Little did I know a weekend trip to visit some friends just outside of D.C. would lead to me witnessing my first no-hitter. While out at happy hour on Friday, we were asked if we’d be interested in some extra tickets for Saturday’s game. With no definitive plans lined up for the next day we decided to give it a go. What a wise decision that turned out to be.
I’d be lying if I told you I knew Max Scherzer was pitching the night before. Hell, I didn’t even know the Nationals were playing the Pirates. My love for the Mets is pretty well documented at this point. But Mets or no Mets, there isn’t a baseball game I won’t go to. Although the Nationals are considered the Mets biggest rival given their current stature as “the team to beat” in the NL East, I have no real animosity towards them, yet. The Braves and Phillies are still the teams that bring out the worst in me. I guess most of that has to do with the fact that the two teams have never been contenders in the same season. That will probably change in the years to come, but not yet.
While most of our crew decided to extend the tailgate/pregame well into the 7th inning (really got their monies worth), I at least had the one other real baseball fan in the group to soak the day in with. It’s always important to have someone else who will have the same sort of appreciation for these type of events on hand. The first few innings moved along like any other ordinary game. The only real action that jumped out to me was a home run that Bryce Harper mashed into center field. You could literally hear the crack of his bat echo throughout the stadium. Love him or hate him, that guy can flat-out rake the baseball.
With two outs in the top of the sixth I finally noticed all the zeros on the scoreboard. I usually roll my eyes at pitchers comments when they claim to be unaware they were in the midst of throwing a no-hitter until the final few innings. I just assume things like that would be on your mind from the moment that first batter steps into the box. After all, we keep track of everything in baseball. I guess I was just too caught up in conversation to realize what was happening earlier. Or maybe that was just the subconscious Mets fan in me assuming things like this just don’t actually come to fruition.
Baseball is a funny game with plenty of odd superstitions both the players and fans alike follow. One of them being the unwritten rule that you don’t openly talk about or acknowledge the potential of a perfect game/no-hitter being completed. But I couldn’t help myself. I said something along the lines of “I don’t want to jinx it or anything, but Scherzer has a perfect game going.” I was immediately greeted with a turn of the head and a dead eyed stare of disapproval for what I just said. No words were spoken initially and none needed to be said. Her face said it all. Can’t say I blame her. My reaction probably would’ve been the same if she had done that to me.
From that point on I put aside any rooting interest and was cheering for the perfect game. I’m one of those guys that as soon as I get the alert on my phone about a no-hitter in action I immediately find a TV and throw on the MLB network to watch the live look in. Each inning brought about more tension as fans went from sitting, to the edge of their seats to rising to their feet with each two-strike count. The Nationals continued to tack on runs as they rode a 6-0 lead into the latter innings. With the games outcome never really in doubt, all eyes were on Scherzer and his bid for perfection.
In the ninth inning the entire crowd was on their feet in anticipation. Each foul ball brought a unison groan followed by a sigh of relief. After two rather easy outs, Jose Tabata stepped up to bat. Tabata battled Scherzer, fouling off several pitches while working his way to a 2-2 count after seeing seven pitches. Things got interesting on the eighth pitch. Scherzer spun a backdoor curveball that was hovering inside the plate that Tabata took off his protective gear covered elbow. I’ve watched the replay quite a few times and it looks pretty clear to me that he leaned into the pitch. Needless to say, the crowd (myself included) was not happy. I was angry I would no longer be seeing a perfect game and I was left doubting we would see the completion of a no-hitter. That just felt like one of those disaster turn of events that had me convinced the following batter, Josh Harrison, would break up the no-no.
Luckily, I was wrong. Harrison gave the ball a ride that put a bit of a scare into the crowd as Michael Taylor tracked it down just short of the warning track in left field for the final out. A collective roar erupted. Now I was nowhere near the level of the die-hard Nationals fans who were in a state of jubilation (very similar to my reaction to Johan Santana’s I watched in the bar a few years ago) but I certainly partook in my fair share as we embraced after watching our first in-person no-hitter.
I’ve been lucky enough to witness quite a few special moments at baseball games. This one is right up there behind only Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium as my favorite non-Mets related moment. No-hitter’s, especially in an era where pitchers struggle to get through six innings, are a rare occurrence. I hope it’s not the case, but that could very well be the only one I see in-person throughout my lifetime. Hopefully I’ll get to witness a no-hitter, or preferably a perfect game, at Citi Field. Fingers crossed it’s not the Mets on the receiving end of it though.
Side notes: I thought it was awesome to learn that Scherzer’s parents were in attendance from Missouri and he was able to treat his dad to an early fathers day gift. I always love those type of secondary story lines. Also, what was the deal with that chocolate syrup celebration? Is this a new trend that I’m only learning about now? I’m sure the equipment manager really appreciated this. Forget the water jug, whipped cream pies, bucket of sunflower seeds or chocolate syrup – go find a couple of cold ones from the fridge and let Scherzer down a few Stone Cold Steve Austin style.
The Home Run Derby might be the most entertaining part of the All-Star festivities. Although the derby can be classified as nothing more than glorified batting practice, there is still something special about the event. You have some of the games best power hitters going at it, hitting balls further than most of us could ever deem possible. One of the coolest parts of the night is seeing all the other All-star’s hanging out and watching in awe of the show these sluggers put on.
These are this years participants:
- David Wright – The National League and Mets Captain has 14 home runs on the season. No one knows better than Wright just how hard it can be to get the ball out of Citi Field in the gaps. Wright is not a pure power hitter, like many others in this competition, but may receive an extra bit of adrenaline from the home crowd to help carry him through a round of two. One of the cooler parts of the night is sure to be the ovation he receive when he takes his turn at-bat.
- Bryce Harper – The Nationals phenom has 13 home runs in just 57 games this year. Although some were displeased with Wright for making this selection, I thought it was a great move. He justified it by stating the fans voted him into the starting line up, meaning they must want to see him hit and he couldn’t be more right. We have been reading folk tales of his childhood home runs ever since Sports Illustrated put him on the cover at 16. I would make him my sleeper pick as he has as much power as anyone, despite his young age. The spotlight doesn’t seem to faze him and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him embrace such as event and put on a show.
- Michael Cuddyer – Cuddyer, was the most questionable pick for this years derby. Although he has 15 home runs, he is not known to be much of a home run hitter. Wright picked his childhood friend as a favor as much as anything else, which I have no problem with. If you are going to name captains for each league, things like this are bound to happen. Although Wright recalled Cuddyer beating the likes of Ryan Zimmerman and the Upton brother’s and himself in a derby near their hometown, I don’t foresee him putting on much of a show.
- Pedro Alvarez – Pittsburgh’s third baseman leads this national league squad with 24 home runs. He was named a replacement for the injured Carlos Gonzalez. Alvarez, isn’t exactly a household name himself, but is providing power in the middle of the line up for the first place Pirates. This could be his moment to make the league aware of both the Pirates and himself for years to come.
- Robsinson Cano – The Yankee second baseman has 21 home runs so far on the year. Cano, will once again have his father along to pitch to him, which is always a cool moment whether you like him or not. I don’t expect Cano to have any problem getting the ball out of Citi Field, as he never seems to struggle with it during the Subway Series. The combination of Cano’s past experience and power make him one of the favorites tonight.
- Prince Fielder – Detroit’s first baseman is currently sitting with 16 home runs and has become a bit of a forgotten man playing alongside Miguel Cabrera. Fielder, has a swing that is just built for this event. I’m hoping to see him put a ball over the Pepsi Porch tonight.
- Chris Davis – is leading all of baseball with 37 home runs, tying him with the AL record for home runs at the all-star break. Davis, seems to hit another home run every time I see an Orioles highlight this year. The derby has been known to display break out stars to the whole country and this could very well be Davis’ coming out party.
- Yoenis Cespedes – The Oakland center fielder was the last selection made by Cano after Jose Bautista turned down the offer. Cespedes, is a guy that many will overlook. He is built like a bull and has a ton of power, but a right-handed hitter might have a hard time getting enough out over the left center field wall.
Citi Field is not a hitters ball park, by any means, but I feel lefties will have an easier time getting the ball out, especially up on the Pepsi porch. I don’t think we will see any Josh Hamilton like performances, as the stadium simply won’t allow it. But with he warm weather we are expecting tonight, I do expect these guys will still put on a solid show. With the groove Chris Davis has been on, I think he will walk away the champion this year.
This is something I have always wanted to attend myself, which is why I couldn’t resist buying tickets to see an event that is unlikely to return to Queens for another 50 years. Although I won’t be sitting in home run territory, it is sure to be one of those once in a life time events I can say I attended in my home ballpark.