White Sox, Floyd barely miss no-hitter

White Sox, Floyd barely miss no-hitter

CHICAGO -- Gavin Floyd has been here before.

In fact, it was just 24 days ago that the right-hander took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Tigers in front of a rain-soaked crowd at U.S. Cellular Field. That brush with greatness ended one out later, on an Edgar Renteria single to right-center on a 1-1 pitch.

Fortunes looked to be changing for Floyd on Tuesday night against Minnesota, during a 7-1 victory for the White Sox (15-16) before 23,480. Although he allowed an unearned run in the fourth, Floyd had not given up a hit through eight innings, and then struck out Brendan Harris looking to open the ninth.

Joe Mauer stepped to the plate, the same Mauer who won the American League batting title in 2006. Floyd had retired him on a fly ball to center in the sixth and walked him twice earlier, but on this occasion, off a 1-0 slider, Mauer ultimately got the best of the seemingly un-hittable Floyd.

Minnesota's catcher lofted a double into the left-center-field gap, falling about five feet out of the reach of Nick Swisher's all-out dive, thwarting Floyd's attempt at the 17th no-hitter in franchise history. Floyd (3-1) struck out four and walked three, and exited to a rousing standing ovation, with Bobby Jenks finishing off the White Sox 62nd one-hitter.

It was quite a performance for the 25-year-old, who walked two of the first three hitters he faced against the Twins (16-15).

"He got better as the game went on because, at the start, he wasn't very good at all," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who caught Floyd's one-hit effort on April 12 and Mark Buehrle's no-hitter on April 18, 2007. "He pitched great, and it was a lot of fun. It was a shame that Mauer found the gap and the ball fell in. That's the way baseball works some times."

"I hoped it was an out," added the low-key Floyd of Mauer's one-out high drive. "But I was just excited we won."

Floyd's no-hit effort seemed to sneak up on the White Sox, who saw a six-game losing streak come to an end, mainly because Minnesota actually scored a run in the fourth.

Justin Morneau lined a shot to left field following a leadoff walk issued to Mauer, with Carlos Quentin having to give a great deal of ground as he raced toward the left-field line. Quentin got his glove on the drive but couldn't hang on, with the play being ruled an error and Jason Kubel's sacrifice fly eventually scoring Mauer.

Shortstop Orlando Cabrera preserved the no-hitter in the fifth, ranging up the middle to make a sliding stop on Carlos Gomez's ground ball, and then nailing the speedy leadoff man at first. Jermaine Dye added a slick running catch in the fourth, gliding toward the right-field line to haul in Michael Cuddyer's drive.

During Floyd's last attempt at history, it was a fan sitting behind the White Sox dugout who told him that he had a no-hitter going midway through the game. On Tuesday, manager Ozzie Guillen got reliever Scott Linebrink up in the bullpen in the eighth, preparing him for his usual setup role. It was at that point when bench coach Joey Cora reminded Guillen as to what was taking place.

"Believe it or not, Joey told me they don't have a hit," said Guillen with a laugh. "And I look up and said, 'Oh, OK. Sit him down.'"

"I thought to myself, 'I know they scored one run, but I don't know if they have a hit,'" Swisher added. "In the sixth, I looked up and realized they didn't have one."

Following his normal routine, which involves drinking a water/Gatorade combination throughout the game, Floyd retired Mike Lamb and Adam Everett on fly balls to center in the eighth and set down Gomez on a broken-bat groundout to Cabrera. The no-hitter was set up, with one caveat.

Left-handed hitting Mauer and Morneau stood in Floyd's way.

"I was worried about the best two hitters in the game come up to hit in that inning," said Guillen, using a bit of hyperbole to accentuate Floyd's challenge.

Pierzynski actually thought Swisher or Quentin had a chance at Mauer's drive because it hung up in the air for a while. Swisher went as hard as he could from center toward the gap, leaving his feet from a great distance away in an attempt to corral the baseball.

All Swisher got for his trouble was a sore jaw when his face slammed down on the grass, doing everything in his power to keep the no-hitter alive.

"That's what I said," Swisher said. "I didn't care if I had to run through the wall to catch it. I was going for it, and tried my best superman impersonation, but I didn't get it. In my mind, it [stinks]. The win was great to get, but I wanted that for Gavin."

Floyd actually didn't seem bothered by losing the no-hitter. Then again, he was pitching in a comfort zone behind Dye's two RBIs, including his fourth home run, and two RBIs from Quentin.

With Floyd getting so close on two occasions during the season's first five weeks, it almost seems inevitable that this elusive no-hitter could be right around the corner or four or five starts away. Not so fast, though, cautioned Pierzynski.

"They are so rare and they are so hard to do," Pierzynski said. "It's not like he's throwing a million miles per hour with un-hittable stuff. I don't think people understand how hard it is to get 27 outs before you get one hit."

"It's out of your control," Floyd added. "I tried to throw strikes and got people out, and from there, you never know what will happen."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.