One out from glory: Cardinals' rookie Wacha just misses no-hitter

Michael Wacha: A high-hopping infield hit just over the outstretched glove of the 6 ft. 6 in. rookie pitcher prevented him from becoming the first St. Louis Cardinals hurler since Bud Smith turned in a no-hitter in 2001.

JEFF ROBERSON/AP
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha talks with broadcaster Jim Hayes as teammates Edward Mujica, right, and John Axford, second from right, prepare to dunk Wacha following a game against the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, in St. Louis. Wacha gave up a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning and the Cardinals won 2-0.

If he was heartbroken, Michael Wacha never showed it. Not so, the rest of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Wacha lost his no-hit bid on Ryan Zimmerman's infield single with two outs in the ninth inning, and St. Louis beat the Washington Nationals 2-0 Tuesday night to close in on the NL Central title.

Making his ninth career start, Wacha came oh-so-close to finishing off the third no-hitter in the majors this season. Instead, the Busch Stadium crowd let out a loud, collective groan as the rookie became the third pitcher to have an attempt broken up with one out to go.

"I guess it just wasn't to be," Wacha said. "But it was still a pretty special night."

Zimmerman hit a chopper just over the 6 ft. 6 in. Wacha, and the ball bounced slowly toward shortstop. A charging Pete Kozma grabbed it with his bare hand and whipped a throw to first that was a little wide, pulling Matt Adams off the bag as Zimmerman arrived.

"I think it nicked off my glove a little bit," Wacha said.

As the ball left Zimmerman's bat, several Cardinals started to climb the dugout railing, ready to pour onto the field to celebrate. Second baseman Matt Carpenter did a little hop, all set for the final out.

But first base umpire Jeff Kellogg correctly called Zimmerman safe, and the Cardinals sagged right along with their fans.

Texas' Yu Darvish lost a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning against Houston on April 2 and San Francisco's Yusmeiro Petit had his try at perfection end one out shy against Arizona on Sept 6.

Cincinnati's Homer Bailey and the Giants' Tim Lincecum threw no-hitters in July.

The last two no-hitters by St. Louis pitchers came from rookies — Bud Smith in 2001 and Jose Jimenez in 1999.

It has been 30 years since there was a no-hitter in St. Louis. Bob Forsch finished off his second for the Cardinals on Sept. 26, 1983, against Montreal.

What others had to say about Wacha's near miss:

David Schoenfield, ESPN.com:

"You know how the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Michael Wacha? Yes, with the 19th pick of the first round of the 2012 draft.
 
 "But you know how they acquired that pick? The got it from the Los Angeles Angels.

"For losing Albert Pujols as a free agent.
 
 "So not only did the organization save $240 million in salary on a player in decline, they acquired a pitcher who is looking like a future star. After his near no-hitter on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals in his ninth career major league start -- Ryan Zimmerman's infield hit with two outs in the ninth made everyone sad -- it seems pretty clear that Wacha has to be in the Cardinals' postseason rotation."

Dan Moore  SBNation / Viva El Birdos:

"Young Cardinals pitchers who do throw no-hitters have tended to not do much more than that. Ted Breitenstein, a local boy made good, threw a no-hitter in his first major league start back in 1891. … Unfortunately, 1891 happened to be the final season for the St. Louis-dominated American Association, and said local boy spent the next several years getting drubbed every other day on behalf of the sorriest team in the National League."

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