05/04/2002 8:40 pm ET
Jensen mows down Reds
By Josh Rawitch / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- It wasn't that long ago that a guy named Ryan made a living out of throwing no-hitters.
Of course, this might be the only time in history that Ryan Jensen and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan are mentioned in the same sentence, but the "Ryan Express" took on a new meaning for much of Saturday afternoon at Pacific Bell Park. It was there that the Giants rookie mowed down the Reds, holding them hitless until the eighth inning in a 3-0 San Francisco victory.
Jensen, 26, took over for Jason Schmidt with two outs in the first inning after the Giants' starter left the game with a tight throwing shoulder. Jensen proceeded to last 6 1/3 innings without giving up a hit before Jason LaRue singled sharply to left to break up the no-hit bid.
"I was aware the whole time but ... I didn't start thinking about it until after the seventh inning," said Jensen. "Then I couldn't get it out of my head and that's what happens."
Up to that point, Jensen (2-2) used a good mix of fastball, sliders and changeups to keep the Reds off balance all afternoon in the longest stint for a San Francisco reliever since Jose Batista went 6 2/3 innings on Aug. 12, 1995.
"He threw a gem of a game," said manager Dusty Baker, who had informed Jensen before the game to be prepared in the event that Schmidt's arm did not get loose. "He comes to pitch. He comes to play. He earned his right to be here and he earned his right to stay. It's good to have a minuteman like Ryan Jensen."
The right-hander had the sellout crowd of 40,959 thinking they might see a piece of history. Then, during the inning break before the top of the eighth, most fans were busy watching the scoreboard at Pacific Bell Park, which showed a taped version of the Kentucky Derby that had been run just minutes earlier. While several players and umpires stood fixated on the screen, Jensen focused on catcher Benito Santiago's glove.
LaRue led off the inning and after nine pitches, including four foul balls, Jensen gave in.
"He was fouling everything off so I just laid one down the middle hoping he would roll over it, but he tattooed it," said Jensen, admitting that he was glad the hit was a sharp one. "You never want to give up a bloop hit with a no-hitter going."
Not that Jensen would know. He can't remember the farthest along he had gone in a previous game without allowing a hit, joking, "Usually I get it over with the first batter of the game so I don't have to worry about it." And there's no doubt he doesn't remember the last time a Giants pitcher threw a no-hitter in San Francisco.
That happened on Aug. 24, 1975 when Ed Halicki no-hit the Mets. Gail Smalling gave birth to Ryan 24 days later in a hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Unfortunately for Jensen, he did not get to enjoy his work from the mound very long. Less than a minute after he gave up the hit, he was lifted in favor of Felix Rodriguez, who paved the way for Robb Nen's ninth save of the season.
Jensen understood the decision but felt he could have finished the game even without the no-no. Once he gave up the hit, though, Baker's mind was made up. Still, the manager wasn't about to pull the young right-hander even if he had been tired.
"He can limp home," said Baker. "You don't have that opportunity to throw a no-hitter very often. Everyone was thinking no-hitter on the bench. Number one, you think no-hitter when you have a lead and then after the no-hitter's gone, you're trying to preserve the game."
The Giants were able to do just that, but afterward, Santiago seemed even more disappointed than Jensen.
"What an outing he had," said the Giants' catcher. "One of these days I'm going to call one of those. I'm always close. Nine innings, two outs [and then someone hits a] blooper. So I don't think that's going to happen with me."
But Santiago knows that a no-hitter is a lot more than the pitches that are called, as does Baker. The Giants skipper almost uttered both Ryans' names in the same statement, but came up just short.
"Most no-hitters are a combination of both [good pitching and good defense], not Nolan Ryan striking out everybody," said Baker, singling out a few great plays including a diving stop by J. T. Snow. "Most no-hitters aren't like that. You don't get no-hitters by yourself out there."
The victory was the Giants' fifth in their last six games and came at the expense of Jimmy Haynes (2-4), who suffered the defeat for Cincinnati.
SCHMIDT EXITS EARLY: Much like the horse Danthebluegrassman, which was scratched from the 128th run of the Kentucky Derby due to cramps after a morning run, Schmidt tried to give it a go Saturday but lasted just two-thirds of an inning.
The Giants starter, who has been on the disabled list for most of the first month of the season due to a strained right groin, walked two batters in the first inning and was lifted with stiffness in his right shoulder.
"It's been stiff in between starts but it had not been a factor for a little while," said Schmidt. "I probably could have stayed out longer but ... you might as well utilize [Jensen]. You want to take your precautions first. He's capable of doing what he did."
Schmidt, who signed a four-year, $31 million deal during the offseason, will earn $4,937,500 million this year and has so far made just three starts, failing to get past the fifth in any of them. He will be examined by team orthopedist Dr. Gary Fanton on Saturday night and the results will be available early Sunday.
"It's definitely sore," said Schmidt. "We think it's just one of those things where it's early in the year. ... It could just be normal Spring Training soreness and that's what we're hoping for."
If Schmidt cannot continue to pitch, the Giants would likely recall right-hander Kurt Ainsworth. The rookie made his second start at Triple-A Fresno on Friday night and earned a victory by allowing two runs on three hits over six innings in an 8-5 win over Salt Lake City. In three games with the Giants in April, he had a 1-1 record and 1.69 ERA.
SHINJO ALSO STIFF: Another late scratch from the lineup was center fielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo, whose right quadriceps muscle was sore after a long night on Friday.
"It's not pulled yet, it's just sore and bothering him so we've got to preserve him," said Baker. "We've got turf in Montreal [next week] which doesn't help. He's been covering a lot of ground out there. He did a lot of running last night. He's not exactly Hercules, you know what I'm saying?"
Head trainer Stan Conte downplayed the injury, as did Shinjo, who is batting just .224 in his first 28 games with two homers and eight RBIs.
"I can still feel a stiffness but I think it'll go away soon," said Shinjo through his interpreter, Katsunori Kojima. "Last night I ran a lot. There was no one certain play."
Shinjo had a similar injury to his left leg while playing for the Mets last season and said he hopes to be ready in two or three days, adding that if this were September, he would be able to play.
Josh Rawitch covers the Giants for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.