Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What Do Michael Wacha and Tom Seaver Have In Common?

On Tuesday night, Michael Wacha of the St. Louis Cardinals was one out away from baseball immortality.  He had retired twenty-six Washington Nationals without allowing a hit.  All he had to do was find a way to get Ryan Zimmerman out and he would have completed his first no-hitter in just his ninth major league start.

But Zimmerman had other ideas.  The Nats' third baseman chopped a ball that grazed off the top of Wacha's glove and rolled in the direction of shortstop Pete Kozma.  Kozma's throw pulled first baseman Matt Adams off the bag, who could not apply the tag to a hustling Zimmerman.

The no-hitter was not to be for Wacha, as he fell one out short of immortality on September 24.  That date should bring back memories of a similar circumstance that happened to Tom Seaver in 1975.

Thirty-eight years ago, also on September 24, Tom Seaver took the mound against the Chicago Cubs.  Seaver had already taken two no-hitters into the ninth inning in his career.  But both of those gems were broken up with one out in the ninth.

On July 9, 1969, Chicago's Jimmy Qualls looped a clean single to left after Seaver had retired the first twenty-five Cubs to face him.  Seaver retired the next two batters, then stood on the mound with his hands at his waist wondering what might have been in the Mets' 4-0 victory.

Three years later, Seaver was once again two outs away from pitching the Mets' first no-hitter (although this one was not a perfect game, as Seaver walked four hitters) when he faced the San Diego Padres on July 4, 1972.  But Leron Lee channeled his inner Jimmy Qualls and lined a single to center to break up the no-no.  Seaver then induced the next batter, Nate Colbert, to ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play, giving the Mets a 2-0 win over the Padres.

After two near-misses in 1969 and 1972, Seaver took another no-hitter into the ninth inning on September 24, 1975 when he matched up against the Chicago Cubs.  But this time he was able to retire the batter he faced with one out in the ninth, striking out the Cubs' Rick Monday.  Needing one out to pitch nine hitless innings, Seaver allowed a two-out single to rightfielder Joe Wallis to break up the no-hitter.  However, even if Seaver had retired Wallis, he would not have been able to celebrate a no-hitter at that moment because the game would not have ended there.  Neither team had scored through the first eight innings and the scoreless duel continued into extra innings.  The Mets eventally lost the game, 1-0, when closer Skip Lockwood walked Bill Madlock to force in a run in the 11th inning.

Since 1975, when Seaver lost his no-hitter with two outs in the ninth, no Met had even taken a no-hitter into the ninth until Johan Santana did so on June 1, 2012.  But Santana finished what Seaver couldn't, striking out David Freese of the St. Louis Cardinals to complete the first no-hitter in franchise history.

Michael Wacha, now Freese's teammate in St. Louis, came within one out of throwing his first career no-hitter on September 24, 2013.  Tom Seaver, on September 24, 1975, also missed his first career no-hitter by one out, becoming the only Met to have a hitless game broken up with two outs in the ninth inning.

What do Michael Wacha and Tom Seaver have in common?  They both share a September 24 heartbreak.  Wacha hopes that's not the only thing he can share with Seaver before his career is over.

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