Jarred Cosart's remarkable debut halts Rays' streak

Saturday July 13th, 2013

Jarred Cosart carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his big league debut. [AP] Jarred Cosart carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his big-league debut against the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays. [AP]

Had the Rays beaten the Astros on Friday night, they would have become the first team this season to go 13-1 over a 14-game stretch. Instead, 23-year-old Astros right-hander Jarred Cosart did something even more remarkable, becoming the first pitcher in nearly five years to allow no more than two hits over eight innings in his major-league debut.

Cosart, one of the key prospects acquired from the Phillies in the 2011 Hunter Pence trade, held the Rays hitless for 6 1/3 innings, walking just two men over that span, only one of whom reached second base. Ben Zobrist singled with one out in the seventh to break up the no-no, and James Loney singled to lead off the eighth, but Cosart erased both on double plays. As a result, Cosart faced just one man over the minimum until he walked Kelly Johnson to lead off the bottom of the ninth and was pulled in favor of closer Jose Veras.

With that, Cosart became the first pitcher since the Orioles' Chris Waters on Aug. 5, 2008 to last eight innings in his major league debut and allow two or fewer hits (Waters allowed just one) and just the 19th pitcher to do so since 1916 (which is as far back as Baseball-Reference.com's searchable game logs go, though we do know that Charles Leander "Bumpus" Jones threw a no-hitter in his major-league debut back in 1892).

That list isn't particularly impressive, however. Juan Marichal, who threw a 12-strikeout, one-hit shutout against the Phillies in his 1960 debut, is the only Hall of Famer on the list, and former Oriole Dave McNally and early '60s Red Sox closer Mike Fornieles are the only other All-Stars. Rudy May (who won an ERA title), Kirk Rueter, and 1960s reliever Al Worthington had the longest careers of the remaining men on the list, and the only active pitcher other than Cosart to turn the trick was Brett Myers back in 2002. Waters made just 11 more starts in the majors and was last seen in the independent Atlantic League.

So, Cosart's great debut may not foretell greatness. Indeed, as well regarded as he has been as a prospect, he has struggled with his control in the high minors, walking 4.8 men per nine innings in Triple-A this year. Some think that he could end up in the bullpen before long. Still, it was exciting to see him carve up the red-hot Rays with a mid-90s cut fastball—Rays designated hitter Luke Scott said after the game it had more lateral movement than expected—and a sharp high-70s curve.

The game as a whole was a treat, as Cosart's mound opponent, David Price, was remarkable in his own way, bouncing back from allowing two runs on a quartet of singles in the top of the first to go the distance with astonishing efficiency. Price needed just 87 pitches to complete nine innings, 80 of which were strikes, and after six frames he had thrown just 52 pitches, a mere six (six!) of which were balls.

In the bottom of the sixth, with Cosart still having not allowed a hit, Astros center fielder Brandon Barnes made this great catch on a fly ball by Jose Molina.

Then, in the bottom of the ninth, the game delivered the drama the first eight-and-a-half innings demanded. Veras erased his inherited runner via the game's sixth double play, then got Desmond Jennings to ground to shortstop for the apparent final out, but Houston shortstop Jake Elmore bounced his throw, allowing Jennings to reach base. Veras then quickly got ahead of Scott, but Scott battled him for a total of eight pitches before driving in Jennings, who had taken second on defensive indifference, with a single up the middle to make the score 2-1 Houston. Ben Zobrist then pushed pinch-runner Sam Fuld to third base with another single, putting the tying run on third base with two outs for Evan Longoria. Longoria, too, battled Veras, but Veras, who got strike one, got a second strike on a sick sideways curve that darted into the zone after appearing to be headed at Longoria's hip. Veras ended the game with a perfectly placed fastball on the outside corner at the letters, which snapped the Rays' streak and give Cosart a much-deserved first major-league win.

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