May 10, 2014, 10:59 pm
On a normal Friday night in May, I would be watching the Red Sox. However, last night my roomie Christopher Kain and I saw Rodriguez in concert.
So it wasn’t until a few minutes after arriving home that I learned that Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish had come within one out of throwing a no-hitter against the Red Sox. With two outs in the ninth, David Ortiz managed to single through the shift. For the second time in his career, Darvish was denied a no-hitter with only one out to go. You might recall that in his first start of the 2013 season, Darvish came within an out of a perfect game against the Houston Astros. However, Marwin Gonzalez would single right between Darvish’s legs.
Darvish was actually working on a perfect game into the seventh, but Ortiz would reach base when the ball landed between Rangers rightfielder Alex Rios and rookie second baseman Rougned Odor. Rios was charged with an error even though he didn’t touch the ball. On the MLB Network, Harold Reynolds went ballistic, said it was the worst umpiring call since Don Deckinger in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series and Jim Joyce’s botched call of would have been Armando Galarraga’s perfect game in 2010. But it wasn’t a question of whether Ortiz was out or safe. Umpires don’t determine whether a player is credited with a hit or not. Reynolds anger ought to have been directed to the official scorer. There’s no doubt Darvish got the benefit of the doubt with the hometown scorer.
But what I kept thinking about wasn’t if Darvish’s no-no should have ended earlier, but rather how he has a new neighbor in Dave Stieb. Of course, I am not the first to have made this observation. But if you grew up in Canada in the 1980s and followed the Toronto Blue Jays, Stieb was arguably its best known member. His 140 victories in the 1980s ranked him second only to Jack Morris who had 162 while wearing a Detroit Tigers uniform.
Stieb also had a propensity for being nearly unhittable. Four times, Stieb took a no-hitter into the ninth inning only to be denied. On three of those occasions, Stieb came within an out of earning a no-hitter. Two of them were in consecutive stars and the other was very nearly a perfect game.
Stieb’s first flirtation took place on August 24, 1985 against the Chicago White Sox when Rudy Law led off the ninth with a home run. In that game, Stieb was pitching against future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. Three years later, Stieb came within an out of baseball immortality in consecutive starts against the Cleveland Indians and the Baltimore Orioles. But Julio Franco and Jim Traber would deny him with singles twice in less than a week.
On August 4, 1989, Stieb came within an out of a perfect game against the New York Yankees. This time it was Roberto Kelly’s turn to spoil perfection with a double down the leftfield line.
Stieb would finally get his no-hitter the following year when he returned to Cleveland on September 2nd. The relief on Stieb’s face is visible when he gets Indians second baseman Jerry Browne to fly out to right fielder Junior Felix to end the game.
As for Darvish, he was dominant striking out 12 batters en route to a convincing 8-0 victory for the Rangers. In seven starts in 2014, Darvish is 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA. He has fanned 54 batters while walking only 13 in 46 1/3 innings pitched. Like Stieb, this won’t be his last chance at throwing a no-hitter.