One of the great moments in Mariners annals Friday night at Safeco was one of the freakiest in MLB history — six pitchers combined to no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team with the game’s best record.
The tense 1-0 triumph, the third no-hitter in club history, was secured with a 1-2-3 ninth inning by Tom Wilhelmsen, who finished what Kevin Millwood began with six innings in which he allowed a single baserunner. The combined no-hitter was the 10th in MLB history.
Wilhelmsen began the ninth by inducing an infield chopper to Brendan Ryan, who came in as a defensive replacement. His throw to first barely beat Dodgers speedsters Dee Gordon, a play so close Dodgers manager Don Mattingly came out to protest.
Elian Herrera lined out to short for the second out, bringing up the Dodgers’ best hitter, Andre Ethier. He grounded out routinely to second, beginning the celebration for 22,028 lucky eyewitnesses.
Millwood felt pain after one warmup pitch in the seventh. He started his motion for a second, stopped, then called out trainer Rick Griffin. After a few moments of conversation, he walked off the mound, expressionless, and into the clubhouse. He was later diagnosed with a mild pulled right groin muscle.
In 68 pitches, Millwood had six strikeouts and only one walk, which was erased on a double play, so he faced the minimum 18 batters to that point.
Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge and Brandon League followed Millwood to the mound.
Furbush retired Gordon to start the seventh, but had a two-base throwing error on Herrera’s grounder, giving the Dodgers their first scoring chance. Furbush struck out Ethier, and Wedge went to the hard-throwing Pryor to face Rivera, who went down on strikes.
Pryor started the eighth by walking Bobby Abreu and Jerry Hairston Jr. on nine pitches. Luetge got the first out on James Loney’s sacrifice bunt.That brought up A.J. Ellis in came League, the recently demoted closer. Ellis hit a sinking liner to left and defensive replacement Chone Figgins made a running catch. His strong throw home kept pinch-runner Alex Castellanos at third base. League then struck out Tomny Gwynn Jr. to end the inning.
The Mariners scored in the seventh when, after two outs, Ichiro beat out an infield single. He stole second, and Dustin Ackley walked. Kyle Seager sent a soft liner over shortstop to score easily the game’s only run.
The six-pitcher no-hitter was only the second in MLB history, following the same feat in 2003 by the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium on June 11, 2003. Roy Oswalt started that game for Houston but left two pitches into the second inning with a strained right groin — the same injury that sidelined Millwood. It was the fourth no-hitter of the season in baseball and second at Safeco, following the perfect game by Phil Humber of the Chicago White Sox in April.
Quality defensive plays were frequent behind the fleet of pitchers, and Jesus Montero, the rookie catcher whose defensive skills have been questioned, managed the game well. As with everyone, he was surprised Millwood took himself out of the game.
It was unbelievable,” he said of Millwood’s departure. “I was like, ‘Why is he leaving now? He’s doing so good.”
But the bullpen picked him up.
“Pitchers weren’t missing many spots, all on the corners,” Montero said. “League was great. His split was working. He was amazing on the mound.”
Like most of the rest of the young Mariners, Montero didn’t quite know how to act.
“It’s my first no-hitter — I don’t want to leave the clubhouse,” he said. “We want to celebrate.”
The no-hitter was the club’s third, following Randy Johnson in 1990 and Chris Bosio in 1993.