Fister's gem, seven-run third down O's
Right-hander carries a no-hitter into the seventh
SEATTLE -- It usually takes at least one stellar defensive play for a pitcher to throw a no-hitter, and four gems by the Mariners put right-hander Doug Fister within nine outs Monday night of tossing the third no-no in franchise history.
The drama ended in the seventh inning, when Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis drilled a leadoff shot up the middle, putting the kibosh on Fister's pursuit of his first no-hitter. But the 8-2 Mariners victory before 14,528 at Safeco Field provided a decent consolation prize.
Was he thinking about pitching a no-hitter?
"That's in the back of your mind, but not really," he said. "I couldn't tell you how deep I have taken a no-hitter before, but probably tonight was most exciting for me."
Fister (2-1, 1.42 ERA) settled for a three-hitter, departing after the seventh.
A seven-run third inning, capped by Casey Kotchman's two-run homer, put all of the attention on Fister's shoulders.
Thanks to the shoestring catch in right field by Ichiro Suzuki that ended the first inning with two Orioles on base, and an over-the-shoulder grab by left fielder Milton Bradley earlier in the first inning, the drama began to build, inning by inning, starting in the second.
Every out from the top of the second inning through the fourth were routine as Fister methodically worked his way through the Orioles lineup. Only one ball left the infield.
And then came another near-hit.
Luke Scott drilled a line drive destined for right-center, but second baseman Chone Figgins made a lunging catch to keep the no-hitter alive. The next two outs were so quick and routine that the retractable roof, which started closing at the top of the inning, was still closing when the third out was made.
The no-hitter was challenged again in the sixth.
This time, Cesar Izturis pulled a sharp grounder between first and second. Kotchman didn't reach the ball, but Figgins did. He whirled around and threw as quickly as he could to Fister, who was covering first base.
The throw bounced, but Fister, giving his best first baseman impersonation, stretched out and made the catch for the first out of the inning.
"I knew I had to bust over to first base and make the play," he said. "Figgy bounced it, but it was a nice throw. They always say, 'A long hop is no hop.' It was a good throw."
At the end of six innings, the Orioles still did not have a hit.
"I was trying to make pitch after pitch," Fister said. "That's what you have to focus on."
The no-no bid ended on Fister's 81st pitch, and the crowd gave him a loud ovation for a job well done.
"I felt it was a decent pitch," Fister said. "He put a good swing on it and it came right back up the middle."
Standing near second base, Figgins couldn't figure out why there was so much noise.
"I had no idea [that a no-hitter had just ended]," he said. "After Markakis got the hit, I heard the crowd cheering and I was thinking, 'Did something happen on the scoreboard?' Then I looked and saw that it was a no-hitter."
Markakis was erased on a double play, but another single and a run-scoring double by Scott ended Fister's shutout. He finished the inning and then turned the game over to the bullpen.
"He came after us," Markakis said. "He established his fastball. He used both sides of the plate. He had good movement on his ball today. You have to tip your hat to him. He threw a great game."
"Doug Fister was just tremendous," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "It's amazing to me that he has that kind of composure on the mound for such a young pitcher. It's a pleasure to watch him pitch out there."
Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair said Fister "commanded his fastball down and on both sides of the plate. He stayed aggressive and didn't make any adjustments until he had to."
Did he have no-hit stuff?
"I think in terms of movement and command, yeah," Adair said. "He was good. Again, he commanded both sides of the plate, was down in the zone and used his soft stuff when he needed to. He did a lot of things well and [catcher Rob Johnson] did a tremendous job with him."
Accolades were also tossed around to the defense.
Shortstop Jack Wilson made a nifty double play immediately after Markakis's no-hit buster.
"Our defense gives a pitcher the utmost confidence," Fister said. "Having Jack Wilson and Figgy up the middle is a tremendous combination. I am a pitch-to-contact pitcher and it would be foolish of me not to utilize that defense."
Fister was trying to join Randy Johnson and Chris Bosio as the only pitchers in franchise history to throw a no-hitter.
The Orioles, meanwhile, avoided being no-hit for the seventh time.
But there was some potential bad news to come out of the game. Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez left the game early because of tightness in his groin area.
Wakamatsu said Gutierrez would be re-examined on Tuesday, but it doesn't appear to be anything serious.
Ichiro extended his personal hitting streak against the Orioles to 19 games with a first-pitch double to left field in the first inning -- his 231st career two-bagger, tying Jay Buhner for third place on the franchise's all-time list -- and Wilson had two doubles and a single for Seattle.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.