CLEVELAND -- Finally, the Red Sox came home today, to meet the Orioles. Good thing. If you don't soon see them with your own eyes, you might begin to suspect we're making this stuff up.
In the opener of yesterday's doubleheader-by-the-lake, Matt Young pitched the Boston franchise's first hitless game in 27 years . . . and lost, 2-1.
Only the Red Sox. Only Matt Young.
If Young won the Masters, we would discover he had signed the wrong scorecard and he'd have to forfeit his title. He is Dancer's Image, Janet Cooke and Vanessa Williams. Yesterday he enjoyed a singular great moment but still did not emerge a winner.
In truth, Young's flawed (seven walks) masterpiece really was not a no-hitter (there's the ballclub's most telling double negative since No No Nanette). Young pitched only eight innings because the victorious Indians didn't have to bat in the bottom of the ninth. Under baseball's new regulations, a pitcher must hurl nine get a no-hitter.
But Young knows he threw a no-no.
"Sure," said the 33-year-old lefthander. "They didn't get any hits. The game's over. People can make rules all they want. It doesn't matter to me."
This no-hitter ended with Mike Greenwell grounding into a double play and the Cleveland players swarming onto the field to congratulate reliever Derek Lilliquist.
"I thought when you throw a no-hitter, you're supposed to strike out the last guy and the catcher comes out and you jump around," said Young. "When you have to go back in the dugout and see if your team can score another run, it's kind of anti-climactic."
It was also kind of typical. Young is 54-86 lifetime and last year with the Sox went 3-7 with a 5.18 ERA, earning the nicknames "Sigh Young" and "Door Matt."
This spring he was the New Matt Young. He was coddled by rookie manager Butch Hobson. The coaching staff took Young aside and worked on the mental part of his game. Counseling was provided. Young always has had a terrific arm, but the book says he'll usually beat himself. Hobson made Young work on those dreaded throws to first base. The manager boldly predicted 20 wins for a man who last summer wasn't allowed to start after Sept. 11.
In Florida, Young went 3-0 with a 2.14 ERA. He made his first 1992 start yesterday and had the Indians fooled with a tricky changeup. Cleveland scored in the first on a walk, two steals and an error. In the third, a couple of walks led to another run. It was enough to beat him. Once again, Young pitched just well enough to lose.
The Diamond Gods must be crazy. Does Young ever feel like he's being tested?
"Yes," he said. "I guess patience is a virtue."
And how would he explain this to family or friends who might not have heard the news? What would he say if he called home?
"I'd say I've got some good news and some bad news," he said.
Young said Mo Vaughn failed to observe the time-honored tradition of ignoring the obvious between innings. Young was on the bench in the seventh when he heard Vaughn exclaim, "Hey, they haven't got any hits."
Young said pitching a no-hitter that is not recognized as a no-hitter is sort of like being in purgatory. Better purgatory than the hardball hell Young lived in last year.
Today he was introduced with the other 24 Red Sox as Fenway opened its gates for 1992. It brought a different reaction than the hoots that rained down on his shoulders the last time he walked on the Fenway lawn. Young's final appearance of 1991 came when he walked two and hit a batter in the 10th inning of a devastating Sunday loss to the Yankees. The Sox lost 10 of their last 13 games and Young never got the ball.
Boston's last no-hitter was tossed by the immortal Dave Morehead in front of 1,247 Fenway fans against the Indians Sept. 16, 1965, just a few minutes before the firing of general manager Pinky Higgins.
Morehead can sleep soundly for another night. Young's performance might earn him a line under Morehead in the Boston record book, but it will be accompanied by an asterisk.
Fair enough. Young did walk seven. He did lose. He admitted, "I look at seven walks and I don't feel I pitched that well."
Years from now, it will probably be forgotten that Roger Clemens rescued the Sox with a two-hit shutout in Game 2. Clemens' effort was superior to Young's neo no-hitter.
Young didn't bother to get the game ball. There's no place for a 2-1 loss in any trophy case.
"I don't think it's really hit me yet," he said. "I'm kind of upset about losing the game. A loss is a loss."
And so April 12, 1992, goes down in Red Sox history. It was the day Matt Young threw a no-hitter. Not.