ST. PETERSBURG -- Long after Stephen Drew picked up Jason Bartlett's ground ball and tossed it to Adam LaRoche, when most media members had left the clubhouse and his teammates' impromptu celebration had slowed down to the occasional pat on the back, Edwin Jackson stood at his locker, looked at the floor and asked himself if what had just happened was real.
The first no-hitter in D-backs history came on May 18, 2004, when Randy Johnson threw the 17th perfect game in Major League history. Jackson was far from perfect Friday night, but he overcame a rough start and left Tropicana Field with the second Arizona no-hitter -- and the fourth of the year in the Major Leagues -- as the D-backs (29-45) won, 1-0, over the Rays (44-29) before a crowd of 18,918.
"Besides going to the World Series and maybe my Major League debut, this is one of the most memorable moments I've ever had," Jackson said. "It's one of those moments where you get caught up in the moment, try to get zoned in and tell yourself that if it's meant to be, it'll happen."
Facing his former team for the second time since leaving after the 2008 season, Jackson threw a career-high 149 pitches -- the most by any pitcher since Livan Hernandez threw 150 in 2005 -- and only 79 for strikes. As far back as pitch counts have been recorded, Jackson's 149 were the most thrown in a nine-inning no-hitter.
Although the night ended with his teammates rushing him on the mound, it couldn't have started much worse for Jackson. He gave up seven free passes in the first three innings -- eight overall -- could barely find the strike zone and walked the bases loaded with no outs to start the third inning. But he still made history, relying on timely defense, a deceptive slider and a fastball that was just good enough when it needed to be on his way to his first complete-game no-hitter at any level he could remember.
"It's one of the crazier games that I've had this year, especially starting out like it did -- not being able to find the strike zone with the fastball. Good thing I could throw the slider for strikes at any count," Jackson said. "That just saved me and resurrected my game, to even be able to have a chance to do what I did tonight is crazy."
His eight walks were tied for the third-most of any no-hitter, and he had six strikeouts -- three of which were against Tampa Bay's Sean Rodriguez. But unconventional doesn't begin to describe the way in which Jackson went about throwing the fourth no-hitter in Interleague Play, as he also hit a batter, allowed a runner to reach on an error by the shortstop, Drew, and saw three relievers warming up in the D-backs' bullpen.
Wild but in control
Most walks in a no-hitter
"I was kind of kidding that he was an error and eight walks away from having a perfect game," pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said.
Jackson, who has had an up-and-down year in his first season with the D-backs, took a 4-6 record and 5.05 ERA into the game.
Jackson walked two batters in each of his first two innings and allowed eight baserunners through three, as only 30 of his first 68 pitches were called for strikes. He walked Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena to load the bases with no outs in the third inning, but he forced Matt Joyce to fly out to right, got some help from third baseman Mark Reynolds on a nice grab and throw home on a B.J. Upton grounder, and got out of the inning on Hank Blalock's groundout to second base.
He continued to bounce back in a quick fourth inning by striking out Rodriguez, and he got a little more defensive help from Tony Abreu, who ran down Bartlett's chopper up the middle and got the throw to first in time. He ended the inning by forcing John Jaso to line out to left field.
From that point on, Jackson showed few signs of the control issues plaguing him earlier in the game. He sat down Zobrist, Longoria and Pena in order in the fifth. Only at that point did he realize the significance of what was happening in his former home stadium of three years -- against the team that he helped take to the World Series in 2008.
"After the fifth, I looked up there, and I was like, 'Wow, after all this, there's still no hits?'" Jackson said. "From then on, I just tried to do what I continued to do. I found a rhythm toward the end, so that helped that I could throw a fastball for strikes and mix in everything else.
"It's one of those bittersweet feelings. You throw a no-hitter and it's against an ex-team, but at least it's with a crowd that you've had accomplishments with, and you can do it in front of some people who will appreciate it."
On top of that, Jackson stuck it out in a one-run game -- a lead that came courtesy of LaRoche's solo home run in the second -- and overcame a number of obstacles working against him. But the incredibly high pitch count, the early command issues and a tired arm weren't enough to stop Jackson.
"To come back from that, to be able to finish as strong as he did -- he pitched on a lot of heart, a lot of adrenaline, and he'll be tired tomorrow," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. "But he'll be one of the few who can say that he threw a no-hitter in the Major Leagues."
Jackson has had an up-and-down career, overcoming adversity and plenty of criticism throughout his eight-year Major League career. But Friday night's no-hitter -- however unconventional and unbelievable it was -- will be an accomplishment that no one can take away from him.
"It just proves that no one can dictate your future. I've had a lot of people say this and say that, but I've always said that a pen and paper can't dictate my future. Nobody can write anything and predict what can happen in my career," Jackson said. "The only person that can dictate that is me. Either I can go out and get the job done, or I can listen to what's being said and stay buried. Or you can fight and find a way to get up."
Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.