ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—The Tampa Bay Rays finally wound up on the right side of a memorable pitching performance.
“We needed one. I don’t care who it came from. We just needed one for our own confidence,” Garza said, mindful that the Rays have been held hitless four times in their 13-season history—three times in the past year. “The guys are just as excited as I am. It’s fun.”
The 26-year-old right-hander faced the minimum 27 batters in his 106th career start, allowing only a second-inning walk to Brennan Boesch(notes), for a team that’s often been on the wrong end of pitching gems lately.
“It was one of those days where everything lined up,” Garza said. “The defense made great plays. I really can’t say enough about them.”
Garza (11-5) was the latest to shine in the Year of the Pitcher. The last time there were at least five no-hitters in a season was 1991, when Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan threw one of seven in the big leagues that year, according to STATS LLC.
It’s only the third time in major league history that a team has been involved in three no-hitters during one season. The 1917 St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox were involved in three—all against each other.
It’s also the first time in 37 years that two no-hitters have occurred in the same AL ballpark in one season. After going 1,006 games without one at Tropicana Field, two have been tossed in the last 11 games at the hitter-friendly dome.
“The guy obviously made history for Tampa, congratulations to him,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said, adding that Garza dominated the Tigers with “high fastball after high fastball.”
Garza, the 2008 AL championship series MVP, rebounded from one of his worst outings this season to win his fourth straight decision and tie a career best for victories. He retired pinch-hitter Ramon Santiago(notes) for the final out on an easy fly ball to right fielder Ben Zobrist(notes), who made a terrific running catch in the third to rob Danny Worth(notes).
“That ninth inning,” Garza said, “I kept telling myself, ‘Just finish it, just finish it, just battle, battle. If it’s meant to happen, it’s going to happen.”’
Garza’s teammates mobbed him near the mound after a performance that left the New York Mets and San Diego Padres as the only big league teams without a no-hitter. The Rays began play in 1998—the Padres in 1969 and the Mets in ’62.
The closest Detroit’s injury-depleted lineup came to a hit was Worth’s two-out liner, but Zobrist made a leaping grab above his head as he ran toward the wall.
“I was able to time it just right for my jump. Caught it right in the end of my glove,” Zobrist said, smiling. “He pitched so great. It’s his day. I felt honored to be part of a game like that.”
After Boesch walked, he was erased on a double play.
Garza said his teammates didn’t leave him off by himself in the dugout during the late innings. He noticed several of them standing in the same spot, however, adhering to superstition.
“I recognized it and didn’t want to look up. I was like, ‘Just keep looking down and stay focused and get ready for the next inning,”’ he said.
Garza struck out six in Tampa Bay’s 2,039th game—and on a night when the Rays struggled to generate much offense themselves.
Joyce’s slam on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the sixth was the first hit off Scherzer (7-8). The next batter, Jason Bartlett(notes), singled for the only other hit of the night until Crawford homered in the eighth.
“I wanted to keep challenging. I didn’t want to walk him in that situation,” Scherzer said. “I grooved it, and he hit it.”
Garza, who tossed a one-hitter at Florida on June 26, 2008, retired Don Kelly(notes) on a routine grounder to second base in the ninth and struck out Gerald Laird(notes) before getting Santiago to end it on his 120th pitch before a crowd of 17,009.
Arizona right-hander Edwin Jackson(notes) threw 149 pitches for a no-hitter against the Rays, his former team, at Tropicana Field on June 26. Colorado ace Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) pitched a no-hitter April 17 at Atlanta.
In his previous start, Garza allowed seven runs and 10 hits in 6 1-3 innings against the Orioles. The Tigers lineup he faced was without Magglio Ordonez(notes), Carlos Guillen(notes) and Brandon Inge(notes) because of injuries.
“They’re missing some really important people, there’s no doubt about that,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “But they’re all major league players and it’s a no-hitter. They’re not going to make any excuses, I know that.”
NOTES: Scherzer walked four, struck out eight and left after giving up the sixth-inning single to Bartlett. … Tampa Bay began an 11-game homestand spanning 11 days, the club’s longest since August 2005. … Garza was acquired from Minnesota in a trade before the 2008 season.