Edwin Jackson No-Hits Tampa Bay Rays Despite Eight Walks
Despite walking eight batters, uncorking a wild pitch and hitting a batter -- most of those control lapses coming in the first three innings -- the Diamondbacks right-hander didn't surrender a hit to a Tampa Bay Rays lineup composed mostly of Jackson's former teammates.
Though he had already accumulated 134 pitches entering the ninth inning -- the highest total by any pitcher in the majors this season -- Jackson was allowed to head out for the ninth. He opened the inning by striking out B.J. Upton, then got Hank Blalock to fly to left before walking Willy Aybar and finally got Jason Bartlett to ground out for the final out in a 1-0 Arizona victory.
He finished with 149 pitches, but despite that remarkable total, manager A.J. Hinch said he didn't consider pulling the plug on his starter with the no-hitter intact.
"No," Hinch said. "There was so much involved with that at the end of the game. The game's in the balance, 1-0. He was throwing very, very well at the end and on top of that, he's throwing the most pitches I assume it's in his career. You want to protect the man, but all's well that ends well and I think we stopped counting at about 115 [pitches]."
Not that Jackson didn't weigh in on the matter of whether he should remain in the game.
"He asked me how I felt and he pretty much said we were in a tough spot, but before he could even finish I told him, 'I'm not coming out,' " Jackson said. "It was just adrenaline at the end, I didn't feel anything. I just kept telling myself, 'If it's meant to be, it's gonna happen. Just relax and throw the ball.' "
While this was perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime achievement for Jackson, the Rays couldn't say the same. Tampa Bay has now been on the receiving end of three of the last five no-hitters pitched in the majors. At least they put some men on base this time, though. That wasn't the case May 9 in Oakland, when Dallas Braden threw a perfect game against them, nor last July 23, when Mark Buehrle went 27-up, 27-down against them in Chicago.
The Rays are the first team to be held hitless twice in a season since the 2001 Padres, who were victimized by Bud Smith and A.J. Burnett. Burnett walked nine in his no-no, a record that seemed unlikely to be challenged until Jackson gave it a run Friday.
There were no indications in the early innings that Jackson might be in for a special night. Quite the contrary, actually. He walked two Rays batters in the first inning and two more in the second, then opened the third inning by walking the bases loaded. But once he wriggled out of that last jam with some help from his fielders, Jackson settled in and started mowing down the team he helped lift to the playoffs two years ago.
Jackson's early inefficiency caught up with him late in the game. By the end of the seventh inning, he already had thrown 117 pitches (68 of them coming in the first three frames). But he was still throwing 95 mph.
Another Rays batter reached base with one out in the eighth, when shortstop Stephen Drew -- playing on the right side of the infield in a defensive shift -- booted a Carlos Pena grounder for a clear error. The Rays sent Carl Crawford in to pinch-run, and after Matt Joyce (the player the Rays acquired from Detroit in exchange for Jackson two winters ago) popped out, Crawford was caught stealing for the final out of the inning.
Jackson pitched for the Rays from 2006-08, going 19-26 with a 5.08 ERA in 87 appearances, 63 of which were starts. He improved as his career progressed, winning 14 games for the 2008 playoff team, but has always been prone to inconsistency. His stuff is electric, but he doesn't always know where's it's going, and that was evident in both regards Friday night.
Jackson's final pitch count was the most by a major league pitcher since Livan Hernandez threw 150 in a start for the Nationals against the Marlins on June 3, 2005. Hernandez only walked five in that start.
Though pitch counts obviously have become a hot-button issue at all levels of baseball in recent years, Jackson has always has something of a rubber arm. He rarely even ices his arm after starts and does have a track record of being more effective the deeper he pitches into a game. Entering Friday's start, opponents had hit .318 against Jackson through the first three innings of games and just .241 against him from the fourth inning on.
"He got better [later in the game] as he normally does," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "He's a great kid and he deserved to do that tonight. Hats off to him; he's a wonderful man."
The low-key but perpetually upbeat Jackson was a popular guy in Tampa Bay's clubhouse during his stint with the team, and the Rays' statements after the game made it clear that affection remains intact.
"Obviously you want to get the win," said Upton. "[But] I think a lot of the guys over here, if anybody's going to do it, you like to see him do it. He was a big part of our success over here. A great guy, a great guy in the clubhouse. It's bittersweet."
Added Rays starter James Shields: "I'm so happy for him. A guy who throws 150 pitches and throws a no-hitter is pretty impressive. I can't tell you how happy I am for him. This guy is a fabulous human being and it couldn't happen to a better guy."