Mariners Do That Which Has Never Been Done Before

Early on, every team and every game in baseball is interesting. For the first few weeks of the season, things feel so fresh, and things are so unpredictable, that you’re thirsty for any kind of action. As things progress, teams fall off the radar of interest. Fans start to focus more on the teams that might make the playoffs, and teams in basements continue to play largely un-discussed, save for the event of trade rumors. Few, then, would’ve been paying attention to the Mariners and Astros over the weekend, given their respective identities, but what the teams managed to accomplish on Saturday was unprecedented. And for all the talk about trades and the playoffs, it’s important to recognize that any kind of baseball can be interesting, and we shouldn’t forget it. You never know which games you might find remarkable.

A big part of the appeal of perfect games, or, I don’t know, cycles, is rarity. People love seeing things in baseball they don’t see very often. But rarity isn’t enough alone to make something worth talking about. Never before, in the recorded history of baseball, has a starting pitcher gone 4.2 innings, with four walks, two hits, and a strikeout. Not once. So many thousands of games. But if that happened tomorrow, no one would care, just like no one cares about a weird leaf on the ground. That leaf is unique, but really, it’s just another leaf. There needs to be some blend of rarity + achievement, and I think the Mariners/Astros game qualifies.

Saturday evening, the Mariners beat the Astros 4-2. Not weird, on its face. The Astros are bad, and the Mariners are less bad, and less bad tends to conquer more bad. The Mariners actually swept the three-game series, which, again, isn’t weird. The trick to understanding Saturday is to dig a little deeper. It’s to find out about Erik Bedard‘s no-hitter bid.

Through four innings, Bedard was perfect. Through five innings, the only blemish was a walk. Then came the sixth and the seventh. Bedard carried his no-hitter through the sixth, but the Mariners scored twice to tie the Astros at two. Bedard was removed after two batters in the seventh, no-hitter still intact, and then three batters and one hit later, it was 4-2 Seattle. That’s how the score remained, and that’s how Seattle’s hit total remained.

On Saturday, the Mariners got one-hit and beat the Astros. On Saturday, the Mariners got one-hit and scored four runs and beat the Astros. Since 1916, teams getting one-hit have gone 51-1,037. Bedard wound up charged with three runs on zero hits, becoming just the fifth pitcher ever to allow at least three runs in a real no-hit bid. In 2003, Matt Clement was charged with three runs over five no-hit innings. Previous to that, you go back to 1990.

But this isn’t so much about Bedard. The Mariners became the first team ever to score at least four runs while getting one-hit. Now, that was carefully selected, because on July 1, 1990, the White Sox scored four runs despite getting no-hit. In that game, Andy Hawkins lost an eight-inning no-hitter, and he lost pretty bad. But one notes that, in that game, the White Sox had three batters reach on Yankees defensive errors. They all came in the bottom of the eighth, when the White Sox scored all their runs. On Saturday, the Mariners didn’t have a single batter reach base on an error. The Astros — in front of the plate — were defensively sound.

So the Mariners became the first team ever to score at least four runs while having no more than one batter reach base on a batted ball. And by “ever,” I mean “since 1916″ since I’ve been aided by the Baseball-Reference Play Index. Errors aren’t hits, but errors are free base-runners. The Mariners didn’t get to take advantage of any of those.

So how do you score four runs on one hit? I’ll walk you through the sequence.

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In the top of the sixth, Bedard walked Michael Saunders on six pitches. All four balls were close.

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Then Bedard walked Brad Miller. The last pitch, in a full count, easily could’ve been called a strike, but it just missed the rulebook outside edge, and Jason Castro immediately tried to throw down to second, which anecdotal evidence suggests makes a pitch more likely to be called a ball. The throw was pointless since Miller walked and Saunders was therefore entitled to second.

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After the walks, Jason Castro forgot how to catch. This passed ball was on a fastball that was almost a strike, and the runners both moved up.

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Nick Franklin brought a runner home on a sacrifice fly. Miller advanced to third, with two out.

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And Castro let another pitch get away. Granted, the pitch was well outside, but it was also a fastball, and Castro fumbled it. Tie game, and we’re going to move on now to the top of the seventh.

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With one down in the seventh, Bedard walked Justin Smoak on four pitches. Bedard clearly looked gassed, and at this point he was removed and replaced by Jose Cisnero. Bedard walked off to a standing ovation, leaving a no-hitter with eight outs to go. Bedard’s expression as he left the mound was one of worriment.

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Two batters later, Cisnero walked Mike Zunino. That brought Saunders to the plate, and the runner now in scoring position was Bedard’s responsibility.

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Saunders blasted the ball past Brandon Barnes for a two-out, two-run double. That would be the Mariners’ only hit, and that would be the only hit they’d need. Of interest is that, with ordinary dimensions, Saunders’ hit probably would’ve been a three-run homer, giving the Mariners an unprecedented fifth run. Saunders, also, fell down sprinting to third, forcing him to retreat to second. Under ordinary circumstances, this would’ve been a triple, and maybe — just maybe — an inside-the-park home run. Had Saunders made it to third, that would’ve given the Mariners another avenue to a fifth run.

Of additional interest is that Bedard didn’t lobby to remain in the game, despite the circumstances. Most pitchers hate to be removed, and no pitcher wants to leave a no-hitter in progress, but Bedard gave the ball to Bo Porter, and Bedard had a pretty good reason for doing so.

Granted, Bedard didn’t have a prayer of going the distance. His final pitch was a fastball at 86.8 miles per hour.

Said Saunders, later:

“That’s the oddest win I’ve ever been a part of,” said Saunders. “To score two runs on no hits and no errors, I don’t remember the last time that happened. We’re just grinding out at-bats. Bedard pitched great — a no-hitter — and ended up taking the loss. I don’t know how that happens.”

Said Porter:

“I would say probably the strangest game I’ve been involved in from little leagues to the big leagues,” said Houston manager Bo Porter. “Where you give up one hit and punch out 15 guys and end up on the losing side.”

On Saturday in Houston, the Astros limited the Mariners to one hit, and didn’t commit an error. On Saturday in Houston, the Astros fell to the Mariners 4-2. On Saturday in Houston, something happened that has never happened before, allowing neither team to come away feeling particularly proud of itself. You could say that maybe Saturday in Houston is an encapsulation of why not that many people are paying attention to the Mariners or the Astros these days. Neither team was good, but someone had to win, and the Astros have all but perfected the art of giving games away.

On Friday against the Astros, the Mariners hit .289 and scored ten runs. On Sunday against the Astros, the Mariners hit .333 and scored 12.




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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


50 Responses to “Mariners Do That Which Has Never Been Done Before”

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  1. ThewOBAbible says:

    Glad someone else noticed this, when I saw the box score that night I was blown away

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  2. Casey_T says:

    I think the oddest part is a pitcher being asked to be pulled while throwing a no hitter. I thought Bedard got a lot of criticism for not being a competitor when he was in Seattle and now I think it was well deserved. No real competitor would voluntarily pull themself from a game in that situation. Boo sir, boo.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      He had thrown 109 pitches through 6 1/3 innings. When not fatigued, it was taking him 4.36 pitches per out, and he had 11 outs to go. Assuming that he showed no performance drop, it would have taken him another 48 pitches to throw a complete game no hitter. And, of course, expecting a pitcher to pitch as well from pitch 110-160 as he did from 0 to 110 is silly.

      Bedard has had three shoulder surgeries. He understood his own physical limitations and the fact that his (three times cut open) shoulder wasn’t capable of getting him through the rest of the game, so he allowed his manager to replace him with a pitcher more likely to be effective in keeping a close game winnable for his team.

      But, yeah, a “real competitor” would have stayed on the mound, lost the no-hitter, and put the rest of his career in danger for a meaningless piece of trivia.

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      • AJS says:

        Dave’s point stands but it was actually 8 outs to go.

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      • Casey_T says:

        It’s not a meaningless piece of trivia to throw a no hitter. That’s like saying winning a world series is meaningless and no, I’m not saying they are equivalent.

        As for the pitch count argument, there is still no proof that high pitch counts create injuries. Knowing your physical limitations and accepting them is a cop out to me, the truly great athletes, competitors try to push passed their percieved phyiscal limitations to achieve results. That’s what we trained to do in the Marine Corps, and that’s how high achievers get better.

        Maybe you’re right but never, ever would I nor anyone I know that has played baseball at a high level would give up a no hitter willingly, no matter how long the odds or how high the costs. Then again, my friends and I just played college baseball and one pitched in AAA.

        -73 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • Joey says:

          Right-o. You and your friends are big deals. Point validated.

          Bedard’s decision strikes me as a very pragmatic and knowing consideration of his past injury history and his future. Too often the culture breads an idea of “toughing out injuries” that doesn’t do much but cost players and teams in the long run. I’ve watched Bedard get beat up by the Seattle media for his lack of toughness, but I don’t see how there is any way to knock Bedard here.

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        • In the fifth inning, 7 of 8 Bedard fastballs came in at 90+, topping out at 93. In the seventh, he threw 88, 88, 87, and 86. When he came out he had walked four of seven batters. He was toast and he knew it. He did the smartest thing he could.

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        • Bip says:

          There’s something tragically ironic about telling guy who has had three shoulder surgeries to push past his physical limitations. It occurs to me that he’s already done that — three times too many.

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        • NATS Fan says:

          Casey T there is a reason most frontline Marines are under the age of 30. The part of the brain able to make reasoned decisions grows until your about 29 years old. IE Wisdom comes with age. Bedard is clearly a wiser man than you are as he survives to fight another day. Earlier in his career (with Baltimore when he was an innings beast) he would not have opted to leave the game and has had since the shoulder surgeries. Plus, the umpire was squeezing him near the end which had to be frustrating. Bedard is a wiser player now and left the game.

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        • SKob says:

          @Casey_T

          I wonder if you would’ve had a better/longer career if you played with a little more intelligence like Mr. Bedard here.

          Sacrificing any chance your team has to win a game, knowing you feel gassed, because all you need is 8 more outs to have a no-hitter (which wouldn’t even count because the game was still tied) makes me glad a didn’t play college ball with you or AAA ball with your friends!

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        • chuckb says:

          What others have implied here but hasn’t yet been said is that Bedard was acting as the consummate team player by relinquishing the opportunity, no matter how remote, at an individual achievement in order to improve his team’s chances of winning the game. He knew he was done and believed that a reliever had a better chance of getting hitters out than he did. Bedard was man enough, and unselfish enough, to be honest with himself and his manager and forgo the chance to finish his no-hitter to help the team win.

          I guess Casey believes that a “high achiever” and “real competitor” would jeopardize his team’s chance to win in pursuance of an unlikely individual accomplishment. I doubt that’s what he and his buddies learned in the Marines, however.

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        • Baltar says:

          If this is CHRIS again, I’m going to find you and strangle you, jerk.

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    • Dingbat says:

      Or possibly Bedard has spent enough of his once-promising career on the DL to learn the difference between being a “real competitor” and actually providing value to his team by staying healthy.

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    • attgig says:

      ask how well that worked out for Johan….

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    • Krog says:

      Bedard was exhausted, was losing effectiveness, and has a history of arm injuries. Neither Bedard nor the Astros would benefit from having Bedard stay in the game. Your sideline machismo might make you feel tough, but you’re not the one who has recovered from multiple surgeries to continue playing baseball at the highest level.

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    • Basil Ganglia says:

      Yeah – God forbid that the person who knows his physical condition better than anyone else should conclude that he has reached a point where his replacement will perform better than he can.

      To my recollection, Bedard has always run of out gas at about 100 pitches. In this case it was obvious that he was gassed. He had lost six or seven miles per hour off his fastball. His curve had lost a good part of it’s bite, and his motion on the mound had lost it’s crispness.

      Bedard has experienced his shoulder disintegrate previously when he’s tried to push beyond his physical limits. And you think he’s a wuss because he’s actually putting into practice on the mound that which he’s learned?

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    • Westside guy says:

      What’s sort of funny about your comment is that, when it comes to gritting out minor injuries, the 2013 Mariners have been managed pretty much according to the “tough guy” philosophy you advocate, thanks to Eric Wedge.

      What it’s led to is numerous stretches where he’s had 21-22 total available players for long stretches; and a few times where a player has played hurt, consistently sucked, and then ended up on the DL for a longer stint anyway.

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    • Teej says:

      207 career starts; 1 complete game

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  3. “But if that happened tomorrow, no one would care, just like no one cares about a weird leaf on the ground.”

    I would like to suggest we now refer to all unique but unimpressive things as “weird leaves.” Fun stuff.

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  4. CHRIS DA TROLL says:

    OMG WHAT IS BUZZFEED DOING ON FANGRAPHS??

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  5. Schuxu says:

    I don’t really know why but I find gif #3 of the first passed ball one of the funniest catcher gifs I have seen.

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  6. Anon21 says:

    The “no errors” part is entirely contingent on the arbitrary scoring convention that a passed ball isn’t an error, despite the fact that it’s basically identical to an error in both analytical and aesthetic terms.

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    • Batters didn’t reach base on passed balls. It is possible for that to happen, but happen it did not.

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      • Anon21 says:

        Sure, but errors are routinely awarded for plays that only allow a runner to advance. E.g., the shortstop lays out for a grounder in the hole and then throws it into the stands; that’s routinely scored as a hit and an error allowing the runner to advance to second.

        If your point is just that the passed balls in this particular game didn’t allow any runner to reach, but only allowed them to advance and score, I don’t think that especially contributes to the impressiveness of the feat for me. In a very imperfect, walks galore no-hit bid like this, getting runners in is often more difficult than getting them on. Thus, Castro’s erors were pretty important to producing this weird result, and so characterizing this as especially weird because there were “no errors” seems misleading.

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        • It was for the purpose of distinguishing this from the Hawkins game. In the Hawkins game, the White Sox finished with zero hits, but they finished with three batters who reached base as a direct consequence of a batted ball in play. The Mariners had one, and I think that’s worth noting, since these are the only two times (since 1916) a team has scored at least four runs with fewer than two hits.

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        • Schuxu says:

          Passed balls are factored in the determination of earned runs the same as extra base errors. You can see this in the box score of this game as Bedard only had one of his 3 runs charged as an earned run.

          There is a big difference though between reaching base and getting an extra base. And this article cared more about the first fact.

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      • Yoda says:

        Errors, there were not. Errors, passed balls are not.

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    • monkeyfly says:

      It is not arbitrary that passed balls are not considered errors. If they were errors, then you would have to score non-passed balls as chances. Catcher’s fielding percentages would then all be around .999

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      • Corey says:

        Does anyone track a stat along the general lines of “Passed Balls per 1,000 pitches,” seems like it would lend insight into catcher defense that just counting total passed balls fails to do by controlling for playing time and pitcher efficiency.

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      • Anon21 says:

        Which would annoy the idiots who rely on fielding percentage as a measure of a player’s defense, I guess. I don’t really care about those people, though.

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        • Simon says:

          You’re on FanGraphs. UZR, which incorporates fielding percentage, is the accepted fielding stat here. Why are you here if you don’t care about us?

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        • Anon21 says:

          I don’t trust UZR on catcher defense anyway. It’s just not well understood.

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      • Schuxu says:

        Which actually happens when there are 2 strikes and the following K gets incorporated in the fielding percentage. If the 3rd strike is dropped and the Batter-Runner reaches the catchers fielding% is not penalized.

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  7. Tsunamijesus says:

    Castro sure has terrible catching mechanics, passed balls and catches alike. He seems to pivot his wrist on his knee? That seems… problematic.

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  8. Jaack says:

    The weirdest thing is, according to Elias, the White Sox are the only other team to have done this, but they did it 3 times: in 1990 like you said but also in 1914 and 1909, the latter of which they scored 6 runs.

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  9. Tim says:

    This is the perfect sabermetrician argument against batting average, right? The Mariners only got one hit, but through walks and poor defense, they scored 4 runs. It just shows that walks and defense matter, a lot.

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    • MrKnowNothing says:

      i don’t think this game is an argument for or against anything other than “baseball is really weird and really weird things happen all the time in baseball but are STILL weird to us because we all like unique weird things.”

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    • Josh M says:

      I don’t really see it that way, because hits still matter, and taking advantage of poor defense isn’t necessarily a skill and also the fact that what happened in this game was so outlandish it shouldn’t be used to make any broader points other than the old cliche you never know what you will see at a baseball game.

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    • Tim A says:

      The A’s show it every game super common for Oakland too have 5/7/0 vs 1/8/0, they score more runs per hit then other teams, and allow fewer. As simple as most walks in the league with the fewest allowed, but I have seen this sort of line coming down a lot this season with them.

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  10. Mojotronica says:

    I knew when I saw the title of this article that it would be a dubious accomplishment.

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  11. Dylan says:

    While a good article, I disagree that we like perfect games and cycles because of rarity, but rather because of difficulty. It is in incredibly difficult to accomplish these two feats. While it may be difficult to get an exact pitching line, it is hardly interesting.

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    • Max says:

      You should finish reading that paragraph.

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    • Bip says:

      You contradict yourself. Perfect games are rare and difficult. Getting another exact pitching line is rare and difficult as well. What Jeff uses to distinguish them is the achievement. A perfect game is technically the best thing a pitcher can do it a game, since his job on a per PA basis is to get outs and prevent baserunners. A cycle, or a four-homer game, is an incredibly productive hitting performance. That is the distinction between a perfect game and that specific pitching line Jeff mentioned.

      Also, with cycles, there is definitely a certain aesthetic quality which also comes into play with the 3000 hit and 300 win benchmarks.

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      • Baltar says:

        You’ve hit one of my pet peeves here. The whole team is responsible for a perfect game, not the pitcher alone.

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  12. NATS Fan says:

    Cool article!

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  13. blinutne says:

    It’s weird that on a weekend in which my favorite team featured a player hitting for the cycle and then tossing a 1-hitter, I come away feeling more despondent about them than I have in a long time–and this team has been pretty bad for some time.

    At least Yu Darvish didn’t get that perfect game…

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    • Baltar says:

      Wow! Who was that player who hit for the cycle and then pitched a one-hitter? Jeff should have written about him.

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