I am a Seattle Mariners fan living in Los Angeles. Two years ago I paid for the MLB package in order to watch all of the Mariners games but then by mid-season had realized that I have a hard time watching every game late in the year when the team isn't scoring and find themselves in last place for the majority of the season. Call me a bad fan if you like, but it's just true that I'd prefer to have something good to watch and not the version of the Mariners that struggles to score runs and was dearth of talent outside of Felix Hernandez and Ichiro for so many years.
Needless to say, I have "saved" my $150 the past two seasons and not gotten the package since then. I've been waiting for the right time.
I was following along with the game on the internet tonight. Despite the fact that the Mariners were playing the Dodgers, it didn't immediately click with me that the game would be on local television. I followed on my phone and saw that Millwood was perfect for two.
Then he was perfect for three and I thought to myself "You know what? A perfect game box score just looks cool, even if it's only for three innings." To see 0's across the board, it's just something you rarely see for long. The 0's kept coming, even though Millwood lost the perfect game when he allowed a walk, but as usual I had my doubts that this no-hitter would be preserved.
No-hitters are usually pointless to follow until you reach the seventh inning, so when Millwood had gone six innings without a hit allowed, now it was time to pay very close attention. After all, it's something that I've been waiting to see from a Mariners pitcher for almost my entire life. I do not remember the Chris Bosio no-hitter from 1993 and I only know the highlight of the final out of the Randy Johnson no-hitter. For years, I've just wanted to see it happen for the Mariners with my own eyes.
Then I noticed that Charlie Furbush was in the game and realized that Kevin Millwood's no-hit bid was over. Now this was a "team" no-hitter, which never feels as right. It doesn't seem as special. I immediately became deflated by the idea that a Mariners pitcher wouldn't be throwing a complete game no-hitter tonight. I'd have to keep waiting.
Then the Mariners got through the seventh with a no-hitter. Then in the eighth, when Brandon League had come into the game in relief of Stephen Pryor, the tension really started to build. League had lost his job as closer after being rather awful and now he's coming into the game in a much different role, but I almost expected him to fail. With the Mariners holding onto a slim 1-0 lead and runners on first and second, this opportunity would be more important for him than probably all of his save chances during his tenure as Mariners closer when Seattle was never in a pennant race.
Now he had to preserve a no-hitter for the team. The team.
It quickly dawned on me that with Millwood starting, this combined no-hitter was actually much more important for the team than having a veteran who had only made a handful of starts for Seattle having sole possession of this accomplishment. No offense to Millwood, but we don't have a history together and I have my doubts that at his advanced age he will be around for a very long time after this season. But who would still be around?
Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, and Tom Wilhelmsen.
Sure, when it comes to relievers, there is no guarantee that they'll be around for any significant period of time, but these are names that I've come to know over the past few years and guys that I've envisioned helping the Mariners in the future. Now I realized that it was more special to have a "Seattle Mariners no-hitter" than to have a Kevin Millwood one. Now the pressure was really on.
League struck Tony Gwynn Jr. to end the eighth and preserve the lead. Had the Dodgers scored on a sacrifice fly on the play before, we might be going into extra innings and then the pressure to preserve the hitless game would really mount. Now it would come down to Wilhelmsen in the biggest save opportunity of his two-save career.
I had quickly realized that I could watch the game on the Dodgers broadcast, but knowing that wouldn't feel right I turned it to the MLB network to get the Mariners feed and here the excitement from Seattle's announcers as the team was set to possibly make history.
We know by now that Wilhelmsen got that save. Fittingly, Dustin Ackley picked up the grounder and threw it to Justin Smoak, two major pieces of the future of the Mariners. Jesus Montero leaped for joy after the final out, the rookie who was always questioned for his ability to catch, now had caught six pitchers to combine for his first career no-hitter caught in his very short time in the majors.
Ackley, Smoak, Montero. This is a team.
It wasn't long ago that Seattle put up 21 runs on the Rangers, another milestone accomplishment for the team and it seems like as this young team starts to grow together, starts to gain experience, and starts to believe in each other, we could start to see more special victories for the Mariners. A team that many fans outside of the Northwest have forgotten about other than on draft day.
I appreciate Millwood for getting tonight started and for setting a great example for the younger players on this team and I hope that his injury isn't serious, but I must confess that it felt good in the end to see this become a team no-hitter. Through defense, our young relievers, and a clutch hit from Kyle Seager, it helped highlight that this team is starting to do things that they haven't done in over a decade and that maybe the horizon is starting to shine brightly for the Mariners.
It might just be time to get that MLB package again.