26 June 2010

Edwin Jackson's No-Hitter

Last night, I got to witness baseball history, and check another milestone off of my scorecard list (see this post about my Scorecard Bucket List). Edwin Jackson pitched only the second no-hitter in Arizona Diamondbacks franchise history against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg Florida at Tropicana Field. The first Arizona no-hitter was Randy Johnson's perfect game in 2004. And what a no-hitter E. Jackson's was, too! Let me throw some random statistics out there:

Walks in the first 3 innings: 7 by Arizona, 2 by the Rays
Total walks: 8 by Arizona, 2 by the Rays
Hit batters: 1 by Jackson
Wild pitches: 1 by Jackson
Errors: 1 by Stephen Drew (fielding)
Edwin's pitch count after 3 innings: 68
After 6 innings: 98
After 9 innings: 149 (most thrown by any major league player since Carlos Zambrano threw 150 in 2005)
Total runs scored by both teams: 1 (a home run by Adam LaRoche)

This game had it all: really bad pitching morphing into really good pitching, controversial managerial decisions, spectacular defensive plays, not-so-spectacular defensive plays that kept the no-hitter alive....

Every no-hit game has that one or two key moments when you just know something special is happening. For me, it was two key defensive plays by Mark Reynolds. The first came in the third inning. After Edwin Jackson consecutively walked Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria, and Carlos Pena, Joyce flew out to right field where Upton held the runners at their bases. Then, BJ Upton hit a little grounder at a diving Reynolds, who snared the ball, spun around on the ground, and fired a strike to Miguel Montero covering the plate for the force play at home. It saved a run, a potential infield hit, and preserved the (then-still-early) no-hit bid. The second moment was not so dramatic (no bases-loaded situations), but important nonetheless. With the Rays' Bartlett batting, he hit a screaming liner right at Reynolds, who hopped a step to his left and caught the ball behind himself. The force of the ball knocked him backwards, but he held on to it for the first out of the 7th inning.

In the 8th inning, Carlos Pena hit a topper on the ground to Stephen Drew, who was swung around behind the second base bag in a so-called "alien defense" position, and while running, he booted the ball and was unable to recover. It looked to be a deceptively tough play, and I was scared for a second that the official scorer might rule the play a base hit, but thankfully he gave Drew an error. No hit. I don't think I have ever been able to say before that I was grateful for a Diamondbacks error, but there I was.

Going into the 8th, Jackson's pitch count was at 117, and manager AJ Hinch was seriously considering pulling Jackson out of the game, despite the no-no. Jackson and Hinch went out of sight of the cameras to discuss it, and Jackson basically told Hinch he was not coming out of the game until he gave up a hit. Was it the right move for Hinch to allow that? I think so. You only get a shot at history once, and Jackson was still hitting 93 MPH with his fastball despite the long outing. He was pitching nearly perfectly. I don't know if Jackson could have stood pitching into the 150s or 160s, but until he started to look gassed, he needed to stay in the game. Hinch made the right call, and I applaud his decision. In a season like this, we need bright moments like Jackson's no-hitter to help keep the fans going.

So there you have it. A no-hitter for Edwin Jackson. And I'm also going to call it right here right now... you heard it here FIRST: Mark Reynolds' diving catch and throw to home in the third inning of the game is the Diamondbacks' play of the year to date.

Tonight, Ian Kennedy took the mound, but was unfortunately not as perfect as Jackson, allowing more than 7 walks in 5 2/3 innings while giving up 4 runs.

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