The Rays kicked off an 11-game homestand Monday night by playing the first game of a four-game set against the Tigers. After the Rays are finished with the Tigers, they will face the Yankees this weekend and the Twins next week.

Tigers starter Max Scherzer started off the game by retiring six in a row, and then he wiggled himself out of a jam a couple of times in the game. Through six innings, he matched Matt Garza by pitching six shutout innings.

It appeared the Rays were going to make a mediocre pitcher look great as usual.

Scherzer approached the Rays similar to how Fausto Carmona approached
them by getting ahead in the count and forcing the Rays to swing at pitches. Like Carmona, Scherzer got the Rays out on strikes and groundouts.

Once a starter does well against the Rays for seven innings, the Rays tend to mail it in rather than coming up with a plan to get to the pitcher. Scherzer loaded the bases, but he had two outs on his side and odds were good he was going to get out of it with the way he pitched all night.

Then, Matt Joyce belted the ball out of the park for a grand slam to give the Rays a 4-0 lead.

That was the end of the Tigers’ night with the way Garza was pitching. It was also the end of ridiculing the Rays for not beating up an average pitcher when they should. For one night, the Rays silenced critics about how they needed to bat.

The attention shifted to Garza, who quietly was pitching a no-hitter. The cowbell fanatics did not notice it until the eighth inning. They were more consumed about how the Rays were going to beat Scherzer.

From there, the acoustic level of those cowbells grew higher at every pitch Garza threw.

In the eighth inning, Garza ramped it up by striking out Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn to end the eighth. He received a standing ovation after that inning, and everyone became excited with the ninth inning coming up.

Rays announcer DeWayne Statts knew something special was going on in the sixth inning, but he made it a point not to talk about it. He never made any reference about what Garza was doing for eight innings even though he knew what was going on.

It’s part of Statts’ announcing policy, in which he makes a point not to talk about a Ray pitching a perfect game or a no-hitter because of a silly superstitious rule. Announcers never mention a pitcher is pitching a no-hitter for the fear of jinxing him.

Statts made references to a no-hitter in the ninth inning even though he never mentioned “no-hitter” on the air. He talked about how Garza has a chance to do something special on this night, and he and Kevin Kennedy analyzed how Garza put himself in the position he was in the ninth inning by pitching well most of the night.

Rays sideline reporter Todd Kalas talked about how fans were ready to embrace this great moment in the ninth inning. The cowbells amped up even louder heading into the inning.

Facing the Tigers’ hitters in the bottom of their order to start the ninth, Garza had to like his chances. Dom Kelly, Gerald Laird, and Ramon Santiago were not exactly hitters that fear pitchers.

Kelly hit it hard, but Reid Brignac positioned himself well to make a good catch and get Kelly out.  Laird tried to get couple of good at-bats against Garza, but in the end, Garza’s fastball overwhelmed Laird. Striking out Laird helped Garza get two more outs.

It was up to Santiago to ruin it for the night, but Santiago struck out.

The party was on at Tropicana Field.

Fans rejoiced.

Garza hugged everyone on the Rays. Statts finally blurted out the no-hitter despite being stoic about the whole thing.

After seeing a couple of pitchers no-hit the Rays this season, the baseball gods were kind to the Rays by giving them their first no-hitter in franchise history. The Mets and the Padres are the only teams in franchise history that do not have a no-hitter.

To do this in front of a home crowd has to be special for Garza. Anyone throwing a no-hitter will be proud of this accomplishment. It’s hard to do despite the fact many
pitchers threw a no-hitter during this season.

For the Rays, it has to be something good after being a victim of no-hitters several times. The reaction of the Rays in celebrating what happened Monday night said it all.

For the Tigers, being a victim of Garza’s no-hitter represented a frustrating post-All-Star break start so far. They lost six straight to start the second half, and they won three out of 12 games overall since July 16th. They lost a couple of their best hitters to the disabled list in Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen. It’s no wonder why Jim Leyland wanted to get tossed in the fourth inning after he argued a call about B.J. Upton being safe.

Garza said all the right things about being more worried about getting his team in October than worrying about his feat. Of course, he was smiling throughout all this and enjoyed the adulation. He even liked being hit in the face with a pie.

When a team is having a great season, no-hitters take place. Maybe it wasn’t surprising to see the Rays finally get one.

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