ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Rays finally wound up on the right side of a memorable pitching performance.
Matt Garza threw the first no-hitter in franchise history and the fifth in the major leagues this season, beating the Detroit Tigers, 5-0, Monday night.
The right-hander faced the minimum 27 batters, allowing only a second-inning walk to Brennan Boesch, for a team that’s often been on the wrong end of no-hitters lately. The Rays have been held hitless three times since last July, including a pair of perfect games.
“It was one of those days where everything lined up,” Garza said. “The defense made great plays. I really can’t say enough about them.”
Garza was the latest to enhance the Year of the Pitcher. The last time there were at least five no-hitters in a season was 1991, when Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan threw one of seven in the big leagues that year, according to STATS LLC.
Garza, the 2008 American League Championship Series MVP, rebounded from one of his worst outings of the season. He retired pinch-hitter Ramon Santiago for the final out on an easy fly ball to right fielder Ben Zobrist, who made a terrific running catch in the third to rob Danny Worth.
“That ninth inning,” Garza said, “I kept telling myself, ‘Just finish it, just finish it, just battle, battle. If it’s meant to happen, it’s going to happen.’”
Garza’s teammates mobbed him near the mound after a performance that left the New York Mets and San Diego Padres as the only big league teams without a no-hitter. The Rays began play in 1998 – the Padres in 1969 and the Mets in ’62.
The closest Detroit’s injury-depleted lineup came to a hit was Worth’s two-out liner in the third, but Zobrist made a leaping catch above his head as he retreated toward the wall.
“I was able to time it just right for my jump. Caught it right in the end of my glove,” Zobrist said, smiling. “He pitched so great. It’s his day. I felt honored to be part of a game like that.”
Tigers cleanup batter Miguel Cabrera, who’s batting .347 with 24 homers and 88 RBI, hit a hard liner to left leading off the eighth. Carl Crawford barely had to move to make the play.
The Tigers were no-hit for the first time since Randy Johnson shut them down at Seattle on June 2, 1990.
After Boesch walked, he was erased on a double play.
Garza said his teammates didn’t leave him off by himself in the dugout during the late innings. He noticed several of them standing in the same spot, however, adhering to superstition.
“I recognized it and didn’t want to look up. I was like, ‘Just keep looking down and stay focused and get ready for the next inning,’” he said.
Garza (11-5) struck out six in Tampa Bay’s 2,039th game – and on a night when the Rays struggled to generate much offense themselves.
Matt Joyce’s grand slam with two outs in the sixth was the first hit off Detroit starter Max Scherzer (7-8). The next batter, Jason Bartlett, singled for the only other hit of the night until Crawford homered in the eighth.
The 26-year-old Garza, who tossed a one-hitter at Florida on June 26, 2008, retired Don Kelly on a routine grounder to second base in the ninth and struck out Gerald Laird before getting Santiago to end it on his 120th pitch before a crowd of 17,009.
In addition to the five no-hitters thrown this season was the perfect game Detroit right-hander Armando Galarraga was denied because of a missed call at first base by umpire Jim Joyce.
Oakland’s Dallas Braden tossed a perfect game against Tampa Bay on May 9, and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay also was perfect at Florida on May 29.
Arizona right-hander Edwin Jackson threw 149 pitches for a no-hitter against the Rays, his former team, at Tropicana Field on June 26. Colorado ace Ubaldo Jimenez pitched a no-hitter April 17 at Atlanta.
Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox against Tampa Bay on July 23, 2009.
In his previous start, Garza allowed seven runs and 10 hits in 6 innings against the Orioles. The Tigers lineup he faced was missing Magglio Ordoñez, Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge because of injuries.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland was ejected in the third for arguing with second base umpire Marty Foster after B.J. Upton’s stolen base. Upton went to third on a wild pitch, but Scherzer struck out Kelly Shoppach before retiring Zobrist on a pop foul to get out of the inning.
Tampa Bay began an 11-game homestand spanning 11 days, the club’s longest since August 2005. … Garza was acquired from Minnesota in a trade before the 2008 season. … The only double no-hitter through nine innings in major league history was May 2, 1917, at Wrigley Field, with Cincinnati’s Fred Toney and Chicago’s Hippo Vaughn on the mound. The Reds beat the Cubs, 1-0, in 10 innings.