In order to record the 27th out and complete his no-hitter on Sunday afternoon, Josh Beckett of the Los Angeles Dodgers first had to get by the best hitter on the Philadelphia Phillies in second baseman Chase Utley.
Beckett started out the at-bat by nibbling with off-speed pitches. Presumably his thinking was that he could get Utley to roll over a soft curveball for a weak groundball out to complete the no-hitter.
When that plan did not work, Beckett found himself in a battle with Utley after falling behind in the count. He worked his way back so that the count was full. It was at that point that the veteran pitcher did something that nobody would have advised him to do.
He threw a fastball down the pipe to one of the best fastball hitters in all of baseball.
Perhaps it was the effectiveness of throwing a bunch of junk for the first few pitches of the at-bat, but Utley was not prepared for a fastball. He let an imminently hittable pitch go by for a called strike three and the final out of the no-hitter.
While some around baseball try to cast a skeptical eye towards no-hitters as an impressive accomplishment in recent seasons, Beckett deserves every bit of celebration for this one. The Phillies’ lineup might not be the most formidable, but this is still an impressive no-hitter on the road that he had to work hard to nail down.
Beckett knows it and the Dodgers know it. This one was cause for celebration.