OAKLAND, Calif. -- Baltimore Orioles pitcher Bob Milacki couldn't go the distance, but he got a little help from his friends on the way to the club's first no-hitter since 1969.
Milacki combined with three Orioles relievers to shut down the potent lineup of the Oakland Athletics, 2-0, before a crowd of 40,047 at the Oakland Coliseum.
The Orioles right-hander took a hard shot off his pitching hand in the sixth inning and had to turn the best performance of his
career over to left-hander Mike Flanagan. Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson pitched an inning apiece, as the Orioles tied a major-league record for the most pitchers to participate in a no-hitter.
"I think that might be tougher than one guy doing it," said Orioles manager John Oates, "because you have to have all four guys on their games. But, on the other hand, when it's only one pitcher [for the entire game], the hitters get to see the same guy three times."
It was the first Orioles no-hitter since Hall of Famer Jim Palmer pitched one against the A's on Aug. 13, 1969, at Memorial Stadium.
Appropriately enough, Palmer was broadcasting the game for WMAR-TV and interviewed Milacki on the air after the game.
"Today was a more difficult game than mine," Palmer said. "They didn't have the luxury of an eight-run lead. If you're pitching with a big lead, you might be able to pitch around a guy or two. In this game, every guy who gets on base creates a game-threatening situation. That Oakland ballclub is a good-hitting team. They [the four pitchers] should be very proud."
They were, but when Olson struck out Harold Baines to end the game, the reaction from the crowd and the Orioles bench was very low-key. The Orioles walked to the mound to shake hands with Olson. Milacki already was in street clothes and did not go onto the field.
"I guess I'm kind of rubbing off on them," Oates said. "I have stressed that you play better when you don't get too excited about things. But this was a very special day for our pitching staff."
Milacki allowed just three walks through the first six innings, the closest thing to a hit being the shot back through the middle by Willie Wilson that hit Milacki on the hand and forced him out of the game.
The ball hit Milacki on the hand and upper left leg before bounding all the way to first base, where Randy Milligan picked it up and stepped on the bag for the second out of the inning. That brought Oates and trainer Richie Bancells to the mound, but Milacki took a few practice throws and stayed in the game.
He walked the next batter he faced but struck out Jose Canseco to end the inning.
"He said he could still pitch," Oates said, "but once he got into the dugout, it started to swell up. Three of us [Milacki, Bancells and Oates] made the decision. He couldn't wrap his finger around the ball. He couldn't pitch."
Milacki suffered a bruised right index finger, but he said after the game that he had wanted to continue.
"I thought I could still pitch with it," he said. "They didn't want me to risk it. I was very disappointed. You never want to come out of a game like that."
It was the third no-hitter in the major leagues this season. The Texas Rangers' Nolan Ryan pitched the seventh of his career May 1, and the Philadelphia Phillies' Tommy Greene threw one against the Montreal Expos on May 23.
The only other four-pitcher no-hitter in the majors was by Oakland's Vida Blue, Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers on Sept. 28, 1975. The last multiple-pitcher no-hitter was thrown by Mark Langston and Mike Witt of the California Angels during the no-hitter craze of 1990.
Flanagan was the first to be charged with the task of keeping it alive for Milacki. He entered in the seventh inning to face the heart of the Oakland order and gave up just a walk to former Oriole Jamie Quirk.
"The game is still in jeopardy," Flanagan said. "If it had been 5-0 or 6-0, you might have the luxury of pitching around guys and trying to get it [the no-hitter]. When it's 2-0, you're not thinking about the no-hitter, because you get one guy on base and you've got the tying run at the plate."
Mark Williamson said he couldn't help but think of it. He arrived in the eighth inning to face the bottom of the order, but had to get by pinch hitter Rickey Henderson.
"You're trying to preserve it," Williamson said. "But the way I've been throwing against these guys, I'm also trying to keep us in the ballgame. I went in there needing to get the first hitter. When I did that, it really helped me a lot.
"You want it to happen. Everybody knows what's going on. You're thinking, 'I don't want to be the first guy to give up a hit.' But the pressure is double on Gregg."
Dave Henderson led off the ninth with a ground ball into the hole at shortstop that almost brought the no-hitter to an end, but Cal Ripken went far to his right to snag the ball and made a strong throw. Canseco struck out on a wicked Olson curveball before Baines went down on a check-swing third strike.
"It was a big game for them," Palmer said. "The pitching staff has been struggling. This was a way for them to redeem themselves. It was fun to watch."