Bergmann flirts with no-no in Nats win
Righty holds Braves hitless until eighth, strikes out 10
WASHINGTON -- Entering the 2007 season, Jason Bergmann likely would have been the last person to have a chance to throw a no-hitter.
In two seasons, the 25-year-old right-hander had two wins and a 5.76 ERA in 44 games, mostly as a reliever. In fact, he wasn't even on the Nationals' radar screen going into Spring Training. Starters such as Tim Redding, Joel Hanrahan and Beltran Perez were all ahead of him on the depth chart.
But Bergmann outpitched those players and made the 25-man roster. His first start of the season was rough, walking six batters in 3 2/3 innings against the Diamondbacks. But after being talked to by general manager Jim Bowden for not throwing enough strikes, Bergmann has been arguably Washington's best starter, and, on Monday, he nearly made history by pitching the Nationals' first no-hitter against the Braves. He had a no-hitter through seven innings, but lost it on a leadoff home run to Brian McCann in the eighth.
The hit would not hurt Bergmann as the Nationals won, 2-1, in front of 18,829 fans at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. The Nationals have won four consecutive games to improve to 13-25.
Bergmann was strong from the very beginning. He struck out five of the first six hitters he faced and only one player reached scoring position in the first seven innings.
"I just felt I was able to throw a lot of strikes early in the count," Bergmann said. "I stayed ahead of hitters all night. The pitches were down and effective. All my pitches were working. It was just one of those days."
Although he had a chance to make history, Bergmann was acting as if he was pitching just another game. After each inning ended, he was greeted by teammate Jason Simontacchi and there was more talk about how his counterpart, Braves right-hander John Smoltz, was throwing in the game.
At once point in the dugout, Bergmann was so focused in getting the Braves out that he forgot that he was supposed to be on deck with Ryan Langerhans at the plate.
"I don't think you ever think about a no-hitter," Bergmann said. "The objective is, how many games ended in a no-hitter? Not many. So you just go out there and try to limit the amount of hits that you do give up. That's fine, but I was not going for the no-hitter at all. They know that it's unlikely that there will be a no-hitter, but you still want to pitch a good game. You do exactly what you been doing and you hope for the best."
Bergmann lost his no-hit bid in the top of the eighth. On an 0-1 pitch, McCann hit the ball over the right-field wall to cut Washington's lead to 2-1.
Bergman threw a slider that was low and inside, but McCann's uppercut swing allowed him to make solid contact.
"I thought we could sneak one by him because I was getting lucky a little bit tonight," Bergmann said.
Overall, Bergmann struck out 10 batters and walked one in eight-plus innings.
"It was an unbelievable feeling. It got to a point where I really thought he was going to [throw the no-hitter]," manager Manny Acta said. "The pitch to McCann -- he is a good hitter and he made him pay for it. [Bergmann] was spectacular. That's the way he has been pitching for us since that first outing. I was so happy for the kid that he was able to get a win."
Bergmann was taken out in the ninth after giving up a leadoff single to Matt Diaz. The fans gave Bergmann a loud ovation as he sprinted into the dugout without tipping his cap.
The fans then started chanting, "Bergmann, Bergmann, Bergmann." The right-hander came out and tipped his cap and went back into the dugout.
"I never thought I would ever get a curtain call. That's fantastic, That's a good feeling. It warms me up," Bergmann said. "I'm glad we had as many people who were still around. These fans are fantastic. I've been through some rough stretches. I was glad that I got to please them."
Knowing that interim closer Jon Rauch had pitched three games in a row, Acta decided to go with right-hander Jesus Colome, and the game became very interesting.
After Kelly Johnson flied out to Langerhans in left field and Willie Harris flied out to center fielder Nook Logan, Colome allowed a single to Edgar Renteria. With the tying run on first base, Andruw Jones came to the plate and got ahead in the count, 3-0.
Colome threw two straight fastballs for called strikes. Colome had a tough decision to make: Throw another fastball or throw the slider. The reason Colome has been successful this year is because he hasn't been relying heavily on his fastball. Colome took a chance and threw another fastball. Jones swung and missed to end the game and preserve Bergmann's first victory since Sept. 15, 2005.
Although he has pitched at least six innings in seven straight games, Bergmann has had two losses and four no-decisions. In those seven starts, Bergman's ERA is 2.18.
"I wanted Jason to win the game because he has thrown well the last seven starts. I wanted to save the game for him," Colome said. "I know Andruw is a good hitter. I said, 'I have to believe in myself. I have to throw him a strike.' I threw him a fastball. That has been my best pitch for a long time. I threw a fastball up the middle and he missed. I got lucky that he missed the pitch because he is a good hitter."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.