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Nola breaks up Greinke's no-hit bid in ninth

Kikuchi finishes rookie campaign with solid six-inning start
@gregjohnsmlb
September 26, 2019

SEATTLE -- Austin Nola wouldn’t even have been in the game if not for Dee Gordon’s back stiffening up after colliding with teammate Tim Lopes while chasing down a pop fly earlier in the game. But the Mariners rookie found himself in the right place at the right time, breaking

SEATTLE -- Austin Nola wouldn’t even have been in the game if not for Dee Gordon’s back stiffening up after colliding with teammate Tim Lopes while chasing down a pop fly earlier in the game.

But the Mariners rookie found himself in the right place at the right time, breaking up a no-hit bid by the Astros’ Zack Greinke with one out in the ninth inning as Seattle avoided being on the wrong end of history in a 3-0 loss Wednesday night at T-Mobile Park.

Box score

Nola worked Greinke to a full count before driving a 72 mph curveball into left-center field, ending Houston’s shot at becoming the first MLB team with three no-hitters in a season and the Mariners’ less-envious position of being no-hit for a record three times in the same year.

“I watched [Greinke] all game,” said Nola, who replaced Gordon at second base in the eighth inning. “He was unbelievable. I don’t think he threw many balls over the middle of the plate. I was just going up there looking for somewhat of a decent pitch. I knew I wasn’t going to get much good stuff, but it all worked out.”

As a 29-year-old rookie, Nola has been one of the Mariners’ pleasant discoveries this year, batting .262 with 10 home runs in 75 games while playing first and second base, as well as catcher. But the former Louisiana State standout was riding an 0-for-16 skid before breaking up Greinke’s no-no.

Tim Lopes followed with another single before Greinke was replaced after throwing 108 pitches. The 35-year-old was acquired from the D-backs at the July 31 Trade Deadline and has gone 18-5 with a 2.93 ERA on the season.

Mariners manager Scott Servais noted the challenge of facing the savvy Greinke and his ability to change speeds and keep hitters off balance with a slow curve -- including a 64 mph tantalizer that struck out Kyle Seager -- in combination with a fastball that topped out at 92 mph, on the heels of facing Gerrit Cole’s 98-99 mph heat a night earlier.

“It was art,” Servais said. “He’s out there just dealing and drawing it up the way he wants to. It’s frustrating when he’s on his game like that, because you really have to be disciplined at the plate. One of the things he’s really good at is when he gets ahead in the count, the balls are just off the edge and they look like strikes. Veteran pitcher and he was really on top of his game tonight. Coming in after Cole, it’s totally different styles.”

Gordon was the only other Mariner to reach base as he drew a walk in the sixth, but was immediately doubled off first when Greinke leaped to pull in a 73 mph looping liner by Lopes and fired to first.

Greinke survived a much harder line drive by Omar Narváez in the eighth, getting his glove up in time to snare a 94.5 mph shot up the middle, before finally giving up the two singles in the ninth.

Kikuchi takes step forward in finale

Yusei Kikuchi couldn’t match Greinke’s outing, but he put together one of his better performances of the second half as he closed out his rookie campaign with six innings of two-run ball against the American League West champs, scattering six hits with no walks and four strikeouts.

“I thought Yusei was awesome,” Servais said. “His stuff was really good. He gave up a couple in the first, but settled in and had really good rhythm and competed really well. It was a very positive way to end the season for him and take that into the offseason.

“As I’ve said all along, this is about learning, and he learned a ton this year. I’m really happy for him to see it end the way it did tonight. Unfortunately, we just didn’t do enough offensively to get a win for him.”

The 28-year-old from Japan finishes his first season in the Majors at 6-11 with a 5.46 ERA in 32 starts. Kikuchi was the Mariners’ primary offseason free-agent addition, signing a deal that guarantees him $56 million over four years and could go as high as seven seasons and $109 million.

“I really wanted to finish off strong,” said Kikuchi, whose fastball topped out at 94-95 mph, several ticks faster than he’s been in recent starts. “I didn’t want to leave any regrets or anything out on the field. I went out there and threw 100 percent from inning No. 1.”

Lopsided series

Houston wound up 18-1 against Seattle for the season, including 13 straight wins, as the Astros joined this year’s Indians as the only teams in the divisional era (since 1969) to go 18-1 against an opponent. Cleveland equaled that mark in its season series with the Tigers.

The Mariners’ previous worst record against a division foe was 2-17.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.