By John Boyle Herald Writer
SEATTLE — As Tom Wilhelmsen pondered what he would do with the historic baseball that was in his possession, fellow Mariners relieve Lucas Luetge offered a solution that would have made absolutely no sense without some context.
“I’ve got a samurai sword, so take it to it,” Luetge said.
Yes, Friday was a very strange night, there was no debating that after six Mariners pitchers teamed up to no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers on the way to a 1-0 victory in front of 22,028 at Safeco Field.
Kevin Millwood started the game and was brilliant through six innings, but had to leave with a groin strain. From there Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Luetge, Brandon League and Wilhelmsen teamed up to complete the 10th combined no-hitter in Major League history. Seattle tied the 2003 Astros for the most pitchers used in a no-hitter. It was the third no-hitter in Mariners history, and first since Chris Bosio threw one in 1993.
When it was over, all five relievers stood together at a podium to talk about their odd and impressive accomplishment. Now they just have to figure out how to share a baseball between six players. Or, you know, there is that samurai sword option.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like that,” said third baseman Kyle Seager, who drove in the game’s only run with a seventh-inning single. “Six pitchers throwing a no hitter? That’s amazing.”
For much of the night, it looked like Millwood alone would be pitching for his place in history, trying to join the exclusive group of pitchers to throw multiple no-hitters—he threw one with Philadelphia in 2003—but things and the Mariners turned downright bizarre in the top of the seventh inning.
Millwood felt something in his groin on his second-to-last pitch in the sixth, but tried to come back out for the seventh. It took him only one warmup pitch to realize that his night was over.
“I went back out to see if I could keep going and I couldn’t push off, so to stay out there would have just cost us the game,” he said. “… It would have been stupid to try to stay out there.
“It was very frustrating. I felt like I had good stuff and I was throwing the ball where I wanted to, but at the same time, it’s a team game and we’re trying to win a ballgame, so being selfish can’t be part of it.”
Despite the frustration he felt having to leave the game early, Millwood was happy to see his bullpen rewarded with a place in baseball history.
“I’m excited for all of these guys who came in out of the bullpen and kept it going,” he said. “It’s a little bit more exciting for those guys when they can be a part of it. I wasn’t really happy when I came out of the game. It took a couple of innings to get excited about it. Those guys got all the tough outs.”
Despite Millwood’s brilliance, a win was far from a given because of the pitching of Dodgers starter Nathan Eovaldi, who was nearly as good. The Mariners couldn’t solve Eovaldi, but they did manage to scratch out a run in the seventh off of reliever Scott Elbert thanks to some vintage Ichiro Suzuki and more clutch hitting from Seager.
With two outs in the inning, Suzuki beat out an infield single, then stole second. After Dustin Ackley walked, Seager drove in Suzuki with line drive single that glanced off the glove of leaping Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon and into left field. For Seager, the RBI was his 23rd with two outs this season, the most in the American League.
“When you talk about trying to get a runner in scoring position in that type of tight ballgame, sometimes you have to take some risks,” Wedge said. “Ichi did a nice job getting to where he needed to get to right there, and ultimately it played out big for us.”
The Dodgers threatened to tie the game in the eighth despite still not having a hit. Bobby Abreu and Jerry Hairston drew back-to-back walks off of Stephen Pryor to lead off the inning. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners over, A.J. Ellis hit a sinking liner that looked like it might ruin everything—the no hitter, the shutout, the win—but Chone Figgins, who had come into the game that inning as a defensive replacement, made a nice running catch, then fired home to keep pinch runner Alex Castellanos on third. Brandon League then struck out Tony Gwynn Jr. to end the threat.
The no-hitter was saved again in the ninth thanks to a brilliant play by Brendan Ryan—and maybe a tiny bit of help from the first-base umpire. Ryan, who came in as a defensive replacement in the ninth, charged a slow grounder by Gordon and fired a throw to barely beat the speedy shortstop. Or maybe not, but the Mariners got the call.
“How tremendous was that?” Wilhelmsen said. “He just does that over and over again. Brendan Ryan is tremendous.”
Two outs later, catcher Jesus Montero charged to the mound to celebrate an odd but historic night.
“It was really fun,” said Montero, who became the youngest player to catch a no-hitter since 1971. “I was praying that last inning… It was amazing.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.