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The face of defeat: What losing a no-hitter looks like

Matt Moore losing a no-hitter reminds us we are all human.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

During just his fifth start with his new team, Matt Moore took a no-hitter into the ninth inning. A decidedly nice way to become part of a new team, a no-hitter is simultaneously a one-game show of dominance from a pitcher, while also involving fielders in the most tense, integral, and nerve-racking parts of the game.

With a legitimate MVP candidate up at the plate separating Moore from 27 consecutive outs without giving up a hit, Corey Seager blooped a hit into shallow right field. Just over Joe Panik’s range, and just short of Gorkys Hernandez’s range: no man’s land as they say. Even though you’ve probably seen it, I encourage you to watch it again:

Did you see it? That moment? Right around the 46-second mark of the video Moore smiles as Seager’s hit is lifted into the air. Re-watch it if you’d like and break it down. Moore smiles and turns around to follow the ball’s trajectory. His face looks like this at that time:

The ball begins falling between the two fielders wearing the same jersey as Moore, it hits the ground, Buster Posey collapses in disbelief in the background, and Moore’s face remains essentially the same. If you’re still following along on the video, Moore continues to smile, looks toward his own dugout, realizes there are still teammates and bosses of his in there who are heavily invested in the outcome of the game, and then continues looking ‘professional.’

Not the face you’d typically expect though, right? This player has just worked for the past three hours and 133 pitches toward having a ‘9’ under the IP column and a ‘0’ under the H column, just to have it broken up on the last possible out by the guy celebrating ‘small lookalike doll with large novelty head that is attached to spring’ night.

Over the past two seasons, there have been eight no-hitters. On the other side of the coin, per Stew Thornley, there have been eight no-hitters lost in the ninth inning, including of the combined variety. In other words, 50 percent of no-hitters between 2015-16 that have made it through eight innings have continued on to make it the distance.

Then there’s Justin Verlander from August 26 of last year. He’s been here before, pitching two no-hitters prior to this effort. Maybe his familiarity has taken away the wide-eyed approach Moore had to it. Either way, with none-out in the ninth, Chris Iannetta breaks it up and Verlander’s reaction definitely differs from Moore’s:

Shelby Miller lost two during his time with the Atlanta Braves, one with two outs in the ninth — the same as Moore — and one in the eighth. He is definitely not chipper about either. If you were really looking for a smile, you might find one on his face during the eighth-inning one against Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks. But Miller was in his home ballpark for that one and it was sunny. Regardless, Miller is definitely a More Serious Baseball Man than Moore but perhaps a bit less serious than Verlander.

If you’re looking for Captain Serious of giving up no-hitters, look no further than Colby Lewis. He gives up a perfect game, then the no-hitter, and there is almost no variance in his emotions at all. He is maybe the Most Serious Baseball Man.

Back to the other side of the spectrum, Carlos Carrasco outdoes even Moore’s elation with himself. With two outs in the ninth inning — the crème de la crème of blowing no-hitters, it seems — Carrasco gives up hard contact that is out of Jason Kipnis’ reach despite an impressive vert.

At the point during which Moore realizes he’s still in a baseball game with important standings implications during a pennant race, Carrasco elects to just continue his elation and applaud the play that just unfolded behind him.

Way to go Kipnis. Way to go Butler. You’ve done it. We’ve done it. We’ve all failed to create baseball history. It takes an army. And we did it. We might have an article written about us but we won’t be in a history book. Hopefully the article mentions my elation at this moment. I just hope it makes note of how happy I was. We’ll all face our own mortality later. Right now, we play baseball.

There’s a distinctive humanity to moments like these. They’re epitomized best by the Moores and the Carrascos of the baseball world. They’re real, they’re unscripted, and they’re why we watch baseball. We want athletes to not only dazzle us with impressive feats, but to break character while doing it. It’s truer this way; it feels as though it has more meaning. I remember these moments just as much as I remember the feats being actually completed by the Max Scherzers and Tim Lincecums of the league. Because, sure, consuming sports is about seeing what professional athletes can do that we — the viewer — cannot. But it’s also about seeing how they handle failure and witnessing how we are alike as well.


Michael Bradburn is a writer at Beyond the Box Score, MLB Daily Dish, and BP Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @MWBII.