MIAMI -- Every five days, before he goes to sleep, Clayton Richard envisions his forthcoming start. And every five days when he does so, the veteran left-hander envisions becoming the first Padre in history to throw a no-hitter."The night before I pitch, I visualize the game," Richard said. "I don't
MIAMI -- Every five days, before he goes to sleep, Clayton Richard envisions his forthcoming start. And every five days when he does so, the veteran left-hander envisions becoming the first Padre in history to throw a no-hitter.
"The night before I pitch, I visualize the game," Richard said. "I don't visualize giving up any hits. I go to bed with that being my last thought. That's what I dream of."
The 10-year veteran never came closer than he did on Sunday afternoon at Marlins Park, where the Padres reeled off their fourth straight series victory with a 3-1 win.
But for Richard -- of all pitchers -- to break the Padres' 49-year drought, it was always going to take a dash of luck. Richard is a sinkerballer who pitches to contact and gets more ground balls, on average, than any other starter in the Majors. That luck deserted him in the seventh inning.
Richard had thrown 6 2/3 innings of no-hit ball when Miguel Rojas bounced a hard chopper through the middle. Just like that -- after Richard had emphatically dominated Miami's lineup all afternoon -- his chance at history was over. The Padres, who have already seen Tyson Ross and Jordan Lyles carry their no-hitters into the eighth this season, remain the only franchise without one.
"He's such a contact-oriented pitcher that those aren't really the guys that profile to get no-hitters very often," Padres manager Andy Green said. "You're hoping no ball rolls through the hole, but there was no play anyone could've made on that one."
Richard didn't make history, but he was spectacular nonetheless. The lone run scored when JT Riddle followed Rojas with a single of his own. But Richard escaped the jam to complete seven excellent innings with five strikeouts, two hits and three walks. The Padres have now won nine of 12 and are 21-16 since the start of May.
"The confidence is really starting to ooze around here," said Eric Hosmer, whose two-run homer in the sixth was the difference on the scoreboard.
Until Rojas' single, Padres defenders gobbled up everything that came their way. Freddy Galvis made a pair of excellent plays at short. Second baseman Jose Pirela executed two nice plays on the run, robbing Riddle and Lewis Brinson. Manuel Margot tracked down a liner to the warning track in center.
There was nothing Pirela or Galvis could do on Rojas' single, however. The Marlins' third baseman scorched it at 105 mph. But because of its negative launch angle, Statcast™ awarded the play a 43-percent hit probability.
"Bummer," Richard said of his first thought. "I wish I could've kicked it or done something to stop it. But it was a decent pitch. He put a pretty good swing on it. No regrets."
It wasn't to be. As the ball whirred past Richard, he pirouetted on the mound in a mixture of frustration and disappointment. The Padres' drought had reached 7,881 games.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Renfroe gets it right:Hunter Renfroe's struggles against right-handed pitching feel like ancient history. Renfroe has torched right-handers lately, and he went 2-for-4 on Sunday. He doubled in the second inning before scoring the game's first run on Galvis' sacrifice fly. For some perspective: Renfroe was hitting .143/.226/.357 against righties before he landed on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation in April. He's hitting .458/.500/.750 in 26 plate appearances since.
Hometown Hoz: Hosmer grew up watching the Marlins at Pro Player Stadium. He was in attendance for Game 7 of the 1997 World Series when Edgar Renteria walked off the Indians. On Sunday, he created a nice memory for himself against his hometown team. Hosmer crushed a 3-2 fastball from Marlins starter Jose Urena just past the home run structure in left-center field. It was Hosmer's first career dinger against Miami.
At 34 years and 271 days old, Richard was attempting to become the oldest pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Randy Johnson's perfect game against the Braves in May 2004. Only 13 pitchers at Richard's age or older have completed a no-hitter. The last four -- Johnson, David Cone, David Wells and Dennis Martinez -- were all perfect games.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Christian Villanueva has struggled defensively this season, but he was sharp on Sunday with Richard on the mound. Then, in the eighth, he made arguably his best play of the season.
The rookie third baseman ranged to his left and dove for Starlin Castro's grounder. Just as quickly, he rose to his feet and fired to first for the out. Padres reliever Kirby Yates clapped into his glove six times in appreciation.
"Christian Villanueva played the best third base he's played in a long time," Green said. "It was really good seeing him make some tough plays."
HE SAID IT
"He's been an unbelievable teammate to me, a partner in trying to build this and get this to where we want to be. And he's an unbelievable teammate to every guy in there. … He's exactly what you want for the young guys to see." -- Green, on Richard
Jordan Lyles needs to bounce back from his worst start of the season, in which he allowed eight runs and 11 hits over 4 1/3 innings against Atlanta. Otherwise, he has been solid since the Padres moved him into their rotation a month ago. Lyles takes the ball Monday in St. Louis with first pitch slated for 5:15 p.m. PT. The Cardinals counter with righty Jack Flaherty.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.