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Spectacular game-ending catch preserves no-hitter for Zimmerman

By Mark J. Allan     Sep 29, 2014 in Sports
Washington D.c. - There are no-hitters and there are no-hitters in baseball, but few have been as dramatic as a regular-season finale Sunday.
A no-hitter is a no-hitter, right? Well, yes, and no.
While they all go in the baseball record books as no-hitters, some are gems, such as Clayton Kershaw’s 15-strikeout, no-walk masterpiece earlier this season against Colorado.
Others are ugly. Take Francisco Liriano’s “gem” in May 2011 in which he walked six Chicago White Sox batters as the Minnesota Twins won 1-0.
Few of major-league baseball’s 287 no-nos have been as dramatic as the one hurled Sunday by Jordan Zimmerman of the Nationals.
For one thing, it came on the final day of the regular season as Washington finalized the best record in the National League.
There wasn’t much margin for error because the game ended 1-0 as Zimmerman finished with a 14-5 record.
While there’s almost always a defensive gem that saves a no-hitter, defensive replacement Steven Souza Jr. preserved this one in most dramatic fashion.
With only one out to go in the nailbiter, Miami’s Christian Yelich smoked a fly ball to deep left-center field. Zimmerman winced visibly, clearly concerned his no-hitter was a no-go.
After a long run, a determined Souza flung himself at the slicing ball, which seemed destined to drop in behind him for extra bases.
Almost afraid to look, Zimmerman raised both arms in triumph as the rookie outfielder made a spectacular catch, using his bare hand to squeeze the ball in his glove as he landed hard on his belly.
Ironically, the Marlins’ starting pitcher Sunday was Henderson Alvarez, who threw a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers on the final day of the 2013 regular season.
Zimmerman’s no-hitter, the first in Nationals’ history and the fifth in the majors this year, included 10 strikeouts and just one walk.
With Souza’s heroics, Zimmerman was spared not only the loss of his no-hitter, but the very real possibility of Yelich subsequently scoring and Miami going on to win the game.
That would still have paled next to the heroic 1959 heartbreak of Harvey Haddix.
The Pittsburgh lefthander tossed arguably the greatest pitching performance in major-league history, and lost.
Facing a formidable Milwaukee lineup, Haddix improbably went 12 full innings in a scoreless game without allowing a single baserunner.
The unlucky Pirate lost the perfect game, the no-hitter and the decision in the 13th inning when slugger Joe Adcock homered.
Some more no-hitter chatter:
Nolan Ryan leads all pitchers with an astonishing seven no-hitters, three more than Dodger legend Sandy Koufax. The Ryan Express notched two no-hitters in 1973.
Johnny Vander Meer is the only pitcher to throw consecutive no-hitters. He did it for the Cincinnati Reds in 1938.
Now-retired Boston Red Sox backstop Jason Varitek leads with four no-hitters caught.
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