Afterward, having come oh-so-close to pitching a no-hitter with his family in the stands willing it to happen, Alex Cobb took a moment to thank center fielder Austin Slater for the sensational diving catch that preserved the bid.
Cobb did the same with Giants manager Gabe Kapler, offering some gratitude for being given the opportunity. Kapler stuck with Cobb even as his pitch count went higher than it had ever been.
Cobb came within one out of a no-hitter before Spencer Steer doubled with two outs in the ninth inning of San Francisco’s 6-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night, settling for a spectacular complete game. His 131 pitches were the most in his career and the most by any pitcher in the majors this season, and 83 were for strikes.
“Still right now, this is surreal,” Cobb said. “In the moment, I was just focused on the delivery and the game plan and executing pitches, and then it started to become real. Had some cool thoughts going on in my mind of having my family here and thanking them. It was special, for sure.”
Cobb nearly notched the majors’ fifth no-hitter this year, dazzling with his split-finger fastball to shut down Cincinnati before Steer’s double provided the Reds’ only run.
Fans cheered the 35-year-old right-hander after the hit with chants of “Alex Cobb!” Once the final out was recorded, Cobb hugged teammates and coaches and acknowledged the crowd.
Slater made the defensive play of the game when he chased down a shallow fly ball by Will Benson with an improbable catch in left-center to end the eighth — and Cobb raised both arms in celebration.
Even Kapler thought that would be a hit.
Cobb just missed tossing San Francisco’s first no-hitter since Chris Heston on June 9, 2015, at the New York Mets.
After getting Noelvi Marte’s first-pitch flyout to start the ninth, Cobb (7-5) issued a one-out walk to Nick Senzel before another fly to right by TJ Friedl. Then Steer came through with an opposite-field hit.
“Still fun,” said Cobb, the game ball safely tucked away in his corner locker with some other keepsakes like his strikeout from this year’s All-Star Game — his first. “I wasn’t mad, sad, just, ‘All right, let’s finish it off’ kind of thing.”
A run scored on the double, and Cobb threw a called third strike past rookie Elly De La Cruz for his eighth strikeout, sixth career complete game and second this year.
Kapler left him in the game, not immediately calling any relievers to get warm, confident Cobb still had his best stuff.
“The right thing to do is to let a guy who’s going like that continue to go,” Kapler said.
Senzel was initially credited with a single in the third inning on a two-hopper that third baseman Casey Schmitt snagged with a backhand grab. The rookie’s throw from foul territory was high and pulled a leaping J.D. Davis off the first-base bag.
Official scorer Chris Thoms originally called the play a hit then changed it to an error several minutes later.
Did Cobb notice the hit initially went up on the scoreboard then was later gone?
“Oh yeah,” he said. “I was thinking about trying to go throw a one-hitter and then challenge the play and get a no-hitter in about a week.”
Fans in the crowd of 26,078 leapt to their feet and cheered as Benson stepped in to face Cobb with two outs in the eighth. After going ahead 0-2, Cobb threw two straight balls to make the count 2-2 when Benson lofted a shallow fly into left-center on Cobb’s fourth straight splitter. Slater sprinted nearly 20 feet to make the diving catch, which was immediately challenged by the Reds.
The play went to replay review, and when crew chief Bill Miller announced moments later, “The call on the field stands,” the crowd roared.