Pirates' no-hit vets, rookies react to Scherzer
WASHINGTON -- Josh Harrison had his brief Justin Verlander flashback Saturday night, when he saw Jose Tabata get nicked by a 2-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth inning of the Pirates' 6-0 loss to the Nationals to turn him into Max Scherzer's last obstacle to a no-hitter.
On May 18, 2012, Harrison's one-out single in the ninth broke up Verlander's no-hitter. This time, he became the no-hitter-sealing out for Scherzer, aka Johnny Vander Near.
Only that seventh-inning leadoff single by Carlos Gomez last Sunday now prevents Scherzer from matching the legendary back-to-back no-hitters by Cincinnati's Johnny Vander Meer in, yes, June 1938.
"We watched that one-hitter a couple of different times," Clint Hurdle said of Scherzer's near-gem in Milwaukee's Miller Park, alluding to part of his Pirates' prep work for facing him. "He made [the Brewers] swing the bat as well. He attacks the zone."
Still, Harrison said, "I'm always confident. I always think of getting a hit."
Not this time, as he lifted a simple fly ball to left fielder Michael Taylor to finish off Scherzer's gem and make the Pirates an unappreciative part of history.
"I don't know what part of history you want to be on, but I don't want to be on the bad side of history," Harrison said. "Congrats to him. But I don't think anybody in here is going, 'Oh, it's cool to be part of a no-hitter.'"
Hurdle may not have considered it cool, but he still felt privileged to have witnessed this masterpiece.
"I think you need to find it in your baseball heart to appreciate the performance," Hurdle said of possibly the best-pitched game of the thousands he has seen.
"It very well could be. His stuff was dynamic. Very sharp. The fastball command, the breaking ball ... the thing that struck me, he came out for the seventh inning and you saw the fastball got up to 96, 97 mph. It was like he was coming in to close."
Jordy Mercer, who twice came at least within a rumor of a hit, got the same impression.
"He was throwing everything for strikes, mixing them up, with good command of the fastball," Mercer said. "It was 93-95 [mph] early, then 97-98 late."
Of the three other no-hit pitchers in the house, one had the misfortune of also being on the Nationals Park mound. Francisco Liriano's problem with run support escalated into a dearth of hit support.
"The last couple of starts, he has just been in the zone. Unfortunately, we had to see that happen against us," said Liriano, who disavowed any flashbacks to his own May 3, 2011 no-hitter as he watched Scherzer seal the deal. "No, not at all; I was still just hoping Tabata gets a base hit.
"But I am happy for [Scherzer]. It's not easy to do. It comes with a lot of pressure, and he got it done."
One of those doing his best to spoil Scherzer's gem was Jung Ho Kang, who put up a nine-pitch battle, including four two-strike fouls, in the eighth inning before flying out.
Kang didn't confirm how frequently no-hitters happen in the offense-minded Korean Baseball Organization, but he said he had never participated in one.