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Pitchers Taking Back Prominence

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Matt Garza threw the first no-hitter in Tampa Bay Rays history.

Baseball seasons of years past have had some pretty exciting moments. Who could forget the summer of 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Maris’ single season homerun record, which McGwire ended up breaking? Or how about three years later when Barry Bonds topped McGwire? Then there was the summer of 2007 when Bonds eventually broke Hank Aaron’s record for career homers.

What do these events have in common? They were all focused on the batting aspect of baseball and all took place during the infamous steroid era.

This season it is clear that pitching is taking back the limelight in Major League Baseball. Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays supported that fact last night by throwing the league’s fifth no-hitter of the season, the most since 1991, when seven were tossed.

Before this year, three was the highest no-hitter total in a season. More astounding is there are still two months left to this season, so there is still the possibility of ‘91’s total being surpassed. There is definitely a good chance of that, as many pitchers this season have taken no-hitters and even perfect games into the late stages of games. I remember one game in particular between the Cubs and White Sox on ESPN Sunday night baseball when both teams’ starting pitchers took no-hitters into the eighth inning.

Until last night, only three teams have not had a pitcher throw a no-hitter: the New York Mets, San Diego Padres, and Tampa Bay Rays. Now the Rays can take their names off that list. To see them on the list is not surprising since they have only been in existence for twelve years. However, to come down off that list must feel really good. Especially since Rays have been on the wrong end of such a game so often lately.

Since they changed their names from the Devil Rays in 2008, Tampa Bay has been one of the best teams in baseball. Some superstitious people believe it was the name change that turned the team into a winner. That once Rays dropped the word “devil” from the name, it was like an overnight transformation. Others believe it was just a heap of young talent on the team jelling and reaching its peak at the same time.

Strangely though, over the last two years since they became such a good team, the Rays have been victims of the no-hitter three times, twice just this season alone. To make matters worse, two of those no-hitters were perfect games. During the franchise’s bad or formative years, depending on the perspective, Tampa Bay was only no-hit once in 2002. After being on the losing side of no-hitters four times in less than a decade, the team and its fans now owe a debt of gratitude to Matt Garza for finally tossing a winning one for them.

While many fans watch baseball for the big hits and high scores, I have always had a profound respect for pitching. I love watching a good pitcher’s duel. So after over a decade of watching the never ending parade of 50 homerun hitters, some of which had no business doing so, this season is a refreshing change of pace. The game of baseball appears to be “returning to normal.” I barely remember the 1991 season, so to see something similar happening right in front of my eyes, I’m happy to be a witness.

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Written by apokorny

July 27, 2010 at 3:42 pm

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