SEATTLE – Mariners second baseman Chone Figgins couldn’t figure out why the Safeco Field crowd stood and cheered in the seventh inning after Nick Markakis’ leadoff single.
Then he looked closer at the numbers posted on the scoreboard, and saw the “1” in the hit column for Baltimore. Ah, that explained it.
“I had no idea,” Figgins said, shaking his head. “And it was the seventh inning. That’s a long way to take a no-hitter. I should have dived.”
Figgins actually had no chance to flag Markakis’ sharp grounder up the middle. But that hit, and the two that followed in the seventh, did little to dim another brilliant performance by Doug Fister in Seattle’s 8-2 victory on Monday.
“Just tremendous,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “It’s amazing to me to see his composure for such a young guy.”
The game was witnessed by the smallest crowd in Safeco Field history, 14,528. The previous low was 15,818, May 6, 2008, against Texas.
About the only other down side for the Mariners as they reached .500 with their fifth win in six games was the groin tightness experienced by center fielder Franklin Gutierrez in the seventh inning.
Gutierrez visibly winced as he scored on Casey Kotchman’s double. Eric Byrnes replaced Gutierrez in the eighth. Gutierrez was 2 for 2 to raise his average to .426.
“He wanted to go back out,” Wakamatsu said of Gutierrez. “He didn’t seem to pull anything. We’ll re-evaluate (today).”
In Fister’s last outing, the Mariners needed Milton Bradley’s eighth-inning homer to break a tense, scoreless tie against Oakland.
On Monday, there was no such drama as the M’s broke it open with a seven-run third, unless you count Fister’s mounting bid for a no-hitter. He was trying to throw the first no-hitter by a Mariners pitcher since Chris Bosio against Boston on April 22, 1993.
Markakis’ clean hit – quickly erased by a nifty double play started by shortstop Jack Wilson – ended a string of 10 hitless innings by Fister.
“Obviously, that’s in the back of your mind,” Fister said of the no-hit bid. “But not really. I was just trying to make pitch after pitch. Each one counts.”
The Orioles broke Fister’s scoreless streak at 14 innings in the seventh on a two-out, run-scoring double by Luke Scott. But it was another highly encouraging and hugely impressive outing by the 26-year-old Fister, who exited after seven having allowed three hits and just that one run while lowering his earned-run average to 1.42.
Kotchman’s two-run homer capped the seven-run third. Ken Griffey Jr. had a two-run single, though he was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Bradley’s double. Wilson, who stretched a double to start the rally, finished with three hits, including two doubles, while Kotchman drove in three.