(BaseballStL) -- Cardinals rookie starter Michael Wacha learned the hard way why baseball is considered a game of inches on Tuesday.
One out away from completing his first no-hitter at any level, Wacha lost his chance at history when Ryan Zimmerman smacked a chopper just out of the reach of the 6-foot-6 right-hander and then beat out a barehanded throw from shortstop Pete Kozma. The infield single was the Nationals’ first hit of the game, 28 batters and 112 pitches in.
“Pete made a heck of an effort on that play,” Wacha said. “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Wacha, who believed the ball glanced off the glove, was backed by a strong effort from Kozma, who charged to make it close at first base. Notorious for putting his throws on the money, Kozma was just a tad off line on the barehanded reach and grab.
“I caught it with my barehand pretty cleanly and made a strong throw,” Kozma said. “If it was a little bit more on line, we get him.”
The throw pulled Matt Adams off first base and left him with only one other choice for the out: try to swipe Zimmerman’s back with his glove. It, too, fell short as Zimmerman was called safe by umpire Jeff Kellogg.
“It was just a tough one for Pete to make,” Adams said. “It was a slow chopper over Wacha’s head and Pete did a great job getting it with his barehand and throwing it. It was bang-bang.”
From the bench, manager Mike Matheny thought his rookie pitcher made history.
“Well he’s 6-foot-8 so I thought he had a chance,” Matheny said. “Pete made a great play and once I saw it get into his barehand I though there was a real good chance we were going to see it. Unbelievable finish to an unbelievable game.”
More than three hundred feet away in the Cardinals bullpen, the ‘no-hit’ chatter wasn’t going on. The boys in the pen knew what was happening, and even reliever Trevor Rosenthal wasn’t prepared to come in to pitch if needed because he believed Wacha, who allowed two walks in addition to the one hit over 8 2/3 innings, had the stuff to complete the no-no.
“I didn’t want to come in,” Rosenthal admitted. “I had a feeling he was going to finish it, we all did. He got so close there. I was unfortunate to come in to that situation, but at the same time wanted to get the shutout for him and give it my all.”
Six pitches later, Rosenthal finished the one-hit shutout of the Nationals as Jayson Werth grounded out to first base on a 99-mph fastball.
The final out came just one batter too late for Wacha and the Cardinals, but a 2-0 win in September will make for a nice consolation prize.
Scott Bierman covers the Cardinals, Rams and Blues for KMOV.com and its associated mobile apps (BaseballStL, FootballStL and HockeyStL). You can follow him on Twitter @Scott_Bierman for St. Louis sports news.