No, no, no! Instead of becoming the third pitcher in Major League Baseball to throw a no-hitter in 2013, rookie right-hander Michael Wacha of the St. Louis Cardinals became the third to lose a no-no with two outs in the ninth inning Tuesday night.
Wacha stands 6-foot-6. If only he were two inches taller, he could have fielded the chopper that Washington's Ryan Zimmerman hit over the mound, just out of his reach. Instead, after shortstop Pete Kozma made a barehanded grab, his throw pulled first baseman Matt Adams off the bag. Zimmerman ran by Adams' outstretched arm and evaded his mitt. Umpire Jeff Kellogg, failing to channel Jim Joyce and give us no-hitter vigilante justice, correctly signaled safe. The official scorer, also rightly, ruled it a hit.
Showing maturity beyond his 22 years, Wacha took it in stride.
"I think it nicked off my glove a little bit," Wacha told reporters afterward. "Kozma made a great effort on it. You can't hate on Pete, or anything. I guess I just wasn't meant to throw one tonight."
The same could be said earlier this season for Yu Darvish of the Rangers and Yusmeiro Petit of the Giants, both of whom also came within one out of history, only to lose their respective bids with one out to go. Three such close calls in the same season hasn't happened since 1990. It's the 52nd time, all time, that a pitcher has lost a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth.
Wacha just missed joining Homer Bailey of the Reds (on July 2) and Tim Lincecum of the Giants (on July 13), in the season's no-hit club. Bailey also had one in 2012. It would have been the 11th no-hitter in Cardinals history and the first since Bud Smith, also a rookie at the time, no-hit the Padres in 2001. Wacha would have been the 22nd rookie overall to throw no-hitter, and the first since Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox in 2007. He'll probably get more chances.
Wacha seemed on his way to history after Steve Lombardozzi grounded to short leading off the ninth and Denard Span — who was booed by the crowd for trying to bunt for a hit in the sixth — struck out looking for the second out. Span also was Wacha's ninth strikeout.
Zimmerman hit Wacha's 112th and final pitch for an infield single. Cards manager Mike Matheny didn't hesitate, pulling Wacha in favor of Trevor Rosenthal, who retired Jayson Werth for the final out. By the way, the Cardinals won 2-0 and moved closer to clinching the NL Central.
The only baserunner Wacha allowed through five innings came on a fielding error by Matt Carpenter. Wacha didn't allow a walk until the seventh, and he put the first two batters aboard via base on balls in the eighth. But Wilson Ramos followed by hitting into a 6-4-3 double play and Anthony Rendon flied out to left — though outfielder Shane Robinson had to run a long way into the corner to make the catch:
Editor's note: An earlier version of this post credited Kerry Robinson with the catch to preserve Wacha's no-hitter. Why, he hasn't played for the Cardinals in 10 years! But his spirit lives on in Shane, no doubt.