It was impressive enough watching Jhoulys Chacin mow down the San Francisco Giants on his way to 6 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball. Then you have to take into account all of the things that were going through his mind as he took the hill at Coors Field.
Eleven days after his grandmother, Maria Alvarez, died in Venezuela, the 25-year-old right-hander was making his first start at his home ballpark. He actually pitched the day after her death on Aug. 18, taking the loss to the Baltimore Orioles, before going on bereavement leave. He also made a quality start in Miami last Friday night, earning his 12th victory of the season. But there seemed to be a little extra inspiration and meaning behind his start on Wednesday night.
Perhaps it had something to do with pitching in the familiar surroundings of his home stadium. Or perhaps it with the special message Chacin had written on his glove.
Here's what' on glove of #Rockies Chacin: “Maria Alvarez, TQM,” which is Spanish shorthand for “I love you very much.” For his grandmother.
— Patrick Saunders (@psaundersdp) August 29, 2013
Following his start in Baltimore, Chacin referred to his grandmother as a second mom. They had always been very close, and though time and getting back to his baseball routine helped him heal to some extent, he was still pitching with a heavy heart on Wednesday night. And through it all he pitched at his unquestioned best, because only a Brandon Crawford bloop single separated him from a chance to carry a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
As it was, his 6 2/3 no-hit innings were the longest no-hit bid by a Rockies pitcher ever at Coors Field. He was immediately removed from the game due to Colorado's loose 100 pitch limit — he'd thrown a season high 108 — but manager Walt Weiss was quoted as saying he would have been allowed to continue if the no-hitter remained intact and Chacin had felt up to the task.
That leads to the other amazing part of the story. It wasn't just that Chacin was pitching at a time in his life that was obviously very draining mentally. He was also less than one-hundred physically, and there was even some question about whether or not he'd be able to pitch at all after showing to the park with a high fever on Tuesday.
How sick was Chacin? Consider this clubhouse conversation:
Chacin: “I was really bad. I told them if I felt the same today, I couldn’t pitch. Because I couldn’t even do the (pitching) chart yesterday.”
Me: “How sick were you?”
Chacin: “I was so sick I couldn’t finish the chart. I was going to pass out.”
Me: “Did you have a fever?”
Chacin: “Yes, 106, I think.”
Me: “No way, you’d be dead.”
Chacin: “I swear. Yeah, they told me the fever was 106. I felt really bad.”
Me: “I’m surprised you didn’t have brain damage.”
Now, understand, Chacin’s English is very good (a zillion times better than my Spanish) and getting better all the time, but you’ve got to remember that he’s not used to temperatures listed in Fahrenheit.
So I asked head trainer Keith “Doogie” Dugger about this supposed 106-degree temperature.
“Not 106,” he said with a laugh. “100-point-6.”
Even at the less deadly 100.6, Chacin's energy had to be way down on Wednesday. It never showed it, though. In fact, he appeared to have more energy than ever as he sprinted down the line to avoid a double play and earn his fourth RBI of the season. That run, by the way, was Colorado's fifth. They ended up winning 5-4 after some shaky bullpen work in the eighth inning.
Needless to say, Jhoulys Chacin willed the Colorado Rockies to a victory on Wednesday night, and he did it in more ways than one.