In the pregame notes before tonight's matchup with the Cardinals in Busch Stadium in St. Louis, the Washington Nationals mentioned that tonight's Cards' starter, 2012 1st Round pick Michael Wacha, was the fourth Texas A&M pitcher to face off against Davey Johnson, who attended the university before signing with the Baltimore Orioles in 1962. The previous three starters were left-handers, Trey Moore, Rich Robertson and Mark Thurmond.
Thurmond, a San Diego Padres' 5th Round pick in 1979, pitched against the Davey Johnson-managed New York Mets 13 times, making six starts over the course of his eight-year major league career. Robertson, a Pittsburgh Pirates' 1990 9th Round pick was pitching for the Minnesota Twins and Anaheim Angels when he faced Johnson's Baltimore Orioles eight times, making six starts against the one-time Aggie between 1995-98. Moore, a 1994 2nd Round pick by the Seattle Mariners, was with the Montreal Expos when he faced the Davey Johnson-led Los Angeles Dodgers on August 22, 2000, giving up nine hits and five runs in five innings in Dodgers Stadium.
In his ninth major league start tonight after a quick rise through the Cardinals' system over the last two seasons, Wacha took a no-hitter deep into the game with Johnson's Washington Nationals, losing it only on a two-out infield single over the mound and just out of the pitcher's reach by Ryan Zimmerman in the top of the ninth inning of what ended up a 2-0 Cards' win. Wacha was one out away from a no-hitter and the one hit, an error and two walks away from a perfect game against the Nats. The 19th overall pick of the draft that landed the Nationals right-hander Lucas Giolito at 16th overall, threw 112 pitches pitches in 8 2/3 IP, giving up just the one hit while striking out nine and inducing eight ground ball and three fly ball outs.
"That made Texas A&M proud," Johnson said after Washington's 74th loss of the season. "That Aggie pitched a heck of a ballgame. If he hadn't gone after that ball off of Zim it's probably a no-no. Because it would have been right to the shortstop, otherwise, he had to make a tough play. Base hit. But what a great game he pitched." Wacha had Zimmerman's high chopper go off his glove and Cards' shortstop Pete Kozma's barehand attempt pulled first baseman Matt Adams off the bag.
"Tipped off his glove and slowed it down and gave us life," Johnson said. Wacha was replaced on the mound by hard-throwing right-hander Trevor Rosenthal, who recorded the final out of Wacha's fourth win. It was a close play at first that ended Wacha's no-hit bid, but the Nats' skipper said he thought Zimmerman was safe. "I don't think he was tagged at all, but it looked like he made a great barehanded play, 'Cosmos' did, and I don't think [the throw] would have beat him anyway."
Johnson said that the Nationals were doing everything they could to send bad vibes Wacha's way as he worked on the mound in St. Louis. "You're doing everything you can to wish him bad luck," the Nationals' 70-year-old manager said. "Talking about it, which you don't do on the other side. We hit some balls hard right at people, but he threw a lot of strikes, low pitch [count]. What did he end up with 112-13 pitches? But, tough loss."
The Nationals' manager explained before tonight's game that he'd continue to run his everyday lineup out their for the rest of the season in spite of the fact that Washington was mathematically eliminated from contention last night because he knows the games mean something to the other teams involved. "We're in a pennant race even though we're out of it," Johnson said. "And we want to beat them. They played a heck of a ballgame. Good pitching. Good defense. Timely hits. That's what wins pennants."
"It's a great experience for those guys to be in these kind of games," Johnson said of his own team, "but it's not a great experience when you come out on the losing side."
Johnson said he hadn't seen much of Wacha before tonight, but he was impressed.
"I've seen him a little bit on tv," he told reporters. "I was thinking command was an issue. But it certainly wasn't an issue today. I mean, he's [made] a rapid ascent to the big leagues and he's proved he belongs here. So, they've got a good pitcher."
"He really located his fastball real well," Johnson said. "Had a little split. Threw hard. Stayed on the corners, in and out. It was impressive." But he didn't think Wacha's success was tied to a lack of effort on the Nationals' part. "I don't feel there was any letdown. I know they've got a good ballclub and we've got to play good to beat them."
Washington lost to St. Louis for the sixth straight game on Tuesday night going back to Game 5 of last October's NLDS through a three-game set in D.C. early this season and the first two games of this three-game set in the Cards' home.
• AUDIO: Nats Nightly w/ the District Sports Page's Dave Nichols and FBB's Doghouse:
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