In the visitor’s clubhouse Thursday afternoon, while the music was blaring and Texas Rangers players were scrambling to catch a flight, there wasn’t the overwhelming joy that might accompany a no-hit bid.
Players grimaced when asked about what had just transpired. They had won the game behind a masterful pitching performance, yet the buzzword flowing from Rangers mouths was disappointment or a variation of it.
They wanted so badly for Colby Lewis, the veteran pitcher who has been to Japan and back to find big-league success, to throw a perfect game. When that wasn’t possible, they wanted him to throw a no-hitter.
Even Lewis himself, a medical marvel at age 36, wanted history.
After having to settle for a complete-game two-hitter in a 5-1 victory, one that gave the Rangers their eight straight series win and kept them 6 1/2 games up in the American League West, Lewis said bluntly, “Aw, that’s sucks.”
But there was a reason for the disappointment: love and admiration for Lewis, who has been the Rangers’ best pitcher on the way to the league’s best record after injury woes and an early big-league flameout.
“I feel like any time you go into the ninth and you haven’t given up a hit and it happens, there’s a disappointment there,” Lewis said. “I’m not getting any younger. But, yeah, it was a great day.
“I feel like every time I go out I want to be successful in what I do. I was getting quick outs, and I was just trying to roll with that. You kind of know going the first time through the lineup if you haven’t give up a hit or a walk. You just try to keep doing what you’ve been doing and what you’ve been successful at the first time through the lineup.”
Lewis retired the first 23 A’s batters before issuing a four-pitch walk to Yonder Alonso with two outs in the eighth. Left fielder Ryan Rua preserved the no-hitter by running back and leaping to catch a shot to the warning track by the next hitter, Marcus Semien.
Lewis was at 94 pitches when he returned for the ninth to face Max Muncy, a former star at Keller High School and Baylor. The left-handed hitter, who bid for a hit in the third, sent a long flyball into the right-field corner.
Nomar Mazara raced to it, felt the ball hit in his glove, but the ball fell to the warning track after he banged into the wall. It was scored a double, and the no-hitter was gone.
“I know he had the no-hitter going on, so I was trying to get ready for everything,” Mazara said. “He put a good swing on that ball. It was carrying pretty well. It just popped out of my glove. I think I did. I haven’t seen the video yet. When I hit the wall ... I put in a pretty good effort.”
Muncy hit a 2-2 pitch.
“He got me down to two strikes, and I was expecting him to come slider in like he did last at-bat,” Muncy said. “Your first thought is, ‘Thank God.’ No one wants to get no-hit and really what was in my head was, ‘All right, we broke it up. Now, let’s get some runs.’ ”
No one was faulting Mazara, especially Lewis. He still had a shutout intact, but that went away two batters later when Rua dived to catch a Coco Crisp liner that went for a double and scored Muncy.
Lewis (6-0) finished at 109 pitches, 75 for strikes and struck out four for his fifth consecutive win over the A’s. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the A’s on Sept. 11 before Danny Valencia broke that up with a leadoff double.
“It’s such a game of inches,” said Bobby Wilson, who caught Ervin Santana’s no-hitter in 2011 with the Los Angeles Angels. “Granted we won the game, a complete game, one run. But you feel for him as hard as he worked. If anybody in this game deserves it, it’s Colby. We all wanted it for him really, really bad.”
Lewis’ toughest inning was the first, when he needed 20 pitches. Jed Lowrie tested him for seven pitches before taking a called third strike, and Stephen Vogt flied to left field on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.
The closest the A’s came to a hit early was in the third when Muncy sent Mazara into the right-field corner with a deep fly ball. Then Lewis went into economy mode, needing seven pitches in the fourth, eight apiece in the fifth and sixth, and six in the seventh after the Rangers had given him a 2-0 lead.
He knew what was transpiring.
“Oh, gosh, I was thinking about it the first time through the lineup,” Lewis said. “The fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, the eighth. You go out there and try to be successful and make your pitches, but you don’t want to give up a hit or a walk.”
Ian Desmond finally solved Texas A&M product Daniel Mengden, who took a one-hit shutout into the seventh. Desmond, though, poked a homer over the wall in the right-field corner, and Prince Fielder plated another run later in the inning on a fielder’s choice.
The Rangers successfully challenged the first play of the eighth, giving Rougned Odor a bunt single. Desmond followed with a walk, and Adrian Beltre, playing for the first time since June 8, doubled both home two batters later.
Lewis faced long waits during his Rangers rally, but said he wasn’t affected by them. After his easy seventh, he retired the first two batters in eighth before walking Alonso to end his bid for the 24th perfect game in MLB history.
Rua then robbed Semien to set the table for the ninth.
The no-hitter, though, didn’t happen, and on a great day for the Rangers and for Lewis, there was no shortage of disappointment flowing through the Rangers’ clubhouse.
“I think everybody on the whole team was pulling for him because it could not happen to a better guy,” Beltre said. “We were all hoping that he would get it done. He got so close.
“To see that ball fall in right field is heartbreaking, but at least we got the win. We were hoping for more than that.”