Not gonna lie. I was slightly disappointed Adrian Cardenas singled to break up AJ Burnett’s no-hit bid Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.
Of course, I never want to see the Cubs get no-hit, but I’ve long dreamed of witnessing a big league no-hitter in person and last night looked as good as ever.
With the Pirates seemingly having the game in hand, leading 5-0 heading to the bottom of the eighth, something extremely unusual happened: my alliances shifted heavily towards seeing history rather than a Cubs win.
Burnett sat the Cubs down with ease 1-2-3 through the first three innings as it became clearly evident from my seat in section 419 the Buccos Ace was on top of his game.
Eleven straight Cubs batters were retired before I finally marked down Chicago’s first base runner on my scorecard–Anthony Rizzo’s two-out walk in the fourth.
At that time, however, I still had visions of a Cubs come-from-behind win (trailing 4-0). But after Soriano struck out to end the inning and Burnett then breezed through the fifth 1-2-3, the first thought of a no-hit bid entered my mind.
David DeJesus drew a two-out walk in the sixth and I figured the heart of the Cubs order would somehow manage a hit, but Starlin flew out to end the inning.
Rizzo, Soriano & LaHair went down in order in the seventh. I started counting outs–six more to go. Steve Clevenger grounded out to first leading off the bottom of the eighth–five outs to go.
Then Burnett lost control of a breaking ball that plunked Darwin Barney in the head. It was the first real sign of the righty losing steam. But the no-hitter remained intact.
Jeff Baker came in to replace Barney at first base and Louis Valbuena stepped to the plate. Strikeout swinging. Four outs away.
Burnett’s 7.2 innings was by far the deepest I had ever witnessed a no-hitter in person.
OTHER CLOSE PERSONAL ENCOUNTERS
In 1997 I remember watching Reds’ rookie Brett Tomko last 4.1 no-hit innings against the Pirates. The 24-year-old was dealing until Jose Guillen broke it up with a single to right field (Dale Sveum followed with an RBI knock!).
Then during the 2003 season I saw Kerry Wood at his best sitting down the first 16 Reds batters he faced before a largely unknown bench player, Reggie Taylor, entered the game as a pinch-hitter and muscled a soft liner just over the outstretched glove of SS Mark Grudzielanek. There were two outs in the sixth inning.
Wouldn’t you know the same held true this evening when a little known rookie came to the plate, worked a full count, and hit a hard, clean single to right field. Base hit, Cardenas.
I could only smile, clap for Cardenas and then give Burnett a standing-O. He deserved one, after all, and to the credit of those in attendance last night, the majority of the crowd also rose to its feet to applaud Burnett’s gem before the mass exodus from the stands ensued.
I stuck it out, of course, while Burnett fanned two of the final four Cubs hitters to notch a complete game, one-hit shutout while improving his season record to (13-3).
Meanwhile, the Cubs impressive streak of not being no-hit since the great Sandy Koufax turned the trick with the Dodgers against Chicago in September 1965, dodged a close bullet.
Nearly as impressive is the last no-hitter at Wrigley Field coming by the performance of Milt Pappas against San Diego in 1972. Safe on all counts, thanks to Cardenas.
Burnett came painfully close to ending both streaks in one night, but as in life, some things just aren’t meant to be.
Maybe someday I’ll be fortunate enough to witness the always elusive no-hitter. But next time, I’d truly prefer to be rooting for the Cubs than against them.