Padres’ Ramirez breaks up Matz’s no-hit bid in loss
The New York Mets waited 8,019 games across 50-plus seasons before they threw a no-hitter. Sunday, they came within five outs of celebrating what would have been their second, four seasons after the first.
In the top of the eighth, Padres shortstop Alexei Ramirez shot a single down the right-field line, past first baseman Wilmer Flores, ending left-hander Steven Matz’s bid at history. Mets manager Terry Collins immediately went to the mound. Matz walked off the field to a standing ovation.
The Citi Field crowd would remember Ramirez’s spoiler, yes, but some 26,612 fans also left with memories of a 25-year-old ’s dominance. In attempting to throw the 10th no-hitter against the Padres, Matz went 7 1/3 innings, issued two walks and struck out eight — all on 105 pitches, many of which the opposition flailed at. The Mets went on to defeat the Padres, 5-1.
“You could tell he had a feel for just about everything today,” Padres manager Andy Green said of Matz. “He was down 3-1 in a few counts, he was flipping in curveballs. Fastball, life in the zone. He was down when he wanted to be, he located well. We didn’t do much of anything against him. Until Alexei hit that ball we didn’t really square anything up at all. It was just one of those days where he was substantially better than us.”
“He just had everything working for him today,” Ramirez said through an interpreter. “He came with everything working. Everything was moving.”
San Diego’s dreadfulness this time of week resurfaced, the club falling to 3-16 in Sunday games. The Padres remain oh-fer in another department; the only major league team yet to throw a no-no, they have played 7,607 games without such an achievement.
Of course, the odds of the streak snapping had been as daunting as ever. Padres left-hander Clayton Richard made his first big-league start in a little more than a year. He was limited to roughly 75 pitches, and wound up firing off 74. His overall performance more than serviceable; he allowed two runs, on a pair of homers, over five innings.
“Five solid innings and two home runs, that was it,” Green said. “Everything else was great. Obviously held runners well; he’s always done that. Got some double-play balls. I thought, all the way around, there was nothing more you could ask of him today.”
The veteran allowed three hits, three walks and struck out three. Forty-four of his pitches were strikes.
“At the end, I could tell it was getting close to my work capacity as far as pitch count goes,” said Richard, who signed with the Padres this month after being released by the Chicago Cubs, “but I felt good pretty much all the way through.”
Despite Richard’s effort, the Padres were never truly in this game.
Matz opened his start by walking Travis Jankowski, committing a balk, striking out Wil Myers and, after Jankowski was caught stealing third (a ruling upheld by review), striking out Yangervis Solarte. He retired the next 12 batters, too, before permitting a leadoff walk of Derek Norris in the sixth.
Throwing to former Padres catcher Rene Rivera, Matz, a Long Island native, delighted the crowd by responding with six consecutive outs.
“Obviously, we didn’t get him off his game at all,” Green said. “I thought there was a number of times we had fastballs in the zone we didn’t put in play or almost sometimes didn’t even foul off. If you’re going to let him win in the zone with fastballs, it’s going to be a really tough game against a guy like him.”
Through it all, the Padres’ hardest ball in play was a fourth-inning comebacker by Yangervis Solarte. Matz gloved it for a lineout.
In the eighth, he fanned Jabari Blash on a full count, and the stadium, despite being less than half-full, shook. Then, Matz got ahead of Ramirez. The anticipation on a 1-2 pitch was palpable.
Ramirez cut through it with one well-timed swing.
“I was just going out there trying to have a normal at-bat, and he was going with his sinker, throwing his curveball as well, mixing it up,” Ramirez said. “He tried to throw a fastball outside, and it caught a little bit too much of the plate. I was just looking to make contact.”
His single, however, was not the beginning of a momentum-flipping rally. On in relief of Matz, San Diego State product Addison Reed recorded two outs, closing the top of the eighth.
The Mets poured on three runs in the bottom of the inning and still had a shutout bid going in the ninth. Myers and Solarte each singled, combining to lift the Padres onto the scoreboard.
They hadn’t been able to do that against Matz, much less muster anything substantial. Two hours and 47 minutes after Matz threw his first pitch, the remnants of the crowd cheered and streamed toward the exits.