Scott Olsen's near-gem had a supporting cast
Any no-hitter is full of secondary heroes. Scott Olsen nearly made history last night, and two players would have helped him get there more than any others.
His catcher, Ivan Rodriguez, had caught two no-hitters in his career, a perfect game by Kenny Rogers in 1994 and Justin Verlander's no-no in 2007. Last night, Pudge nearly caught a no-hitter in three different decades.
Rodriguez, 38, is playing like he's 25, hitting .403 with a .979 OPS. But the signs that he has been around for a while crop up often. He hit his first home run of the season last night, and Nationals Park became the 34th different stadium in which he has homered. David Ross's hit in the eighth reminded Rodriguez of another no-hit killer he was behind the plate for: a single by Dave Winfield off Nolan Ryan.
Olsen had thrown Ross a 1-0, 83-mph change-up. Ross, unlike the rest of his teammates, was not fooled by the offspeed pitch. He laced a line drive to the left side of the infield.
Olsen turned and saw Ian Desmond breaking to the right.
Desmond had saved him before. In the fourth, he made an over-the-shoulder basket catch to rob Troy Glaus. In the seventh, he stole a single from Martin Prado by snaring a sharp one-hopper. Now, with the no-hitter still alive, Desmond made a desperate, diving stab. His previous plays -- this night and during his electric rookie season -- had made the Nationals think maybe it was possible.
"I was like, 'Come on, Desi! Lay out!'" Willie Harris said.
This time, though, Desmond had no chance.
"There was nothing he could do," Olsen said. "He wasn't getting that."
The ball skidded well past him and into left field. The Braves, of course, eventually tied the game, and more heroics emerged. Ryan Zimmerman, for whom making one mistake is rare, had made a pair of errors. He came up with Adam Kennedy on first and faced Peter Moylan, whom he had victimized in the first game at Nationals Park.
Even before last night, Zimmerman had been 5 for 10 with two doubles and a homer Moylan, a sidewinding right-hander. Someone told Zimmerman about his success against Moylan, and he was shocked. "It always seems like a tough at-bat," Zimmerman said. Of course, Zimmerman drilled a ball off the right field wall.
An intentional walk led to Willie Harris's at-bat. "When you're a role player, you look forward to those types of moments," Harris said. "You hope to God you come through in them."
Moylan knocked Harris down, ball one. Harris assumed Moylan did not want to get down 2-0, and so he looked for a fastball. He got one and crushed it past Martin Prado's dive. "If he'd have caught that ball," Harris said, "I don't know what I would have done."
"I can't even imagine how hard it would be somebody to not play every day and then you see live pitching once every two days," Olsen said. "Every time he gets in the game, he seems to make something happen."
Last night, a lot of Nationals did.
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