When Dodgers rookie Corey Seager blooped a single to right to break up Giants lefthander Matt Moore’s no-hit bid with two outs in the ninth on Thursday, it ruined the spotlight not only for Moore but also for San Francisco center fielder Denard Span.
Moore was brilliant until his 133rd pitch, which was lobbed to the outfield grass by Seager. Moore was removed for Santiago Casilla, who needed only one pitch to finish off San Francisco’s 4-0 victory at Los Angeles.
Span singlehandedly got Moore to that moment with the two biggest defensive plays of the game.
When Span ran down Adrian Gonzalez’s dangerous line drive in the second inning, Span thought nothing of it. The Twins’ 2002 first-round draft pick has done it plenty of times over his career.
But when Kike Hernandez led off the ninth with a sinking fly to Span’s right, there was a lot more on the line as Moore was looking to get in the record books. The Giants were looking to extend a streak of throwing a no-hitter for five consecutive years, and their last no-hitter of the Dodgers came in 1915.
“That catch was big-time,” Span said in a telephone interview Friday.
Since the Dodgers had beaten the Giants in the first two games of the series at Dodger Stadium, the victory was significant for a San Francisco team that had baseball’s best record at the All-Star break but has the worst record since.
“I was looking forward to having a moment on their field,” Span said. “The crowd was definitely nervous and was getting into it. Came up one out short.”
Span was 1-for-4 on May 3, 2011, the night Francisco Liriano threw the last no-hitter by a Twins pitcher when he beat the White Sox 1-0 in Chicago. Before joining San Francisco, Span played three seasons with Washington, but he was injured during both of Max Scherzer’s no-hitters for the Nationals.
Now 32 years old and playing for a team with a pitching staff that includes Moore, Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, a healthier Span — he has spent the last two offseasons rehabbing from injuries — might be in the right place to be part of another.
But will the rest of the staff have to duplicate Moore’s effort to get the Giants back to the top of the division? Span pointed out that the offense and pitching have been out of sync throughout the second half, but the offensive numbers are uglier. Entering Saturday, the Giants had been shut out four times this month, had scored two or fewer runs 15 times since the All-Star break and had hit .229 with runners in scoring position since the break.
But San Francisco sits only two games behind Los Angeles for the National League West lead. It should be pointed out that the Giants were a wild-card team in 2014 when they won the World Series. But they really don’t want to lose the division to the hated Dodgers. They hope Moore’s gem can be a take-off point.
“It almost felt like we didn’t lose the series,” Span said. “We got on the plane feeling good and confident and moved on to the next series.
“We realize the hole that we are in. We still have two more series against the Dodgers. It’s going to come down to the wire.”
The Royals bullpen saw its scoreless streak end Friday at 41⅓ innings, the longest such streak in the majors since the Kansas City Athletics put together a stretch of 44 innings in a row in 1966.
One contributor is lefthander Matt Strahm, a 24-year-old West Fargo, N.D., native who had tossed 10⅓ consecutive scoreless innings during the streak. Strahm, who missed 2013 and part of 2014 because of Tommy John elbow ligament surgery, will get a chance to start next year.
• • •
While the Twins wait for Nick Burdi to get healthy and resume his march to the majors, younger brother Zack is making the White Sox think about calling him up in September. Zack Burdi, a reliever like his brother, was drafted in the first round in June but has already reached Class AAA, having recorded 48 strikeouts in 33 minor league innings this season.
• • •
Too bad for the Twins that Detroit plays three more games at Target Field this season.
Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez is batting .615 at Target Field this season, and the 37-year-old switch hitter has a career average of .370 in 46 career games there.
• • •
There’s a crack in the wall that has been the Cleveland starting rotation. Josh Tomlin has a 10.80 ERA over his past five starts, leading to speculation that the righthander could be dropped from the rotation. Indians manager Terry Francona, however, backed Tomlin on Thursday after he gave up seven runs over 4⅓ innings in a 9-0 loss to Texas.
Three observations ...
• The White Sox have changed the name of their stadium to Guaranteed Rate Field? Yuck.
• Tim Tebow will eventually discover that hitting a baseball is harder than throwing a football.
• After watching Yankees rookie catcher Gary Sanchez destroy pitches, it’s easy to understand why they were willing to trade John Ryan Murphy to the Twins last offseason.
... and two predictions
• Carlos Gomez will have a few splashy moments with the Rangers but will not be the spark that some think he can be.
• Brian Dozier will finish with exactly 89 RBI.