“It’s a bittersweet moment,” Gonzalez said. “You’re happy you got the win. The team did great. Everybody looked alive today. It’s a sad moment when you lose a no-hitter down the line.”
The Nationals celebrated their 20th win in their past 29 games, which lifted them to a season-high five games above .500. They marveled at Gonzalez, who may have pitched the best game of a sterling career. “Brilliant,” Manager Davey Johnson said. But they also winced at how close he had come.
As Gonzalez held court for a semicircle of reporters, first baseman Adam LaRoche sidled next to Gonzalez. In the seventh, Lutz’s hit had barely eluded him. LaRoche put his arm around Gonzalez and said “I’m sorry.”
“You’re all right,” Gonzalez said, patting LaRoche on the stomach. “I love this guy.”
A few seconds later, LaRoche lamented the thin margin between a one-hitter and a moment that lasts forever.
“It sucks,” LaRoche said. “I hate it for him. It kind of ruins a great offensive game, a great pitched game.”
Gonzalez never had to worry about the outcome. Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman led off the game with back-to-back homers, which was only a start. The Nationals bashed five homers total, which produced all nine of their runs in the first five innings. Tyler Moore smashed a solo homer, and Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos each added three-run blows.
Gonzalez walked the second hitter he faced, Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, and then sent the next 17 batters he faced walking back to the dugout shaking their heads. Around the fifth inning, the Nationals behind Gonzalez sensed he could make a run.
“We see the scoreboard every inning,” Zimmerman said. “We know what’s going on. Everyone wants to be a part of history.”
The zero in the Mets’ hit column remained as he walked to the mound in the seventh inning, and Mets Manager Terry Collins summoned Lutz, a right-handed rookie with three hits in 20 major league at-bats, to pinch hit in what had become the pitcher’s spot.
In the nine years since the Nationals moved to Washington, only twice had one of their pitchers flirted with the possibility of a no-hitter. Ramon Oritz took a no-hitter into the ninth inning on Labor Day in 2006. In 2010, Scott Olsen carried one into the eighth. Those were flukes, pitchers who caught the right breaks on the right day.