Friday, June 20, 2008
Bush Flirts with No-Hitter through 7 in Brewers Sweep of Jays
Say "Dave Bush" and "no-hitter" in any sports bar that was overwhelmingly occupied by Milwaukee Brewers fans and you would get laughed at before being forcibly removed from the establishment for mocking their team.
It's not as if those fans didn't want Bush to do it. It's just that he wasn't the likeliest candidate.
But that seemed to change around the end of the fourth inning Thursday afternoon as Bush continued to retire the Toronto Blue Jays in order. A rumble emerged with every out from the 35,173 fans at Miller Park who witnessed the Brewers' 8-7 victory to sweep the Blue Jays.
The magic disappeared in the eighth, when former Brewer Lyle Overbay broke up Bush's no-hitter, but it all became secondary when Milwaukee allowed six runs in the ninth inning to put the outcome in real jeopardy. Closer Salomon Torres was forced to enter the game and close Bush's third victory of the year.
But before that almost complete collapse, thoughts of a no-hitter were in everyone's head as the eighth inning got under way.
That's when Overbay, the man Bush was traded for in 2005, stepped to the plate and hit a 1-0 fastball toward leftfielder Ryan Braun.
Braun, knowing what was at stake, sprinted toward the sinking liner and dived - something he admitted he wouldn't have done if a no-hitter wasn't on the line - but he was well short. The ball bounced to the wall and Overbay ended up on third to break up Bush's unthinkable "no-no."
"I thought I had a chance off the bat, but it was slicing away," Braun said. "I did everything I could to try to get close. Obviously, with that situation I'm diving every time."
Bush reacted by slapping his glove with his bare hand. The crowd reacted by giving Bush a standing ovation.
"I knew if Braun was going to make the catch, it was going to be an outstanding play," said Bush, who took a no-hitter into the eighth during his rookie season with the Blue Jays in 2004. "I guess I'd rather give it up on a nice, clean line drive than maybe a ground-ball single."
Bush also lost the shutout later in the inning thanks to a single by Alex Rios that scored Overbay, who also received a standing ovation in his final at-bat in the ninth before he smoked a two-run homer over the center-field fence.
Bush was perfect through five innings until he walked Gregg Zaun to start the sixth. He had some nice plays behind him but none of those only-in-a-no-hitter anomalies.
Bush finished with eight innings pitched, two hits and one run allowed and just one walk, avoiding some of the wildness that has plagued him throughout this season.
While the no-hitter was still intact, it was not talked about in the dugout. Bush came in after every inning and retreated up the tunnel into an equipment room, as he always does when he pitches, and his teammates and coaches didn't speak a word about what was happening.
"When a guy's on a roll, you just leave him alone," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "Anytime a guy's on a roll, you don't want to do anything to distract him. The baseball gods all say don't talk to a guy when something like this is happening.
"You got to listen to the gods."
For Bush, it was a thrill.
"It was exciting," Bush said. "I was obviously disappointed in the way it came out.
"I always know if I have guys on base or if I'm giving up hits. I'd say probably after the sixth that I actually started thinking about it, when the game's starting to wind down."
The offense gave Bush an eight-run cushion after five innings. Russell Branyan hit his 10th home run of the season, a three-run shot, and Prince Fielder picked up an odd one when he hit a ball into right that came to rest under the padding of the fence. Rios threw his hands up, looking for a ground-rule double, but Fielder kept running and made it home without a throw as the Jays objected that the ball should have been ruled dead.
But that lead evaporated in the ninth. After Overbay's home run cut the lead to five, Toronto loaded the bases before Joe Inglett crushed a grand slam to right off David Riske, who was making his first appearance since being activated from the disabled list.
"You have to trust your stuff and be aggressive," said Riske, who walked David Eckstein to load the bases. "That's what got me in trouble. I wasn't aggressive enough."
Even with those late follies, the day belonged to Bush, who pitches to contact, which typically doesn't translate to no-hit bids.
"Usually guys like that aren't (good candidates)," Bush said. "More often than not it's the guys who have overpowering stuff where they can get strikeouts when they need them and maybe have a better chance at it.
"But it's still hard to do. There aren't very many no-hitters, regardless of your stuff."