SAN DIEGO (AP) — Michael Wacha has been closer to pitching a no-hitter than he came Monday night, when he didn't allow a hit until Michael Massey singled leading off the eighth inning.
It was still a thrill for the 31-year-old Wacha, whose strong effort in his eighth start with his new team helped the struggling San Diego Padres beat the Kansas City Royals 4-0.
“I’ve been one out away and three outs away as well. Been flirting with it a few times now," Wacha said after striking out a career-high 11 and ending the Padres' five-game losing streak. "When the time’s right we’ll see what goes down.”
Massey’s hit to right field came on Wacha’s 103rd pitch and manager Bob Melvin immediately came out to pull the right-hander, who left to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 43,828. Nick Martinez came on and retired the side and then finished the combined two-hitter.
“I was doing the math in there. Would have loved a three-pitch inning there in the eighth and another one in the ninth," Wacha said. "Just trying to stay on the attack; maybe they would hit it to somebody, get some swing and misses in the zone. Just left a changeup there in the eighth and he put a good swing on it and hit the ball.”
Wacha said he and catcher Austin Nola continued with their typical discussions between innings as the game went along.
“I would say everything was pretty normal,” Wacha said. “I didn't like change jerseys or anything that I normally would. It was like, ‘Hey, this jersey’s working out pretty well for me right now.' I kept the same hat on. Usually I'm sweating through it. It was a nice night out there. I didn't sweat too much. Just rode with it.”
There were a few moments of confusion at the end as a fan ran onto the field just as Nick Pratto took a called strike three. The umpires huddled and ruled that the pitch from Martinez counted.
Wacha (4-1), signed as a free agent on Feb. 16, walked one. He had a perfect game going before hitting Edward Olivares with a pitch with one out in the fifth. Wacha walked Bobby Witt Jr. with two outs in the sixth before first baseman Jake Cronenworth made a terrific diving stop of Vinnie Pasquantino’s grounder to preserve the no-hit bid.
“He was getting a lot of swings and misses early,” Melvin said. “He had them really off balance today. Early on you had a pretty good idea that he was going to pitch a good game. A little uncomfortable there with sending him back out there for the eighth. Obviously we were going to go hitter by hitter.”
Joe Musgrove threw the Padres' only no-hitter on April 9, 2021, in his second start with his hometown team.
Melvin said he always agonizes “a lot” over pitch counts during a no-hit bid, and said he also had to keep in mind Wacha's history of injuries.
“Everybody else has a great time. I don't. My starting pitchers were giving me a little bit of a hard time because they were having a good time with it but they knew I was not," Melvin said.
Fernando Tatis Jr. had two hits, scored a run and drove in another as the Padres took advantage of Brad Keller's wildness to fix their offensive woes, for one night, at least.
Tatis singled leading off the first and advanced on Manny Machado's groundout and Keller's error. Keller then threw a wild pitch to the backstop that allowed Tatis to score.
Keller (3-4) walked four and hit a batter with a pitch to load the bases three times in the second, but the Padres were able to score only two runs. Tatis hit an RBI single and the other run came in when Machado was hit on the hand by a pitch with the bases loaded.
Tatis tried to score when a pitch briefly got away from Salvador Perez, but the catcher gathered it in and tagged him out. Juan Soto reloaded the bases with a walk before Xander Bogaerts grounded out weakly to end the threat.
Keller was pulled after issuing consecutive walks with two outs in the fourth, giving him eight for the night, against just two strikeouts. He allowed three runs, two earned, and three hits.
Two innings after being hit by a pitch, Machado left the game and was replaced by Rougned Odor.
After the game, Padres manager Bob Melvin said X-rays on the third baseman's left hand were negative.
“There's nothing broken in there. He got hit on the top of the hand. Might have gotten a nerve or something like that,” Melvin said. “For him to come out of the game, it can't feel too terribly good. He's got quite the pain tolerance. We've got a lot of treatment. We'll see how he is tomorrow.”