No no-no, but Cubs sure come close

No no-no, but Cubs sure come close

MESA, Ariz. -- Oakland's Dan Johnson was relieved. Nobody wants to get no-hit, especially in Spring Training.

The Athletics came close Saturday. Chicago Cubs pitchers Sean Marshall and Angel Guzman, battling for the fifth starter spot, each threw four hitless innings against the A's at HoHoKam Park. Marshall walked four and struck out five, while Guzman walked two and struck out two. Neither has been involved in a no-hitter. Dave Aardsma then threw a perfect ninth for the Cubs.

"I guess competition does bring out the best in everybody," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

The Cubs couldn't muster much against A's starter Rich Harden, either, as he threw six scoreless innings, and the game was scoreless after nine. The sellout crowd of 12,792 at HoHoKam Park stayed in their seats.

"It was a great game for TV," Baker said.

With two out in the Oakland 10th, Johnson singled to center off Chicago lefty John Koronka for the first and only hit for the A's in the game.

"Thank God," Johnson said. "As competitive as we are, we wanted to get on the board. We were getting mad."

Brandon Sing hit an RBI double in the 10th to give the Cubs a 1-0 victory. Chicago had a chance in the ninth. Jamal Strong doubled to lead off the inning, advanced on a sacrifice, and then Ryan Harvey and Ryan Theriot were both intentionally walked to load the bases. The plan worked as the next two hitters hit into forceouts. If the Cubs had scored and the game had ended then, they would've had their no-hitter.

Johnson called the two free passes "the manager's decision of the world" to extend the game and give the A's another chance.

No formal records are kept for no-hitters in Spring Training games, but Boston's Pedro Martinez combined with five relievers for a perfect game on March 14, 2000, in a 5-0 victory over Toronto.

That was the last recorded spring no-hitter since the Angels defeated San Francisco, 15-0 on March 16, 1996. Baker was the Giants skipper that year.

"That's something I just deleted from my memory," Baker said. "Ninety-six was a bad year."

The 1996 season was Baker's last losing season before 2005, when the Cubs went 79-83.

Baseball historian Ed Hartig couldn't find any record of the Cubs having a no-hitter in Spring Training since 1990, and the last recorded one was Feb. 26, 1970, when four pitchers combined to lead a team of Cubs rookies over some local college players in a 5-0, seven-inning game.

On Saturday, Baker had a good memory as the young pitchers performed well.

"It was great pitching on both sides," Baker said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.