TOP OF THE SEVENTH: YANKEES 2 (0) – 1 RAYS
Jake Odorizzi is throwing a no-hitter. Six innings on the books. His last name appears to be Rougned Odor’s rap name. Drizzy. Weezy. Odorizzi.
The cowbells are at full clang inside the Trop, locked in tight battle with a strong New York contingent, chanting “Let’s goooo Yan-keeees!!” every inning.
The Rays dugout looks stoked, smiling, all perked up on the railing, a jinx-appeasing ban on the phrase “no-hitter”—except for the TV broadcast, with a graphic above the score-box: NO-HITTER THRU 6.0.
Jacoby Ellsbury comes up and makes the first out, on a ground-ball up the middle. Brad Miller drifts over behind second, snags it, whips over to Logan Morrison at first, and it’s one easy out with Brett Gardner coming up to the plate.
Odorizzi, key piece in the 2012 deal with the Royals for James Shields, has a nervous look on his face, above the bright blue of the alternate Rays’ jerseys—as he brings a full count to Gardner on a slider trailing inside.
Rays P Jake Odorizzi has shut down the Yankees through 6 IP. pic.twitter.com/JUyClo2K9a
— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) May 29, 2016
Pitch count at 93. A little high for the seventh. Odorizzi whips a fastball in low, inside, ball four. Gardner runs to first, sets up in a two-step lead. Second Yankee to touch first-base all game.
Doubt creeps in to the Rays fanbase. Should he stay or should he go? 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay, it’s the Yankees, it might be the first Rays no-hitter since 2010, second all-time.
Starlin Castro waddles his way into the batter’s box, blowing gum into offensively large bubbles, and Odorizzi readies to pass over 100 pitches. Eyeing Gardner on first.
Castro takes the first pitch low. He steps out halfway, hacks a big practice swing, steps back in, blows another bubble, and Odorizzi watches Curt Casali for the signs.
“Let’s gooo,Yan-keeeees!!!!” booms out from around the ballpark circus dome.
Odorizzi throws over to first, Gardner slides back safely. He pops up, sticking his gum out mid-chew, tucks a silver chain back into his shirt. Takes another lead.
And Castro, watching a fastball shoot out of his opponent’s hand, over the sickly green turf carpeting the space between mound and home, whips his bat through the zone, and connects on one. It’s deep, a straight line drive, soaring 300, 400 feet over green washrag fabric, over the blue fence in left-center, and bouncing around with ecstasy under the Ducky’s pavilion beyond the fences.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 29, 2016
Bat in hand, he struts with big steps out of the box: one two three four—then takes off jogging to first, drops the bat, tips his helmet, and away he goes. “Mama, there goes that man…”
And on the Yankees’ radio broadcast, a baseball nursery rhyme: “Ahhhhh… Starlin Castro!! Star light, star bright, Starlin just hit one with all his might! Starlin is darlin’!!”
Odorizzi’s hands fall to his knees, his head drops down, peeking up at the ball’s flight from under the brim of his cap, like it’s a movie too scary to watch—spitting on the ground, wishing for a mulligan. The no-hitter: gone. Shut-out: gone. Lead: gone. Win: gone.
Castro trots around the bases, shuffles his way home, with a slightly improved, still strange running form—and all I can think of is, well, he might need to go see Larry David’s doctor.
Castro taps home and struts past Joe Girardi back into the dugout, hugs all around, narrating his at-bat, the hit, the eventual winner, all smiles—the happy result of a change of scenery.
Brian McCann comes up and grounds out down the line, A-Rod strikes out, Odorizzi cruises out of the inning.
And so, it’s the no-more no-no walk-back to the dugout, the rare non-win one-hitter. Saddest feeling in baseball?
He’ll be awake at night with this one—Starlins leaping giddy around basepaths for months, one endless baseball nightmare.