Despite scare, Nats streak without no-hitter remains intact

When the bottom of the sixth arrived at Nationals Park on Friday night, a zero still showing in the home team’s hit column, Lane Thomas decided to just go ahead and say what surely others in the ballpark were thinking at the time.

“I just started screaming: ‘He’s throwing a no-hitter!’ the outfielder said. “I think nobody really knew. I was like: ‘Hey guys, we’ve got to get one here soon!’”

Indeed, the Nationals had not been able to make any dent into Tigers starter Matthew Boyd, who through five scoreless innings had walked one batter and plunked another but had not surrendered anything close to a clean base hit and had faced the minimum thanks to a couple of double plays.

This was rare territory for the Nats, who remarkably still have not been no-hit in club history. The streak actually dates all the way back to July 18, 1999, when David Cone tossed a perfect game against the Expos at Yankee Stadium. The only franchise to enjoy a longer streak without being no-hit: the Athletics, who haven’t had it happen to them since four Orioles pitchers stymied them on July 13, 1991.

The Nationals have had a few close calls over the years, none closer than Sept. 24, 2013, when Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha was one out away from a no-hitter at Busch Stadium when Ryan Zimmerman narrowly beat out an infield single to save his team from suffering that ignominy.

But the streak remains intact, thanks to a sudden barrage of extra-base hits in the sixth and seventh inning Friday of what wound up an 8-6 loss to Detroit. It was Keibert Ruiz who finally broke the ice with a leadoff double in the sixth, though even that didn’t really count as a clean hit: Ruiz’s line drive to right sailed just past Matt Vierling’s glove, the right fielder perhaps losing the ball in the stadium lights.

What could’ve made for a controversial night for the official scorer (who awarded Ruiz the double) instead proved moot when CJ Abrams laced a very clean RBI double down the right field line two batters later. Thomas then blasted a two-run homer to complete a three-run rally and change the complexion of the game.

And when the Nationals added three more runs in the bottom of the seventh, capped by Ruiz’s two-run homer to right, a game that seemed out of reach not long before was now a down-to-the-wire battle.

“The last couple days, it wasn’t great days for me,” said Ruiz, who went 0-for-11 and grounded into three double plays during the Nats’ three-game sweep at the hands of the Marlins earlier this week. “I was just trying to put the ball in play and get a good pitch to hit, don’t try to do too much. Thank god I got that result.”

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