Divergent paths meet to make history in Seattle
From veterans to rookies, no shortage of heroes in no-no
This was the planets aligning and the baseball gods smiling. This one's for you, Kevin Millwood.
Wasn't all that perseverance and disappointment worth it? Good thing you didn't listen to the people who told you to hang it up and head home last summer.
You weren't ready for the real world, so you kept plugging along in the Minor Leagues just because you understand there's nothing else you'll ever do in your life that will be as much fun as this.
To scratch and claw your way back to the Major Leagues and to convince the Mariners to sign you last winter, being part of something like this is more rewarding than people will ever know.
Here's hoping you took a moment to look around your clubhouse at all those happy kids. Those kids are sure happy, aren't they? Bet you don't feel 37 tonight. You'll be forever linked to them in the history books of this great game. Kind of makes it worthwhile, doesn't it?
You, too, Tom Wilhelmsen. You've had maybe the strangest career of anyone, a bright star who flamed out amid a series of positive marijuana tests. Retired at 22. Six years away. Worked as a bartender for a time. Backpacked around the world some, too. Suddenly, against all odds, Wilhelmsen found a team willing to give him a chance, and at 27, he's a closer in the Major Leagues.
No one would attempt to write that script because there are too many twists and turns, too many false starts, too many unknowns even now.
It seems absolutely perfect that one of the strangest no-hitters ever thrown, a no-hitter in which six pitchers were used, began with Millwood and ended with Wilhelmsen. They've both been so close to the edge before that this moment surely means more than it would to a lot of people. If they never pitch another game in the Major Leagues, they will have been part of something they'll remember forever.
Those cheers from most of the 22,028 at Safeco Field on Friday night rippled through the baseball world as Wilhelmsen got the final three outs of a 1-0 victory over the Dodgers.
Millwood tossed the first six innings, then departed with a groin injury. He hadn't allowed a hit at that point, but the Mariners hadn't scored, so no one could have predicted how the evening would unfold.
- 142 wins
- 110 wins
Then came the youngsters. Charlie Furbush, 26, making his 48th Major League appearance and getting two outs. Stephen Pryor, 22, making his fourth Major League appearance, getting one out and his first Major League victory. Rookie Lucas Luetge, 25, getting one out.
And then Brandon League, demoted from the closer's role last week but getting two outs.
By the eighth inning, the crowd was into it, standing and cheering, understanding history was within the Mariners' grasp.
|6/8/2012||SEA vs. LAD||6|
|7/12/1997||PIT vs. HOU||2|
|9/11/1991||ATL vs. SD||3|
|7/13/1991||BAL @ OAK||4|
|4/11/1990||CAL vs. SEA||2|
|7/28/1976||CWS @ OAK||2|
|9/28/1975||OAK vs. CAL||4|
|4/30/1967||BAL vs. DET GM 1*||2|
|6/23/1917||BOS vs. WAS GM 1||2|
Wilhelmsen entered for the ninth inning, throwing hard and throwing fearlessly, trying for his third career save. He finished the Dodgers in order, turned and pumped his fist and said, "We got it done."
There were heroes all over the place. Third baseman Kyle Seager drove in Ichiro Suzuki with the only run of the game in the seventh inning. Shortstop Brendan Ryan made a huge play on a Dee Gordon grounder in the ninth.
When it ended, there was Mariners catcher Jesus Montero running around the infield waiving his arms, jumping and shouting for joy. In a season when nothing has come easy for the Mariners, Montero's celebration represented what an entire franchise had to be feeling.
There has already been four no-hitters this season, which is one more than all last season.
Philip Humber, who threw a perfect game for the White Sox earlier this season, has had to fight for everything he has gotten. Johan Santana would appreciate it, too, because his no-hitter was also a testament to overcoming the odds of serious shoulder surgery.
Finally, there was Jered Weaver, the Angels' ace. His no-hitter was a surprise to no one because his talent has always been scary good.
As good and as improbable as Humber's perfect game was, as much fun as it was to see Santana back pitching at a high level, neither of those matches what the Mariners ran out there.
Six pitchers, zero hits. From Kevin Millwood to Tom Wilhelmsen, with a dash of Charlie Furbush and others in between, this was one of those spectacularly unpredictable, spectacularly wonderful nights at the ballpark.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.