finally placed on the disabled list Thursday after missing seven of the team’s last 11 games with a torn ligament in his left thumb. Lagares had hoped to play through the injury but after seeing only three at-bats in the span of a week, the Mets decided it wasn’t worth the risk. The plan is for Lagares to rest for about 10 days. If there’s no improvement after that, Lagares would likely opt for surgery, which would cost him another two months.
Fortunately for the Mets, help is on the way. Travis d’Arnaud, who has sat out the last seven weeks with a strained rotator cuff, is headed to Triple-A Las Vegas for the final leg of his rehab assignment. He’ll travel to New York Monday and return to the lineup Tuesday versus Kansas City. Zack Wheeler (Tommy John surgery) is also on the comeback trail. He’ll pitch a simulated game in Port St. Lucie next week and should begin a rehab assignment shortly after that. He’s on track to return after the All-Star break. As long as the Mets have all their pieces in place by October, they’ll be just fine.
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Quick Hits: Edwin Jackson inked a minor league deal with the Padres on Thursday. This will be his 11th team in 14 seasons… Jose Bautista injured his big toe running into a wall Thursday against the Phillies. He went for precautionary X-rays after leaving in the seventh inning … Victor Martinez bopped three homers Thursday in a win against Kansas City. It was his first three-homer game since July 16, 2004 … J.D. Martinez exited Thursday’s game after hitting his arm against the right field wall. X-rays showed a non-displaced fracture in his right elbow. He’s obviously headed to the disabled list … Jose Iglesias kept his 14-game hitting streak alive with two more hits Thursday night. Cameron Maybin wasn’t available for that game because of quad tightness … Brett Eibner clubbed his first major league home run Thursday against the Tigers. His fifth-inning solo shot came off former MVP Justin Verlander … Bryce Harper homered in Thursday’s win over San Diego. The two-run blast ended a 14-game homerless drought … Eduardo Rodriguez endured another tough outing Thursday against Baltimore (4 1/3 IP, 8 H, 5 R). Rodriguez had a closed door meeting with Red Sox manager John Farrell, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and pitching coach Carl Willis after the game. E-Rod’s leash is getting shorter and shorter … Pablo Sandoval will begin light baseball activities on Monday. He’s six weeks removed from shoulder surgery. Sandoval is slightly ahead of schedule but won’t return this season … Chris Young was sidelined with quad tightness Thursday against Baltimore. He’s been red-hot this month, hitting .325 with five homers. Rusney Castillo took his place in left field … David Ortiz homered for the 520th time Thursday against Baltimore. That puts him one behind Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas and Ted Williams for 19th on the all-time home run list … Carlos Beltran returned to the Yankees’ lineup on Thursday after missing two games with knee soreness. He went 0-for-3 … CC Sabathia had another terrific outing Thursday against the Twins (6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 7 Ks). In six starts since coming off the disabled list, Sabathia is 3-2 with a 0.97 ERA … Two big prospects are getting called up this weekend. Catcher Willson Contreras will debut for the Cubs while Reds lefty Cody Reed will make his first major league start Saturday against Houston … Glen Perkins will have surgery to repair a torn labrum some time in the next 7-10 days. The surgery will sideline him for the rest of 2016 … Every year an outfielder forgets how many outs are in the inning and throws the ball away. This year it was Odubel Herrera’s turn to make that mistake. Better luck next time, chief.