So, I just got back from Cancun a few hours ago...did I miss anything?
I got home from the airport in time for the seventh inning, which enabled me to witness the Royals being no-hit for the first time in my lifetime. I had long taken it as a point of pride that the Royals had only been on the losing end of a no-hitter once, and that pitcher - Nolan Ryan - would prove to be the most likely pitcher to ever throw a no-no, given that he'd go on to throw six more.
For all the indignities I have suffered as a Royals fan, this was one I - and any Royals fan under the age of about 40 - had managed to avoid. There were some close calls, certainly. Just last year Mike Sweeney (in his first at-bat in three months) singled in the ninth to end Scott Baker's bid, just after John Buck had walked to end the perfect game. Luis Alicea ended Todd Ritchie's bid for a no-hitter in the ninth back in 2001, for which I've long been grateful. And of course there was Greg Gagne's notorious infield hit in 1994 on which the umpire made a questionable call, denying Bobby Witt the perfect game.
Thirty-five years is a long time for any team to go without being no-hit. It was, in fact, one of the longest streaks of any active team. The Yankees haven't been no-hit since Hoyt Wilhelm shackled them 50 years ago this September, but only because a few years ago the rules committee disallowed no-hitters of less than nine innings, taking away Melido Perez's six-inning, rain-shortened effort in 1990. A Yankee conspiracy, no doubt.
I had a feeling tonight would be different, if only because we were playing the Red Sox, who may not be the New York Yankees, but are certainly the New Yankees - they (and their fans) act as if good outcomes are their birthright, and what makes them even more insufferable is that they back up their bravado every time. The game was at Fenway Park, which is as big a home-field advantage as anywhere in baseball. They had already gotten the requisite defensive gem - that was a hell of a catch by Jacoby Ellsbury, who's not even the best centerfielder on the team (he moved to left in the 9th to make way for Coco Crisp.) And most importantly, Jon Lester was dealing.
If the streak must end, I'm glad it ended at the hands of someone who has been through as much adversity as Jon Lester. Will Carroll, himself a cancer survivor, has admitted to breaking down in tears after the final out. The uncomfortable visual image of a crying Will Carroll notwithstanding, if a no-hitter can bring that much joy to the hearts of so many people, I'm happy to oblige.
Anyway, I much prefer the symbolic embarrassment of a no-hitter to the very real and tangible embarrassment of finishing in last place year after year. The Royals are still 20-22, they're still just 2.5 games out of first place. This one might hurt more than a 6-4 affair, but they all count the same in the standings. In 2004, the Braves were on the receiving end of a perfect game from Randy Johnson; they still won their division. The year before the Giants won 100 games and the division even though they were no-hit by Kevin Millwood along the way. The 1999 Diamondbacks also won 100 games, but were skunked by Jose Jimenez. In 1997, the only two teams that were no-hit that year, the Giants (Kevin Brown) and the Astros (Francisco Cordova), both finished in first place.
Of the previous 16 teams that were no-hit, five went on to make the playoffs. If we win 70 more games this year and sneak away with the AL Central, will anyone care if we get no-hit the other 50 times? So let's start a new streak tomorrow. Let the Red Sox celebrate tonight - we're still just a win away from tying this series up.
In the meantime, Dayton: your offensive crisis just hit Defcon 2. If only there was a Hall of Fame-caliber hitter just sitting around, waiting to be signed, that we could just drop into the DH spot...