Kevin Millwood took the hill for his warm-up tosses to start the 7th inning when a mild groin strain ended his night. Millwood had gone 6 sharp innings, not allowing a hit to the team with baseball’s best record, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The grizzled 37 year old from North Carolina left the game quietly. He gave way to a young bullpen who spent the early innings of Friday night’s game having a sunflower seed flicking contest in the bullpen and having no idea they’d take part in baseball history. On a cold night where runs, or hard hit balls, were scarce the Seattle Mariners became the 10th team in Major League history to throw a combined no-hitter.
Kyle Seager’s 7th inning RBI after an Ichiro steal of 2nd provided all the offense 6 Mariner pitchers would need. Charlie Furbush relieved Millwood. Furbush gave way to hard throwing, recent call-up, Stephen Pryor who walked Bobby Abreu and Jerry Hairston Jr. to start the 8th. That gave Los Angeles their only real threat of the game. Left hander Lucas Luetge was brought in to face James Loney who sacrificed the runners along to second and third. Embattled former closer Brandon League was brought in to face hot hitting catcher A.J. Ellis, who promptly lined out to a hard charging Chone Figgins in left field. Figgins’ throw to the plate was on the money to hold the runner at third. League then recaptured his wicked splitter and struck out Tony Gwynn Jr. to end the inning.
The Dodgers came in 37-21 having just swept the Phillies in Philadelphia. Rookie starter Nate Eovaldi matched Millwood in posting 6 shutout innings in a game that seemed to favor the Dodgers due to their knack for pulling out tightly contested ballgames this year. Not tonight…
Tom Wilhelmsen, new to the closer role, came on to finish the ballgame. The 22,028 fans buzzed as the reality of a no hitter set in. Dodger shortstop Dee Gordon led off the 9th, immediately falling in the hole 0-2. After fouling off the next pitch, Gordon hit a slow roller to slick fielding shortstop Brendan Ryan. Ryan, the defensive whiz who came on in the 9th for his glove, scooped and fired a rope across the diamond to beat the speedy Gordon. It was a bang bang play that brought Dodger manager Don Mattingly out to protest. First base umpire Ted Barrett was decisive with his call and Mattingly put up little argument. Elian Herrera followed with a line shot directly at Ryan and all star right fielder, Andre Ethier, grounded weakly to second for the last out.
For the young Mariners, it was a true team effort. One that will be remembered in an otherwise up and down season. The bullpen, which has been solid this year, did their job. Safeco was alive on a night when Edgar Martinez threw out the first pitch. About half the crowd was Dodger fans who didn’t seem to mind seeing a piece of history at the expense of their team even as the game’s outcome hung in the balance.
For rookie catcher, Jesus Montero, it was a game that showed manager Eric Wedge, himself a former catcher, he could call games at the big league level. Montero made a sensational catch in foul territory to end the 3rd. While it’s the veteran Millwood who decides most of his pitches, Montero was solid in framing the location of the big right hander with the southern drawl’s mark.
Who knows where the season will go from here (the M’s lost the next two games over the weekend to LA), but for a night Seattle had that bounce to it’s step as the crowd dispersed into Sodo and Pioneer Square. Everyone played a role.