M's Morrow has no-hit bid spoiled by pinch-hit double in eighth

SEATTLE -- After 100 relief appearances, Brandon Morrow came within four outs of joining Bobo Holloman as the only pitchers since 1900 to throw no-hitters in their first major league starts.

Throwing a nasty curveball that had Yankees hitters flailing all night, Morrow pitched 7 2/3 hitless innings before pinch-hitter Wilson Betemit doubled with two outs in the eighth inning, and the Seattle Mariners beat fading New York 3-1 Friday night.

"Things work out I guess for a reason," the quiet Californian said while soaked in beer dumped on him by teammates who have had little to celebrate in this lost Mariners season.

Jason Giambi swung almost a foot over one of Morrow's curveballs while striking out in the second. Alex Rodriguez futilely swung at another that skipped in the dirt before striking out in the seventh. All this with a pitch the 24-year-old righty only began throwing last month at Triple-A while converting from a dominant setup reliever to a starter.

"Uh, no," Morrow deadpanned when asked if he expected this starter's magic, one month to the day after he began his conversion from dominant setup reliever.

"Yeah, it was exciting, for sure. I was nervous at first. I was exhausted when I came out."

Billy Rohr was the last pitcher to come within four outs or fewer of a no-hitter in his first major league start, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Rohr's bid for the Boston Red Sox was broken up when New York's Elston Howard singled with two outs in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium on April 14, 1967.

Morrow, a former starter at California, blanked the Yankees until Betemit, batting because Jose Molina had struck out meekly in his only two at-bats, lined a clean drive far over right fielder Ichiro Suzuki. The hit scored Hideki Matsui, who had walked with one out on a close 3-2 pitch.

Morrow angrily barked an expletive at himself as he walked back to the mound after Betemit's double.

"You can't do anything, but you want that back," he said.

Holloman of the St. Louis Browns threw his first-start no-hitter against the Philadelphia Athletics on May 6, 1953.

Cincinnati's Bumpus Jones pitched one against Pittsburgh on Oct. 15, 1892, and Ted Breitenstein did it for St. Louis of the American Association against Louisville on Oct. 4, 1891, according the Elias Sports Bureau.

It's been nearly 50 years since the last complete-game no-hitter against the Yankees -- Hoyt Wilhelm did it for Baltimore on Sept. 20, 1958. Six Houston Astros pitchers combined to no-hit New York at Yankee Stadium on June 11, 2003, a game in which starter Roy Oswalt left with a strained groin in the second inning.

Morrow (2-2) left after Betemit's hit on his 106th pitch. He struck out eight and walked three.

Morrow tried to strike out Betemit with that new curveball. This time, instead of dropping, it stayed high and in the middle of the plate. It was evidence of the exhaustion of Morrow, a diabetic who manages his condition with an automatic insulin pump on the bench when needed. He said it wasn't needed Friday night.

"He threw me a changeup, a fastball and then a curveball right down the middle. It stayed right in the middle and I swung the bat good," Betemit said.

Morrow stomped back to the mound after backing up the plate on Betemit's hit and yelled at himself as catcher Kenji Johjima tapped him on the backside with his mitt. Then Riggleman came out to get Morrow, who had passed his pregame pitch limit of 95.

He exited to one of the loudest, most prolonged roars of Seattle's season. He then smiled almost sheepishly while receiving slaps on the back and handshakes from just about every one in Seattle's dugout.

Riggleman said had Morrow gotten out the eighth with the no-hitter intact, he may not have gone back out for the ninth because he didn't want him throwing 120-some pitches after throwing no more than 82 last month at Triple-A. Morrow said he didn't believe that.

Justin Thomas retired Johnny Damon on a lineout to end the eighth. J.J. Putz completed the two-hitter for his 11th save in 19 chances.

Left alone in the dugout between innings with his head resting on a white towel and his hands, Morrow said he was well aware he was nearing history throughout the game.

"I mean, there's six scoreboards starting me in the face. It's hard not to see," he said.

His gem had the home crowd roaring all night, for a refreshing change.

"I was excited. I think the short innings helped," said the fifth overall pick in the 2006 amateur draft. "You don't have to labor through things."

The team with the worst record in the AL had lost its previous eight games against the Yankees, who dropped 8 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL wild-card race with just 21 games remaining. With just over three weeks left in the regular season, it appears the Yankees will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Morrow was "electric."

"When you have stuff like that and you can locate with that stuff, you're going to shut down a lot of lineups," Girardi said of the Mariners' most effective pitcher this year, with a 1.47 ERA in 40 games.

Morrow made five starts last month at Triple-A and was so-so until allowing one hit in six innings of his final start for Tacoma, on Aug. 31. He got this start in place of injured Jarrod Washburn.

Andy Pettitte (13-12), fading along with the Yankees, lost for the seventh time in eight starts since July 26. He allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings, while striking out nine and walking one.

"We need wins. Losses aren't helping right now," Pettitte said. "We're running out of options here."

Game notes
RHP Alfredo Aceves will make his first major league start on Tuesday when the Yankees are at the Los Angeles Angels, instead of Darrell Rasner. Rasner allowed five runs in 1 1/3 innings of Thursday's loss at Tampa Bay and is winless in nine starts since July 12. Aceves allowed one run in five innings relieving Rasner Thursday. ... As expected, New York recalled former starting OF Melky Cabrera from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre.