I was monitoring the Marlins-Braves game on the internet while working in my home office this evening. Josh Johnson was dealing zeroes for six innings before I started thinking no-no. I didn’t want to turn the game on, because I didn’t want to mess with Johnson’s flow – even though he was in Atlanta and I’m in Seattle.
When the game entered the bottom of the eighth, I debated with myself for a minute before deciding to see if the MLB Network jumped over to the Marlins broadcast feed. By the time I found the game on TV, there was one away – only five outs to go for the Marlins first no-hitter since Anibal Sanchez blanked the D-Backs in 2006. I had the good fortune of attending that game, so I was excited to watch J.J. close out the Braves.
Not a second after my butt hit the couch, Freddie Freeman muscled a broken-bat flare over third base for a double to end Johnson’s gem. What the? The TV hadn’t been on for more than 45 seconds! I couldn’t help but think: “You blew it for him! You should have stayed in your office and let Josh do his thing!”
I completely agree with MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds, too, when it comes to no-hitter mojo. You leave everything alone. (Something I should have done by staying in my office.) Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez put Scott Cousins in right field to start the eighth for defensive purposes. Cousins has a little more speed than Mike Stanton, but the move was made to ensure Stanton didn’t reinjure his hamstring trying to track down a ball in the gap to preserve Johnson’s effort. While Cousins wasn’t a factor in the field in any way, he simply wasn’t there for the previous 22 outs. Mojo no go. If I’m Rodgriguez, I leave everything as is and let Johnson have at it.
I was fortunate to pitch a no-hitter in Senior Little League, and what I remember most about the game is no one messed with anything as the game progressed. Our usually rambunctious scorekeeper didn’t move from the end of the bench after the third inning. She was squirming, but she didn’t dare leave her spot because she didn’t want to be blamed for jinxing the game. For the very same reason, my manager said he was going to stand in the same spot whenever I went to the mound for the final three innings. And my teammates on the bench, who were usually late-inning subs, wouldn’t go in the field because they didn’t want to mess with what was working. Nobody moved. Nobody subbed. The flow never changed. No-hitter followed.
Johnson finished the game throwing 109 pitches – 71 for strikes – while fanning nine and walking three. In his interview with MLB Network after the game, Johnson said he felt great going into the eighth, and all he cared about was getting the win.
When you get that close – no matter how tired you may be – you want to finish the job. And it wasn’t like Freeman raked his double. Johnson busted him on the hands, although the pitch was a little up in the zone, and Freeman got just enough to nudge the ball over third and down the left-field line.
I don’t think it had anything to do with Johnson’s arm. No, no. It had everything to do with mojo, and Rodriguez and I blew it. Next time, I stay put. Edwin, how about you?