A.J. Pierzynski, No-Hitter Etiquette

Darvish Nearly Perfect From the Mound. The Guys Behind the Plate, Not So Much

AJP tossedDon’t change anything during the course of a no-hitter. By now, that much should be obvious. Players don’t change spots on the bench between innings. Managers don’t make unnecessary substitutions (except for those who do). The mere appearance of a reliever warming up in the bullpen can be enough to send the superstitious into fits of nervous twitching.

Monday, however, brought us something entirely new in the realm of not mixing things up, and it only makes sense that the delivery person was A.J. Pierzynski.

Yu Darvish, working on a perfect game in the sixth, threw a 2-2 breaking ball to Jonathan Villar, which Pierzynski thought was strike three, but which plate ump Ron Kulpa judged to be too low. The fact that the catcher leapt from his crouch and took a step toward the dugout before hearing Kulpa’s ruling earned him no favors.

Darvish walked Villar on the next pitch, giving the Astros their first baserunner, and Pierzynski was none too pleased. After the game, Kulpa explained what happened. As reported by MLB.com:

“Pierzynski didn’t like the pitch that I [called for a ball]. We had words about the [2-2] pitch. And then [Darvish] walked [Villar] on the very next pitch and [Pierzynski] continued to argue on the pitch before. And so he got ejected.” (Watch it here.)

Talk about changing things up. Game action was interrupted while Ron Washington came out to argue and backup catcher Geovany Soto raced to put on his gear. Suddenly Darvish was throwing to a different target. The right-hander denied that any of this had to do with the home run he gave up to catcher Carlos Corporan two frames later (indeed, Soto has caught 10 of Darvish’s 22 starts this season, so lack of familiarity is not a problem), but history is not on his side: Only twice has a pitcher thrown to more than one catcher during the course of a complete-game no-hitter—Ken Holtzman in 1969 and Larry Corcoran in 1880.

The question now becomes one of blame. Did Kulpa have too quick a trigger finger, especially considering the enormity of the situation? Should Pierzynski have played it cooler, knowing what was at stake?

The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. Had either of them shown just a skosh more restraint, it’s possible that the baseball world would be celebrating Darvish right now even more than it already is.

“Absolutely, you feel bad for the guy,” said Pierzynski afterward. “You feel bad for the pitcher and you feel bad for everybody associated with it. Because they don’t happen a lot and when you get that close, you really want to try to get them done. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”

(For what it’s worth, Darvish came within one batter of a perfect game at the same ballpark in April. Some feel he was jinxed in that one, too.)

A.J. Pierzynski, Addison Reed, Retaliation

Pierzynski Drilled, Indignant and Just Maybe Scheming for Future Benefit

AJP (1)It didn’t take long—one at-bat, as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning Wednesday—for the A.J. Pierzynski roadshow, Texas Rangers edition, to roar to life.

After eight seasons with the White Sox, Pierzynski signed with Texas during the off-season, and in facing his old team for the first time was plunked on the right elbow by ex-teammate Addison Reed. Pierzynski didn’t much try to avoid it (indeed, he threw his elbow into it), and was saved from significant discomfort by the pad he was wearing. Reed appeared upset with himself from the moment it became apparent that pitch would connect with batter.

None of it mattered. The catcher started barking toward the mound as he trotted to first, clearly upset with the development. (Watch it here.)

“I was mad,” Piezynski said in a Chicago Tribune account. “(Reed) threw it up and in and shoulder high. It’s fine if you’re going to pitch me in, but don’t come up and in, shoulder high.” (Reed, White Sox manager Robin Ventura and catcher Tyler Flowers all offered standard denials of intent.)

Ultimately it made no difference, coming as it did with two outs in the ninth. Pierzynski did not score, and Chicago won, 5-2. The real reason any of this is of interest is that it’s A.J. Pierzynski, the man about whom his former White Sox manager, Ozzie Guillen, famously said, “If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.”

In honor of A.J. being A.J., I offer a selection from the original draft of The Baseball Codes, which did not make it into the final edit. It involves Pierzynski, some of the reasons why opposing players hate him, and another pitcher named Reed.

When Pierzynski was catching for San Francisco in 2004, the Giants built a 9-2 lead in the eighth inning of a game at Colorado. With the bases loaded and two out, Pierzynski poked his elbow pad into the path of a Steve Reed fastball, taking a dubious hit-by-pitch and driving in what would be the first of six runs in the inning that turned a Giants romp into a full-fledged blowout. Reed was incensed, saying later that the pitch would have been a strike had the Giants catcher not gotten in its way. There was even some debate as to whether it hit Pierzynski at all, with Reed and Rockies catcher Charles Johnson denying there was contact, and Pierzynski himself going so far as to say he never felt it hit him.

But the only opinion that mattered was that of plate umpire Bruce Dreckman, and when Dreckman sent Pierzynski to first, Reed exploded. He was thrown out of the game during the ensuing argument.

Pierzynski knew he had done wrong—willingly getting hit by a pitch that should not have hit him, in a game in which an extra run did not matter—and that Reed had been ejected as a result. He also knew that there would be a price to pay down the road.

With the game well in hand, Giants manager Felipe Alou offered to pull Pierzynski and save him from imminent retaliatory damage. The catcher, however, understood that if he didn’t get it that day, he’d be waiting—uncomfortably—until the time that the Rockies had a chance to even the score. So he demurred, opting get it over with quickly.

Trouble was, when Pierzynski came to bat in the ninth inning, it was against right-hander Allan Simpson, pitching in just his eighth major league game. With a 7.36 ERA, Simpson was far less worried about sticking up for his teammates than he was about simply getting out of the inning with a minimum of damage. (With Reed in the clubhouse, Simpson  may not even have been briefed about Pierzynski’s lack of propriety, or the appropriate response.)

Seeing a pitch to hit, Pierzynski doubled in the Giants’ 16th and final run of the game.

The catcher didn’t start the next day, the final game of the series, and by the time he made a ninth-inning appearance as a pinch-hitter, the 7-5 score was too close for Rockies pitcher Marc Kroon to take any action. (Also, because Pierzynski hadn’t been scheduled to hit, Rockies management may not have given advance notice to Kroon about what they’d like him to do.)

When the teams faced each other a month later, however, Rockies starter Aaron Cook wasted no time. When Pierzynski stepped to the plate for his first at bat, Colorado already held a 6-0 lead, and with little potential downside to allowing an extra baserunner, Cook hit Pierzynski in the leg with his second pitch.

Pierzynski may be insufferable, but he is also among the game’s wiliest players. He knew what was happening and why in 1992, and he likely knew it again on Wednesday. He may also be the only man in baseball to feign annoyance at an incidental action on the chance that such a precedent could help him or his team in the future.

Unless Pierzynski or somebody on the White Sox cares to discuss Wednesday’s events, of course, we’ll never know. The next time he faces Addison Reed, however, it seems likely that Wednesday’s events will be somewhere in the pitcher’s mind.

No-Hitter Etiquette, Rookie Hazing

Yu Who? Backpack Season is Upon Us

Rangers backpackWith Yu Darvish’s near-perfect game Tuesday came the inevitable cries of jinx. It didn’t hurt that the TV broadcast included the comment, “Darvish looking for number six, and the second perfect game …” precisely as the right-hander released the two-out, ninth-inning pitch that Marwin Gonzalez would slap to center for Houston’s first hit.

Sure, there were those who tried to jinx it, and those who decried it being jinxed. Of semi-related interest, however, Darvish’s gem allowed the Mickey Mouse backpack worn by Texas reliever Joe Ortiz to be put on televised display as the game ended.

The backpack, of course, is a tradition in which the least-tenured member of a team’s relief corps is forced to lug around the bullpen’s candy supply, as well as finger fixers like nail clippers, frequently in as humiliating a satchel as possible.

If Ortiz thinks he has it bad, however, he has nothing on A’s reliever Sean Doolittle.

I was in the Oakland clubhouse yesterday, where Doolittle was fixing up the greatest candy bag I have encountered in many years on the Rookie Embarrassment beat.

Doolittle is the one doing the toting. That the left-hander appeared in three postseason games for the A’s last year counts for little; he’s still some 80 games behind teammate Evan Scribner when it comes to big league seniority. And he was sick of last season’s beat-up Hello Kitty bag.

Teammate Jerry Blevins acquiesced and purchased a new one—a fuzzy white, google-eyed unicorn, with pink hooves and a gold horn. Unfortunately, the new bag was far too small to hold the necessary supplies. Solution: affix old bag to new. Blevins began the process with safety pins, but left it to Doolittle himself to finish the job—akin, I thought, watching Doolittle struggle with the task, to having a victim dig his own grave. (See the bag in action here.)

“What can I say?” Doolittle said, affixing super glue just so. “I’m just doing what has to be done.”


Appropriate Retaliation, Retaliation, Scott Diamond

Head-Hunting Season in Texas Earns Immediate Consequences

Juuuuust a bit inside.

The real question after Thursday’s head-hunting and Friday’s suspension in Texas is why?

Not why Twins lefty Scott Diamond was ejected, then suspended for six games. That much was obvious: He threw at Josh Hamilton’s head. (Watch it here.)

No, the lingering uncertainty in the wake of it all concerns Roy Oswalt’s motivation for precipitating the affair with a third-inning fastball into Joe Mauer’s back. There were two outs. It was a 3-0 count. There was a runner on second. There was little question about the intent behind it.

Speculation has the runner, Ben Revere, flashing signs, which could understandably perturb Oswalt. Revere had also been on second when Mauer doubled in the first, which may have set some precedent. If nothing else, Mauer has been noted for his proclivity for this kind of activity.

It’s also possible that Oswalt was settling some unknown grudge, or that, with a base open and a 3-0 count, he was simply releasing a bit of pent-up aggression, happy to face the relatively punchless Ryan Doumit hitting next.

That last option is the least likely of the bunch, but still more plausible than Oswalt’s ultimate explanation, offered up after the game:

For some reason, I can’t keep the ball true on the left side. He’s been beating me away, away, away. I was trying to get him out in and just dropped my elbow. I don’t know the reason why the ball is coming back on the left side of the plate. I can keep it true on the right side. The left side I can’t really keep it true and I dropped my elbow and it kind of sailed on me.

A response from Diamond was expected. He probably would have gotten away with a warning had he been better about his execution. Instead of aiming for Hamilton’s hip, he sent a pitch up around the head, forcing the left-handed hitter to duck. Plate ump Wally Bell didn’t hesitate with his ejection.

“Any time in an umpire’s judgment that they go in the head area, we have to take care of business,” Bell said in a statement. “I felt at the time that he had to be ejected for it.”

Ron Gardenhire, who was also tossed, vigorously disagreed with the lack of warning, but it’s difficult to fault an umpire for tamping down immediately on what could be a very dangerous practice—let alone subsequent retaliatory shots. The league backed Bell up on Friday with its suspension.

Hamilton avoided confrontation by claiming later that he didn’t feel Diamond was throwing at him. Gardenhire said that he hopes it doesn’t carry over.

For a series of actions that made increasingly less sense, it seems a fine way to put an end to all of it. Then again two Rangers were hit in the second inning Friday by Minnesota’s Samuel Deduno in the span of four batters. They were part of six straight baserunners allowed that pushed a 1-0 Texas lead to 5-0, so it could have just been a case of wildness. Then again, Deduno walked only one batter over five innings.

Two more games this weekend. Keep your eyes peeled.

Retaliation, Vicente Padilla

Bringing New Meaning to ‘Beantown’: Padilla’s Drilling of Beltre Nothing New

Click for GIF

This is what happens when one earns a reputation.

By almost every account, Vicente Padilla’s beaning of Adrian Beltre yesterday was an accident. (Watch it here.) It came in the eighth inning of a 1-1 game, with an 0-2 count and a runner at third. But when a guy has made a career not just of drilling batters—he’s now hit 108 over his 14-year career, third-most of any active pitcher and tied for 64th all-time—but hitting them in the head, one can’t help but think negative thoughts.

Padilla was suspended in 2005 after drilling Vlad Guerrero, then brushing him back in a later at-bat, then drilling Juan Rivera after warnings had been issued—all within a span of two innings. He was suspended again in 2007 for throwing at Nick Swisher. He broke Aaron Rowand’s face with a pitch in 2010.

“I’ve seen him hit people that aren’t even a threat,” said one opponent in 2010. “You get a small, scrawny guy up at the plate and he’ll throw at him just for the hell of it. That’s how he pitches. That’s how he is.”

This is the guy who earned applause from Marlon Byrd when he was released by the Rangers in 2009—and Byrd was his teammate. The release, in fact, came about largely because of Texas players’ demands that Padilla hit fewer opponents, as the tactic frequently ended up members of the Rangers being drilled in response.

Case in point: That June, Padilla hit former teammate Mark Teixeira twice. The first response was Teixeira (cleanly) wiping out Elvis Andrus at second base (“setting off a celebration in the Yankee dugout” according to the New York Daily News). The second was A.J. Burnett coming very up and very in on Nelson Cruz.

Said Teixeria after that game:

The first two at-bats of my career [against Padilla in 2005, when the right-hander was with Philadelphia], I hit home runs. Third at-bat, I got hit. And every time I’ve faced him since there have been balls near my head, near my body. We were teammates for two years. I remember getting hit a lot because he was hitting other players.

Teixera went so far as to ask the pitcher to knock off that kind of behavior. Padilla’s response, according to the first baseman: “Nothing.”

That August, following an intervention by Rangers brass along those same lines, Padilla, facing the A’s, responded to a Scott Hairston homer by hitting Kurt Suzuki. After the A’s retaliated by drilling Michael Young, Padilla was seen laughing on the bench. He was designated for assignment within days.

It’s hardly a stretch to think that no pitcher has been universally less-liked since Padilla came into the league in 1999. All of which is a long way of saying that when it comes to the Code, retaliation is sometimes called for even in response to unintentional actions—but when it comes to Vicente Padilla, it seems merely to be a matter of course.

That Beltre appears to be in fine shape is good news, but probably has no bearing on whatever is to follow. Red Sox and Rangers meet again tonight. Stay tuned.

(Gif via Chad Moriyama.)

Elvis Andrus, Hustle

Elvis Has Left the Lineup: Shortstop Pulled After Mental Error

Elvis Andrus chases one of the balls that likely led to his mental lapse later in the game.

Whenever they make headlines, baseball’s unwritten rules inevitably invoke something that happened regarding some indignity and the response to it. It’s frequently the kind of stuff that stirs debate about whether this whole Code thing is worth it and why are grown men throwing baseballs at each other, anyway?

These issues are inevitably about respect.

When Elvis Andrus violated an unwritten rule last week, it was also about respect, but it had nothing to do with the the opposition. Andrus, at least in the eyes of his manager, showed insufficient consideration for his own teammates.

In the eighth inning of Sunday’s game against the Twins, Andrus fielded a grounder hit by Rene Rivera and half-heartedly flipped the ball to first, pulling Michael Young off the bag. The best guess is that the shortstop’s head was elsewhere, after he committed an error an inning earlier, and failed to convert another play that he frequently makes. Following the error, Minnesota scored five unearned runs in an eventual 6-1 victory.

Perhaps Andrus simply felt that because Rivera is a slow-footed catcher (one stolen-base attempt in parts of four major league seasons) the throw merited something less than his best effort.

The play wouldn’t have received much attention had manager Ron Washington not addressed it directly; the following inning, when it was Andrus’ turn to hit, Andres Blanco stepped to the plate instead.

“I didn’t like his attitude,” Washington told the Dallas Morning News, regarding his decision to pinch-hit for his shortstop. “The inning before there were a couple of plays he didn’t make, but he gave the effort. There are going to be plays that you can’t make. On that play, there wasn’t energy. Elvis is better than that. I didn’t chew him out, but I let him know that.”

If anything, this type of play is even less defensible than a hitter failing to run hard out of the batter’s box; the batter, at least, is expecting somebody else to make a play on him.

This was a teachable moment for Washington, but based on Andrus’ postgame comments, it’s unclear if any learning actually took place.

“I was trying to make an easy throw,” Andrus said. “I don’t throw it hard all the time. I had plenty of time. If I had thrown it hard and it got away from him, nobody would have said anything. But if you throw it like that and it gets away, they say you gave up or you’re not trying. That wasn’t it.”

He should remember that Washington showed some tact with his actions, waiting until his shortstop had already left the field to pull him. When Reggie Jackson angered Billy Martin by failing to hustle after a flyball in 1977, the Yankees’ skipper removed him in the middle of the inning (famously leading to a near-brawl in the dugout).

Ron Washington is no Billy Martin when it comes to fiery temperament—and as much as Andrus might complain privately about his treatment, as far as he’s concerned, that’s a very good thing.

– Jason

Josh Hamilton, Respect Teammates

Hamilton Breaks Arm, Hurts Feelings, Loses Face

Josh Hamilton clearly was not happy with the way things went Tuesday.

With Hamilton on third, third base coach Dave Anderson noticed that nobody was covering the plate as Tigers catcher Victor Martinez went to chase a popup that was ultimately caught in front of the Tigers dugout by Brandon Inge. Anderson urged Hamilton to score, but Inge flipped the ball to Martinez, who beat a diving Hamilton to the plate.

The result: a broken arm and six to eight weeks on the disabled list.

Hamilton was out, he was injured and he was frustrated. And he let it get to him, lashing out at Anderson after the game, essentially blaming his coach for the injury.

“I listened to my third base coach,” he said. “That’s a little too aggressive. The whole time I was watching the play I was listening. [He said], ‘Nobody’s at home, nobody’s at home.’ I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t want to do this. Something’s going to happen.’ But I listened to my coach. And how do you avoid a tag the best, by going in headfirst and get out of the way and get in there. That’s what I did.”

(Watch the play, and hear Hamilton discuss it, here.)

Hamilton is allowed to take issue Anderson’s call, personally or directly to Anderson. What he’s not allowed is to call out a coach in public. It undermines every bit of authority Anderson possesses.

This doesn’t happen frequently, but it’s not it’s never happened before. In 1986, for example, Angels baserunner Bobby Grich, having rounded third on a single by Bob Boone, retreated to the base, only to be thrown out by a relay from Jim Rice to Wade Boggs to Spike Owen.

The Angels were trailing 3-2; Grich would have been the tying run, had he scored. He threw his helmet to the ground and animatedly gestured toward third base coach Moose Stubing, showing him up not just in word, as Hamilton did to Anderson, but in deed.

Afterward, Stubing accepted full responsibility for the blown play, but that’s almost beside the point. No matter how badly he failed at his job, the unwritten rules mandate respect from player to coach, and vice versa—especially on the field. It’s the same section of Code that keeps managers from removing position players in the middle of an inning for anything but injury.

It took some time for Grich to understand this, but after the game he tracked down his coach to apologize.

Hamilton took even longer. He had hardly backed down early Wednesday when he told reporters, “I threw him under the bus by telling the truth about what happened. What do you want me to do, lie about it? People are going to blame who they want to blame.”

Never mind the fact that Hamilton’s status in the game is lofty enough to allow him to do whatever his instincts tell him on the field. He would not have been second-guessed for staying at third, no matter what happened.

Also never mind the fact that players are taught to go feet-first when sliding into home.

Later that same afternoon, however, the slugger had either reconsidered his stance, or had been instructed in no uncertain terms to turn the other cheek. Finally, he apologized to Anderson.

“I see where I need to take responsibility for it,” Hamilton said. “I was just frustrated—more so for getting injured.”

– Jason

Don't Bunt to Break Up a No-Hitter, Felix Hernandez, Julio Borbon

Bunt on King Felix? Preposterous!

It’s perpetually incredible that major league players can be unclear on the sport’s primary unwritten rules. Some claim complete ignorance, some apathy. Some are simply too green to have heard of them.

Occasionally, however, a player will think he knows the rules when in fact he’s a bit hazier on the topic than he’d care to admit.

Take Felix Hernandez, who, in the middle of a would be no-hitter against Texas on Friday, got up on his high horse about a Code violation that wasn’t really a violation at all.

Julio Borbon bunted.

We hear it frequently: Don’t bunt to break up a no-hitter. Give a pitcher your best effort, because enduring mound performances deserve no less. The concept rose to prominence in 2001, when Padres catcher Ben Davis broke up Curt Schilling’s perfect game with a bunt, and all hell broke loose from the Arizona clubhouse.

“You shouldn’t do that,” Hernandez said in the Everett Herald, about Borbon’s effort. “Sixth inning and a guy is throwing a no-hitter, it’s disrespect.”

It’s a decent rule, especially if it’s late in the game (as was the case with Davis) and the guy bunting doesn’t make ordinary practice of the tactic (as was also the case with Davis).

Borbon, however, has some speed. And the game was still in the middle innings.

More importantly, the Rangers trailed only 2-0 at the time. Borbon’s effort, had it been successful, would have brought the tying run to the plate, something the rest of his teammates had been unable to do to that point in the game.

In this case (and in that of Davis, who also bunted facing a 2-0 deficit), winning trumps all. Do what you must to win the game.

We’ve seen the tactic unsuccessfully attempted at least twice this year, by Gordon Beckham (against Chicago’s Ted Lilly, whose no-no was broken up later in the game) and Evan Longoria (in the middle of Dallas Braden’s perfect game).

The guy who had it absolutely correct: Borbon.

“What was I supposed to do, let him have it his way?” he said in an MLB.com report. “I realize he was throwing a no-hitter, but I wasn’t getting out of my game. If the game was one-sided it might be different, but in a close game like that, it could be a difference-maker.

“I was trying to get it down and get something going. I wasn’t worried about the no-hitter. If we were down six, seven eight runs, I’m going to swing the bat. But down 2-0 in the sixth inning, I don’t think I was being disrespectful to him or the game or to anybody. I was trying to do something for the team.”

Just like he was supposed to.

– Jason

Ian Kinsler, Returning to the Field

Kinsler Came Back, and it Cost Him

Ian Kinsler just had to be with his teammates. The commissioner’s office disagrees.

In the 10th inning of Friday’s Rangers-Yankees game, Kinsler was ejected by plate umpire Dale Scott for arguing balls and strikes.

Three frames later, Nelson Cruz’s leadoff homer won it for Texas, a 6-5.

Kinsler, who was watching the game in a nearby video room, joined the dancing scrum of Rangers on the field. This violated Rule 4.07, which barred him from the field during the game (he rushed the plate as Cruz was circling the bases), and even prohibited him from staying on the bench.

Bobby Valentine returns to the dugout.

Baseball has dealt with similar rules violations before, notably Mets manager Bobby Valentine returning to the bench after being ejected wearing a fake mustache. (He was fined $5,000 and received a two-game suspension for his troubles. Watch the video here.)

Usually, however, ineligible players return not because they’ve been ejected, but because they’re on the disabled list, and not to celebrate, as did Kinsler, but to help protect their teammates during the course of a fight.

In 1996, Montreal’s David Segui did that very thing—dressing and joining a brawl against the Astros, and drawing a rebuke for his actions from MLB.

More famously, Atlanta’s Bob Horner, wearing a cast on his hand and in the broadcast booth for a 1984 game against the Padres, raced to the clubhouse when trouble started brewing, changed into his uniform and rushed the field to help protect his teammates. (During that game, Horner’s teammates, Gerald Perry, Steve Bedrosian and Rick Mahler, all of whom had been previously ejected, returned to the field for one of the game’s later fights.)

In these situations, the rule makes some sense. The number of active players on competing rosters is always even (save for the occasional discrepancy with September call-ups), and additional veterans joining a fray can skew things.

Kinsler, however, saw little harm in his actions.

“I think it’s a little unreasonable,” he said in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s not too much common sense. They have the rule in place. They have rules for a reason I guess. I don’t know what the reason is, but they obviously put them in place.”

Update: MLB just rescinded the suspension, admitting, in the words of Aaron Gleeman, “Whoops, nevermind.”

– Jason

No-Hitter Etiquette, Rich Harden, Ron Washington

No-Hitter in Hand, Harden Pulled

Removing pitchers in the middle of no-hitters is getting to be downright commonplace these days.

Eight days after Twins manager Ron Gardenhire raised eyebrows for removing pitcher Kevin Slowey after 106 pitches over seven no-hit innings, Rangers manager Ron Washington did something similar with Rich Harden yesterday.

In Slowey’s case, he had recently been shelved due to elbow soreness, and his long-term effectiveness was more important to his manager than a longshot chance at finishing a no-hitter with an elevated pitch count.

Harden did Slowey one better, throwing his gem in his first start off the disabled list. A seventh-inning walk to Michael Cuddyer raised his pitch count to 111, with Jim Thome at the plate and the tying run on deck. It was all Washington needed to see.

Harden had no chance of throwing 150 pitches on the day—which is what it would have taken to complete the game at the pace he had set—and already possessed a storied injury history.

As pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, oddities about the moment were plentiful.

•  Slowey was watching the action from the Minnesota bench.
•  The plate umpire was Jim Joyce, himself at the center of a no-hitter controversy earlier this year when he incorrectly ruled that what would have been the final hitter of Armando Galarraga’s would-be perfect game reached base safely.
•  New Rangers owner Nolan Ryan—he of seven (full) no-hitters—was watching the game from the front row.

There may be no more prominent opponent of strict pitch counts than Ryan. Ron Washington is acutely aware of this. That he made the move anyway speaks to his conviction about the subject.

“He threw 111 pitches,” Ryan said of Harden in an MLB.com report. “He kept his stuff the whole time, but Ron didn’t have a choice but to take him out. You have to protect the player and do what’s best for the team. Ron did the right thing and Rich knew it.”

The no-hitter was broken up in the ninth, when Joe Mauer singled against close Neftali Feliz. If Harden needed a shoulder to cry on, Kevin Slowey was just down the hall.

– Jason