Sports

Nats Fight Off Rookie’s No-Hit Bid in 9th, Fall to Cardinals

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Starter Michael Wacha of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Washington Nationals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on Sept. 24, 2013 in St. Louis.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Starter Michael Wacha of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Washington Nationals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on Sept. 24, 2013 in St. Louis. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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ST. LOUIS — Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha lost his no-hit bid on Ryan Zimmerman’s infield single with two outs in the ninth inning, and St. Louis beat the Washington Nationals 2-0 Tuesday night to close in on the NL Central title.

Making his ninth career start, Wacha came about as close as possible to finishing off the third no-hitter in the majors this season. Instead, he became the third pitcher to have a bid broken up with one out to go.

Zimmerman hit a chopper just over Wacha’s glove — the pitcher said he thought it nicked his mitt — and the ball bounced slowly toward shortstop. A charging Pete Kozma grabbed it with his bare hand and whipped a throw to first that was a little wide, pulling Matt Adams off the bag just as Zimmerman arrived.

The crowd at Busch Stadium let out a loud, collective groan. Third baseman David Freese sat crouched in the infield, stunned at how close his 22-year-old teammate had come.

Wacha (4-1) was pulled after Zimmerman’s hit and walked off to a huge ovation from disappointed fans who were standing throughout the ninth inning. The right-hander struck out nine and walked two.

“I guess I wasn’t meant to throw one tonight,” Wacha said.

Trevor Rosenthal got Jayson Werth to ground out for his second save.

Wacha retired pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi on a grounder to Kozma to begin the ninth, then threw a called third strike past Denard Span.

Zimmerman was up next, and he spoiled it for Wacha.

Texas’ Yu Darvish lost a perfect game with two outs in the ninth against Houston on April 2 and San Francisco’s Yusmeiro Petit had his try at perfection end one out shy against Arizona on Sept 6.

Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey and the Giants’ Tim Lincecum threw no-hitters this season.

The last two no-hitters by St. Louis pitchers came from rookies — Bud Smith in 2001 and Jose Jimenez in 1999.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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