Rays’ Odorizzi bears a familiar frustration in loss

by Gary Shelton on May 30, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays V New York Yankees

Odorizzi made only one mistake all afternoon./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

 

Monday, 6 a.m.

The treasure is there, bright and glistening. All you have to do is pick it up and carry it away. All you have to do is claim one moment, and is yours forever.

And then it slips through your fingers.

Can you imagine it, being so close to excellence you can touch it? Squint, and you can imagine the crowd and the teammates and the feelings deep inside you. Imagine, and you can feel the Gatorade on your back and the catcher jumping into your arms and the teammates pounding your back. Just one bit better. Just float that pitch outside instead of throwing it fat across the plate. Just this much. Just one pitch.

If that happened, Jake Odorizzi would have had a lifetime of memories.

Instead, he will remember the one that got away.

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Morrison prepares to bat against the Yankees./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Morrison prepares to bat against the Yankees./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Odorizzi was within a short putt of winning the Masters, an overhead smash from winning Wimbledon, a first down of winning the Super Bowl. He missed a no-hitter Sunday bythismuch. He had walked the tightrope across Niagara Falls, only to slip and plummet a few steps from the finish line.

Can you imagine? Can you picture it? Most of us can imagine success, and a great many of us can imagine failure. But near perfection? That's the stuff of an Indiana Jones movie.

This will probably not placate Odorizzi, but the fact is that it happens more than you would think. From 1961 to 2015, there were 148 no-hitters that were broken up in the ninth inning alone (as opposed to the 157 that were completed), let alone the seventh. The problem with Odorizzi's, of course, is that one pitch cost him everything — the no-hitter, the shutout and the win. It was the Triple Crown of heartache.

"I didn't even watch," Odorizzi said. "I just kind of knew. It came off (the bat) very hot. Didn't even look. Couldn't tell you where it went out or anything like that. Just knew that we were losing."

For most of the days, Odorizzi had the Yankees in his hip pocket. He dominated and he dazzled, and watched as the Yankees walked away shaking their heads. It isn't one of the immortal Yankee lineups, but it's pretty good, and Odorizzi took them for a walk.

Guyer catches a fly ball in Rays' loss./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Guyer catches a fly ball in Rays' loss./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

And then Starlin Castro hit perhaps the only bad pitch Odorizzi threw all day and hit it for a two-run homer. The Rays lost, 2-1.

“We were only up by one run, so that's kind of the worst part of this whole thing, regardless of the peripherals," Odorizzi said. "The thing that makes me the most mad is we lost the game. One swing changes the whole outcome. It's solely upon me. I have to be a hair better."

Odorizzi was eight outs away from a no-hitter. But compare that performance, great as it was, to that of Armando Galarraga. In 2010, he threw almost a perfect game. In fact, he would have, if umpire Jim Joyce had made the correct call and said a baserunner had not beaten the throw to first. Funny, but in this day of review, that call would never stand.

Frustration? How about Nolan Ryan, who had no-hitters broken up in the ninth inning four times.

Pain? How about Harvey Haddix of Pittsburgh, who threw 12 innings of perfection back in 1959. He lost in the 13th.

Agony? How about Bill Bevens? Nine years before Don Larson, Bevens was pitching the first no-hitter in World Series history. Despite 10 walks, Bevens – and his 6-13 record – entered the ninth inning with a no-hitter. With one out to go, Cookie Lavagetto hit a double.

Wistfulness? How Tom Seaver, who threw five one-hitters for the Mets before finally getting his no-hitter?

Confusion? How about Dave Stieb, who had three no-hitters broken up with two outs in the ninth in two seasons. Two of those gaes were back-to-back starts in 1988.

Heartbreak? How about Jim Maloney, who lost a 1-0 no-hitter in the 11th inning?

Suffering? How about John Maine of the Marlins? He was pitching the franchise's first no hitter before he gave up a weak dribbler to Paul Hoover, who had only three hits all season.

Sorrow? How about the Mets' Tom Seaver, who lost a no-hitter for the second straight year to the No. 8 hitter. This time, it was Mike Compton (Jim Qualls the year before) in the bottom of the eighth. Compton, a backup catcher, had one of his 18 major league hits to spoil Seaver's night.

Disappointment? Ryan threw seven no hitters, but he had 24 others broken up after the sixth. Randy Johnson had nine. Sandy Koufax had six.

In other sports, too, there is frustration. How about the 2007 Patriots, who went unbaten until losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl? How about Clemson in college football? Kentucky in 2014-15, which was 38-0 going into the national semifinals.

Here's the message: Sports is frustration. It's coming close and falling. For every great comeback, there is a collapse. For every team that celebrates victory, another team walks off with its head bowed.

Of course, none of this will ease Odorizzi's pain. He had a career highlight in his grasp. No getting around that.

But pain is part of baseball. Coming close is what makes achievement worthwhile. It is a career lined in near-misses.

Jake did well.

This time, that's going to have to be enough.

Longoria drives in the Rays' only run./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Longoria drives in the Rays' only run./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

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