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Dissecting Matt Garza’s No-Hitter

Matt Garza faced 27 Detroit Tigers hitters Monday night and rendered them hitless, recording the first no-hitter in Tampa Bay Rays history.

The Rays have been on the wrong side of two no-hitters this season, including Dallas Braden’s perfect game May 9 in Oakland.

Detroit rookie standout Brennan Boesch kept Garza from accomplishing the same feat, working the count full and drawing a walk with one out in the second inning. Garza got Ryan Raburn to ground into a double play three pitches later to get out of the inning unscathed.

Garza’s mastery comes as the fifth no-hitter of the 2010 season—the most since pitchers tossed seven in 1991. It is fitting that Garza is the first Rays pitcher to hold opposing batters hitless: One of the most consistent starters in the rotation and the 2008 ALCS MVP, Garza (11-5, 4.05) has been overshadowed by the ace David Price (13-5, 2.90) and goliath Jeff Niemann (8-3, 2.95).

But after 120 pitches, the crowd of 17,009 at Tropicana Field rose to its feet to recognize the franchise’s most dominant pitching performance.

Dissecting his outing attests to such a distinction. The Tigers autopsy reveals that Garza’s fastball powered the performance. Topping at 93 mph, it was not unhittable. He used it to retire 12 Tigers via the air and six on grounders. Miguel Cabrera and Johnny Damon made B.J. Upton camp just short of the warning track to record a few outs. Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett, and Ben Zobrist snared a couple of line drives.

Garza even blew his fastball past them for four strikeouts. It was a simple but very effective approach, and by the end of the night he pumped out 101 of them.

He was in command of his fastball early. Garza’s first 14 pitches were fastballs, 11 of which were strikes. In his first four innings of work, Garza threw one other pitch: a curveball to Brennan Boesch for ball four (more on the lone Tiger to reach base in a moment). He cruised through the next 22 batters he faced.

Boesch spoiled Garza’s bid for a perfect game early into the game. Garza fell behind in the count 2-0 after missing on two fastballs. Boesch swung at and missed a heater and saw another for a called strike to even the count 2-2. The count went full when Garza missed with another fastball and Boesch stayed alive, fouling off a fastball. He reached base with his 29th  walk of the season when Garza threw a curve for ball four.

Boesch has been a tough out around the league: his .912 OPS is fifth best among AL outfielders. He garnered Rookie of the Month honors for May and June, and is batting a .310/12 HR/51 RBI clip.

Garza also mixed in a change-up, slider, and curveball to complement his heater. His speedy slider was a good out-pitch in the later innings. Garza use the slide piece to pick up two more K’s and a groundout. He induced another grounder with the curveball. Almost half of the breaking balls came in the last two innings.

The other driving force behind his achievement was his ability to locate pitches and get ahead in counts. Garza threw 13 first-pitch strikes (12 fastballs, one curve). When he fell behind, he battled back. Garza threw five or more pitches in 12 at-bats.

When Zobrist squeezed his mitt around the final out—a Ramon Santiago pop-up to right field—Garza’s teammates mobbed him behind the mound in celebration of his historic victory. The Rays won 5-0 on Matt Joyce’s sixth-inning grand slam and Carl Crawford’s solo shot in the eighth to improve their record to 60-38.

The noteworthy win could motivate the staff when the club hosts the Yankees for an important three-game series this weekend (the Rays are still three games back of New York for the top spot in the East).

As for Garza, he should also benefit from this accomplishment down the stretch. The coaching staff expects that he could potentially put together this type of outing each time he takes the mound. Garza has started 13 games in which he’s given up three runs or fewer, and he allowed five or fewer hits in seven of those appearances.

Just before the All-Star Break against Cleveland on July 10, he threw six scoreless innings of one-hit baseball. Garza should be slated to start again Saturday or Sunday against the visiting Yankees, and he could ride this momentum to help the Rays retake the division lead.

Follow this link to see all 27 outs of Garza’s no-hitter at 


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George Steinbrenner: Remembering the Boss

He wore a light blue Oxford shirt, khaki pants, and dark sunglasses. Tufts of silver hair sprouted out from beneath his Yankee cap. Two bulky, golden rings—one on each hand—speckled with enough diamonds to satisfy even the most voracious treasure seeker, but never enough to satisfy the Boss. It was an unmistakable look: George Steinbrenner surveying the field from the first row above the Yankee dugout.

That date was March 4, 2004, and the Philadelphia Phillies were hosting the Yankees in the inaugural game at Bright House Field in Clearwater. I was a 14-year-old baseball enthusiast at the time, and lingered around the portal to the clubhouse hoping to score an autograph from any of the Yankee All-Stars before the game. That’s when I saw Steinbrenner at his seat. 

A crowd of fans clamored around as I made my way toward him. They inundated him with autograph requests, thrusting photos, programs, and baseballs into his vicinity. One by one, he obliged their requests.

I approached him and asked, “Mr. Steinbrenner, would you please sign my baseball?” 

Without a word, he turned to me and took the ball with his left hand, flashing one of his gaudy World Series rings. The ring panel read “STEINBRENNER” in raised, golden letters. The diamonds glistened underneath the mid-morning Florida sun and caught my eye. There was something enchanting about the way the light reflected off those diamonds.

He signed the sweet spot in blue Sharpie.

His weathered hands—the hands that rebuilt the Yankee empire and led it to seven world championships since 1973—clutched onto the ball and pen as he passed it back to me. I felt compelled to snap a photo. 

As he fulfilled the remaining autograph requests and signed his name on assorted memorabilia, I thanked him. He glanced at me and nodded. I deposited the baseball back into its case and retreated to my seat.

I had the picture developed, tucked it away along with the baseball, and stored it in my collection for posterity.

* * *

This morning I heard on the radio that the legendary New York Yankees owner died at 6:30 AM at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa. He was 80 years old. The Boss had a massive heart attack at his home in Tampa Monday night and was rushed to the hospital. 

His health had deteriorated over the last few years. As his beloved Yankees were leaving the hallowed House That Ruth Built for a new home after the 2008 season, I started to believe that Steinbrenner would follow suit shortly thereafter.

He was nothing like the Boss that we’ve known since his original $8.8 million purchase of the Bronx Bombers: Not the man that meddled with the day-to-day operations of the most storied franchise in professional sports. Not the lionhearted man who hired and dispensed managers as frequently as he changed his socks (he swapped managers 24 times). 

Instead, George Steinbrenner was frail. He was tired. He made few public appearances. He was not even on hand to see his Yankees win the World Series for a record 27th time. No champagne celebration, no ticker-tape parade. 

In the wake of the series-clinching 7-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, the Boss’s eldest son, Hank Steinbrenner, told that winning the World Series still meant everything to his father. 

George shed tears of fulfillment. It was the 79-year-old’s seventh world championship during his tenure as principal owner.

He savored it from his living room. 

I was saddened upon hearing the news. This has already been a tough week for the Yankees: Longtime public address announcer Bob Sheppard died Sunday at 99. Sheppard introduced every Yankee great who’s worn the pinstripes from DiMaggio to Derek Jeter before each plate appearance at the Stadium.

Reggie Jackson nicknamed Sheppard, “The Voice of God”.

Jeter insists upon having the recorded version of Sheppard’s gentle, familiar voice announce each of his at bats. 

“Now bat-ting for the Yankees, No. 2, Derek Jee-ter, No. 2,” echoes throughout the ballpark, evoking memories from the days of New York’s baseball lore. 

Even Steinbrenner referred to Sheppard as “the gold standard.” But now both men have moved on to join baseball legends on the diamond in the sky.

However, fragments of their memory will live on. Sheppard’s voice will be heard tonight when Jeter treads toward the batter’s box in Anaheim at the All-Star Game. And I’ll always hold onto my signed baseball and picture to remember the Boss.

Steinbrenner said that winning was second only to breathing. He breathed a winning spirit into the Yankees organization and his enduring legacy will live on. 


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