Watching your favorite team get no-hit in person on the road is one of the weirdest feelings in the world.
At some point do you start rooting for a no-hitter? Are you required to remain loyal even in the face of history?
Regardless of what was going through my mind and heart, however, nothing would change what was going on at Safeco Field on Friday night.
As Kevin Millwood stormed through the Dodgers lineup early on, the expectations were low. I mean, this was Kevin Millwood after all.
Then, the zeros kept coming.
After a strained groin forced Millwood to retire early, the fate of the no-hitter was left on the shoulders of a series of unknown relievers: Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen.
Fortunately for Millwood and his relievers, their defense provided plenty of help behind them.
Kyle Seager was the first Mariner to preserve history in the fourth when Dodgers speedster Dee Gordon tried to bunt his way aboard. In anticipation of the coming bunt, Seager was already on the grass, but with a perfect bunt, Gordon put the pressure on the rookie Seager.
Charging hard, Seager bare-handed the ball and threw a strike to first baseman Justin Smoak that got Gordon by a half step.
While Seager's play will likely go un-remembered, it was the eighth inning that provided all the drama that any baseball fan could dream of.
With runners at second and third with just one out after two walks and a sacrifice bunt, the Mariners turned to reliever Brandon League.
"We might as well go home now," the Mariners fan next to me said.
In his final five save opportunities as the closer, League had blown three of them; and in the month of May he posted a dreadful 6.48 ERA.
Friday night, however, was a new day.
Amped up on the energy surrounding him, League hit as high as 97 on the radar gun as he jumped ahead in the count on A.J. Ellis. Then, on a 1-2 count, Ellis lined what I was sure would be the Dodgers first hit of the game towards the Mariners new defensive replacement, Chone Figgins.
As the Ellis liner seemed to just float in the air towards a charging Figgins, all of Safeco Field collectively held their breath. With the speed he was brought to Seattle to display, Figgins not only caught the ball but remained upright enough to rifle the ball towards the plate, keeping pinch-runner Alex Castellanos at third.
(On a side note, the same Mariners fan who lamented the appearance of League acknowledged that if Mike Carp had remained in left field there was little chance that the defensively-limited Carp would have made the same play.)
So with the unlikeliest duo in all of Seattle leaving the Mariners just three outs away from a no-hitter, the game rolled on towards the ninth.
First up was the pesky Gordon, who put first base umpire Ted Barrett in the most undesirable of situations. With visions of Jim Joyce blowing Armando Galarraga's perfect game with a missed call surely fresh in his mind, Barrett was left to discern the outcome of a truly bang-bang play.
As Gordon dribbled a ball towards shortstop Brendan Ryan (a ninth-inning defensive replacement), Ryan made the best play he could to get the ball towards Smoak. While even replays seemed to leave the true outcome of the play unknown, Barrett signaled that the throw just beat Gordon, leaving the Mariners two outs away.
(As much as the Dodgers fan in me wants to argue he was safe, there's no way a human umpire can be criticized for making this call. Even replay probably wouldn't have overturned this call, and in reality, it's better to be safe then sorry in a no-hitter as we've learned.)
So with two outs between him and a no-hitter, closer Tom Wilhelmsen retired Elian Herrera and Andre Ethier with little fan-fare, sending the city of Seattle into jubilation they surely haven't felt in years.
Nine innings, 27 outs and six pitchers later, the only number that mattered was zero.
As a baseball fan, I rejoiced.
For just the 27th time since 2000, a major league game contained a no-hitter and while many fans see hundreds of games in person without ever witnessing a no-hitter, here I was witnessing one first-hand.
As a Dodgers fan, the feeling was more bitter. My team had lost in the most frustrating way possible—a 1-0 game in which they logged exactly zero hits.
In a way, this was actually the second no-hitter I had witnessed in person. The last, in June of 2008, was at home against the Angels, except that contained one brief catch: the Dodgers won.
After reaching on an error, stealing second and advancing to third on an error, Matt Kemp scored without a single hit from the Dodgers. The reason the game isn't in the history books, however, is because the Dodgers only batted eight times (leading heading into the bottom of the ninth, they didn't come back up).
The moral of the story, however, is that witnessing your team get no-hit while they win isn't a hard mental situation to discern. It still doesn't explain what one should feel while witnessing history performed against their team.
So it begs the question: With your team losing in the last inning of a game you're at, are you rooting for a no-hitter?
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