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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.

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 7, 2010; 1:24 PM ET
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Given the doubts about the depth of the bullpen, I hope Rizzo is on the look-out for more arms. The Astros just waived one of their young fireballers, Rojo Johnson. He's had some legal issues, but has electric stuff.

Posted by: Bethesdangit1 | May 7, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I hereby encourage Adam and all the other great writers now blogging about the Nats to keep posting about last night's game for as long as possible. It was a great one, and so much fun to read about.

Posted by: Section222 | May 7, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Tip of my cap to Bethesdangit1.

Posted by: Section220 | May 7, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Yes! Willie! It's great to wake up to stories about the Nationals winning. :)

Posted by: PattyinSJ | May 7, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Zim made two throwing errors yes. But most 3B would not have even gotten to those balls.

Posted by: JohninMpls | May 7, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

"Zim made two throwing errors yes. But most 3B would not have even gotten to those balls."

Especially on the first one. He didn't get the out, but most guys would have let that go into LF for at least a double. On the 2nd one, it's a little less clear -- that error allowed a runner to get to 3rd.

Anyway, you're right - i'll take it.

Posted by: Section406 | May 7, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

It sounds like Willie Harris is becomming the V.O.E.(voice of experience) in this Nat's clubhouse from giving words of encouragement to a just released Elijah Dukes to telling Scott Olsen that he can indeed be a difference maker to keeping himself motivated by playing with a chip on his shoulder.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 7, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

What I really like is the camraderie this team has. After Desi's diving attempt to get that 1st hit, you didn't see Olsen get angry. He was visually giving Desmond props for completely laying out for the ball. The effort was much appreciated, which is a great sign of the way this clubhouse thinks/works now.

Posted by: bzerante1 | May 7, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Bethesdangit1, with Storen, SS and (perhaps) Wang and Detwiler to arrive at some point this season this team will have enough arms as some of the guys will have to leave the rotation and head to the pen. Try not to burn out Clippard until then and hope Walker shows some life; if not, get rid of him and bring English back.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | May 7, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

this team is exciting, to say the least-- I thought Rodriguez showed what a leader he was by calling time and going to speak with Olson after the no-hitter was broken. I was also glad to see the fans give Olson a standing ovation. I can't wait for each game like a kid (and I am long past that!)

Posted by: pottsmlp | May 7, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

"Zim made two throwing errors yes. But most 3B would not have even gotten to those ball"

I was complaining to my Red-headed Cubs-fan Wife about Zimmerman throwing those balls. Wasn't it enough that he could stop them and rob them of the double? Why try to force the play and pitch it into center?

She thought about it and then suggested that the aggressiveness that leads him to even try for those balls is going to make it impossible for him to not try to make the play. Take the throw, because we get the catch to go along with it.

I think there's a lot of wisdom in that.

Posted by: Section506 | May 7, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse


I'd give Walker some more time. He's got the best xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching, which has a high correlation with future ERA) on the team. His WHIP isn't too shabby either. I say let the percentages play out.

Posted by: rnkorby | May 7, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

The other "hero" has to be the home plate unmpire, whose strike zone was cavernous (and both ways, too, as Tim Hudson certainly got some calls as well.)

Posted by: U-Hoo | May 7, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

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