OAKLAND, Calif. — Noting that he’s “not getting any younger,” 36-year-old Texas Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis was thinking about Sept. 11 as he was working on a perfect game Wednesday afternoon against the Oakland Athletics.
No, not the plane crashes 15 years ago. Rather, Sept. 11, 2015, when he took a no-hitter against the A’s into the eighth inning.
“I didn’t want to throw that same hanging slider again,” he said of the pitch to Danny Valencia that ended his bid for a first career no-hitter last season.
So three outs from a piece of personal history this time, he fired a fastball to Max Muncy and the A’s right fielder ripped a double that ended the no-hitter, but it didn’t deny Lewis an eventual 5-1 victory.
“It (stinks),” he said after completing a two-hitter. “I feel like any time you get into the ninth (with a no-hitter), you should do it. I’m not getting any younger.”
The lost no-hitter in the ninth was baseball’s first since the Los Angeles Angels denied Justin Verlander on Aug. 26, 2015.
“I started thinking about it right around after the first time through the
lineup,” Lewis said of the no-hitter, and eventually last year’s disappointment. “Especially after 9/11, I didn’t want that all over again. Anybody who says they’re not thinking about it is lying.”
Ian Desmond broke a scoreless tie with a leadoff home run in the seventh, propelling the Rangers to a third win in four days against the A’s and their franchise-record-tying eighth straight series win.
For 23 outs, Lewis was chasing something even greater than a no-hitter. He took a perfect game two outs into the eighth before issuing a four-pitch walk to Yonder Alonso.
The right-hander had faced three-ball counts just three previous times in the game.
Rangers left fielder Ryan Rua then provided the defensive play of the game, leaping at the foot of the warning track to deny Marcus Semien’s bid for extra bases.
Lewis fell behind Muncy 2-1 leading off the ninth, then agreed with catcher Bobby Wilson that a fastball was the pitch to throw.
The left-handed hitter belted it toward the right-field wall.
“The ball carried farther than I thought it would,” Lewis said.
Rangers right fielder Nomar Mazara got to the fence at the same time as the ball, which deflected off his glove as he was crashing into the padded wall.
The hit was ruled a double, the first of Muncy’s career.
“I knew he had a no-hitter going on. I was trying to get ready for everything,” Mazara said. “It was carrying pretty good. I put my head down and started running. Kept running until I got to the wall. Got my glove on it, and then I hit the wall.
“I don’t know what happened.”
Two batters later, Lewis lost his shutout as well when Rua came up just short on another attempt at a spectacular catch, racing in on a Coco Crisp liner, diving and having the ball go in and out of his glove.
Crisp got a double on the play, scoring Muncy.
Lewis (6-0) retired the next A’s to complete his two-hitter, throwing 109 pitches. He walked one and struck out four.
“At this point of his career … I know he’s disappointed,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “They don’t talk about it when you get close.”
The effort came against an A’s team that had hit a cumulative .342 with 31 runs in its last four games.
“Nobody wants to go out there and get no-hit,” Muncy said. “We’d been swinging the bat really well the last couple of games, so it’s pretty frustrating to go out there and almost have this happen today. Thankfully, it didn’t.”
The Rangers finally gave their pitcher some offensive support in the seventh against A’s rookie Daniel Mengden, who was making just his second major-league start.
Desmond hit Mengden’s fourth pitch of the seventh over the right-field fence, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
The home run was Texas’ 11th of the four-game series, one shy of the record for an A’s opponent.
An error on Alonso at first base opened the door for the Rangers to add a second run in the inning and end Mengden’s afternoon.
Adrian Beltre’s single sent Mazara to third, from where he scored on Prince Fielder’s infield out.
The Rangers padded their advantage in the top of the eighth, with Beltre’s two-run double against the third Oakland pitcher, Fernando Rodriguez, making it 4-0.
Mitch Moreland added an RBI single against left-hander Marc Rzepczynski to cap a three-run inning and increase the lead to 5-0.
The victory was the Rangers’ 15th in their last 19 games and completed a 3-1 series win against the A’s, who won Monday’s opener. Remarkably, the series win was Texas’ eighth this season when losing the first game.
Beltre, returning from a week on the bench while resting a strained hamstring, had three of the Rangers’ nine hits, including a double. Desmond, Odor and Moreland added two hits apiece.
Mengden (0-2) remained winless despite a second consecutive impressive effort. He allowed two runs (one earned) and four hits. He walked one and struck out seven.
“It’s never fun when you have your starter go that deep and give you a chance to win, let alone getting no-hit into the ninth,” A’s catcher Stephen Vogt said. “Colby was that kind of good today.”
The A’s fell to 3-10, worst in the majors, in June.