For now, closer Tom Wilhelmsen has the ball, but no one is certain which of six pitchers should keep it after the Mariners blanked the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.
Tom Wilhelmsen became a part of history on Friday night.
On Saturday, he was still trying to decide what to do with a piece of that history. Wilhelmsen was the last of the six Mariners pitchers who combined to hold the Dodgers hitless Friday, and he’s the one who has the ball from the final out of that game.
The unorthodox nature of Friday’s no-hitter is embodied by that fact that even Wilhelmsen isn’t quite sure who that ball belongs to.
“I don’t know how that works,” Wilhelmsen said. “It’s in a safe place for now, and I have asked a couple of folks what the right thing to do is. And I will continue to ask until I find the answer I want to hear.”
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Friday was a night to celebrate, there’s no question about that. It was the third time in Mariners history they held an opponent hitless. The question was who should be on the receiving end of all the congratulatory hubbub. It was only the 10th time in major-league history that multiple pitchers combined for a no-hitter.
“No one knew how to react or who to celebrate with,” said Charlie Furbush, the second pitcher Seattle used. “We got to all celebrate together because everyone got to do their job and be a part of it.”
Everyone from Ichiro, whose single and stolen base put him in position to score the winning run, to Kyle Seager, who drove it in, on down to defensive replacements Chone Figgins and Brendan Ryan, who each made significant plays over the final two innings.
And then there were the pitchers, all six of them. Catcher Jesus Montero brought in pictures for each of them to autograph in the clubhouse before Saturday’s game, commemorating Friday night’s collaboration.
Furbush entered the game in the seventh without any warning. He had begun stretching the inning before, but hadn’t thrown so much as a single warmup pitch when he was summoned to replace starter Kevin Millwood.
“We didn’t know he got hurt or what had happened,” Furbush said. “I thought he had like a blister on his finger or something small.”
Nope. It was a strained groin that knocked Millwood out of the game. He underwent a magnetic-resonance image (MRI) on Saturday morning, and manager Eric Wedge said before the game he still didn’t know how much time — if any — Millwood would miss.
“He was throwing the ball amazing,” Montero said. “I feel sorry for him because he got hurt, but the bullpen was nice after he got hurt.”
Even that didn’t go strictly according to plan, though.
“In a perfect world, to cover three innings, you send three guys out there,” said Brandon League, who recorded the final two outs in the eighth.
And while the Mariners held the Dodgers hitless, Seattle wasn’t exactly perfect. Furbush had a throwing error that put a runner on second base in the seventh. Rookie Stephen Pryor got the Mariners out of that inning, but walked two batters in the eighth. Then came Lucas Luetge, followed by League, who inherited runners on second and third with one out and recorded the final two outs while keeping the Dodgers hitless — and just as important — scoreless.
When Wilhelmsen entered in the ninth, he was Seattle’s sixth pitcher in the game. His in-laws were at the game, his father-in-law Bruce attending only his second major-league game, his first since 1967.
“He was telling us the historical significance of it,” Wilhelmsen said of that game 45 years ago. “I forgot what it was.”
His father-in-law’s second game turned out to be even more memorable, and afterward they opened a bottle of bubbly to commemorate it.
Now, Wilhelmsen just has to decide what to do with that ball.
For the record: W-L: 27-34 PCT: .443
vs. L.A.: 2-5
vs. Oakland: 5-2
vs. Texas: 5-5
vs. AL East: 2-10
vs. AL Cent: 9-11
vs. NL: 4-1
vs. LHP: 7-10
vs. RHP: 20-24
Extra inngs: 3-2
Saturday’s crowd: 30,287
Season total: 509,504
Biggest crowd: 46,026 (April 13)
Smallest crowd: 11,343 (April 18)
Average (24 dates): 21,229
2011 average (24 dates): 19,766
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org