Monday, August 5, 2019

Seattle Mariners 0 at Houston Astros 9 (Combined No-Hitter) - August 3, 2019

This past weekend I went to Amarillo to see the Sod Poodles at Hodgetown, one of three new minor league ballparks to open this season. There are obviously no direct flights from New York to Amarillo, so I had a connection in Houston. I've had a lot of bad luck recently in flights with cancellations, diversions, and delays leading to missed games, so with that in mind, I checked out what was happening in Houston on Saturday night, just in case. Turned out that the Astros were home at 6:10, while the Houston Dynamo of the MLS had a game at 8. I had never been to BBVA Compass Stadium, so I planned to attend the soccer should I have some travel difficulties.

Sure enough, my flight from LGA to Bush Intercontinental (IAH) was delayed 90 minutes, and it looked like I would miss the connection to Amarillo. But no, that flight was delayed an hour, so I went to the gate area to wait. Shortly thereafter, I was notified that the flight would be delayed another hour, meaning that I would the start of the game in Amarillo. I had scheduled two nights there just in case this happened, so now it was decision time: miss a couple of innings of minor-league ball or rearrange everything and stay in Houston for baseball and/or soccer. United made it an easy choice by allowing me to rebook a flight Sunday morning without penalty, and I was able to modify my hotel and car reservations without as well. I then found a downtown hotel using points, and took a bus there that costs $1.25, taking just under an hour. I reached my hotel around 4:30, giving me time to grab a bite at the bar and watch the Astros Hall of Fame Induction on TV there.

Turns out the Astros had not had a team Hall of Fame until now and this was the game that they were inducting the first 16 members, including Mike Scott (display case above), Joe Morgan, Joe Niekro, and J.R. Richard (all three below).

Other members include Nolan Ryan, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, and Shane Reynolds, who was signing autographs during the game (below).

From the pictures above, you probably deduced that I had decided to go to the game after all, lured by the Astros starting Aaron Sanchez, making his first appearance after being traded from Toronto. As well, my friend Sharpy, who has seen several ex-Jays suddenly become stars on their new team, predicted that Sanchez would throw a no-hitter.

I eventually got a ticket for $10 from a scalper, and stood on the lower concourse facing down the first base line (view above). My plan was to leave a few minutes before the soccer game, with the stadiums virtually next door. Of course, Sanchez (warming up below) was pitching very well as Sharpy had predicted, and had given up no hits through three innings, then four, then five, and then six, while his offense mustered 6 runs. However, Sanchez had issued 2 walks and hit a batter among his 92 pitches, and that was enough to get him removed. So much for the no-hitter. At least the single-pitcher type.

But combined no-hitters are a thing, and Will Harris came in for the 7th, walking Domingo Santana but getting J.P. Crawford to hit into a double play. In the 8th, after Houston had tacked on one more run, Joe Biagini, another ex-Jay making his Astro debut, came in and gave up a walk but no hits. By now, the soccer game, which had been delayed due to weather, was about to start, so I left the no-hitter and walked over to BBVA Compass Stadium. Ha! Of course, I did no such thing, but it amazed me how many fans walked out at that time. Just wait 15-20 minutes and you might see baseball history. The Astros took their time in the 8th, plating another pair before Chris Devenski came in to close things out. By now, the soccer game was 30 minutes in, making it no longer an option for a new stadium visit, so I really wanted the no-hitter. And Devenski delivered, inducing a Kyle Seager groundout, striking out Omar Narvaez, and going to a full count on Daniel Vogelbach before getting him to loft an easy fly ball to Josh Reddick in right. Fans cheered, the Astros celebrated (below) and I jumped up and down having finally seen a major league no-hitter. Yeah, it was a combined one, but only the 14th one in MLB history, so still worth a blog post.

The funniest part was as I was walking up the stairs, I passed several rows of very glum individuals. It took me a second to realize that it was the Mariners family section and they were decidedly not happy at having seen the 12th no-hitter in Astros history, second-most in the majors since they joined in 1962 behind the Dodgers 13. It was also the second time the Mariners had been no-hit this season, both times combined efforts.

In the end, I was amazed at how the day worked out. First, my flight to Amarillo was delayed just enough to get me thinking about changing plans; then I was able to rebook all my arrangements without charge; then Aaron Sanchez was starting (I probably would have gone if it were Verlander or Cole too, but not anyone else); then Sharpy predicted the no-hitter, which came to pass. After some bad luck on recent trips, it was nice to have a bit of good luck for a change.



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