PHILADELPHIA -- Dave Bush has this "near no-hitter" thing down to a science. Now, if he could just keep those former and future Brewers from getting in the way, he might finish one off.
For the second time in 10 months and the third time in his career, Bush worked to within five outs of a no-hitter only to have a player with ties to the Brewers break it up. This time, the spoiler was Matt Stairs, who hit a home run off the right-field foul pole with one out in the eighth inning of the Brewers' 6-1 win over the Phillies on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.
Stairs played for Milwaukee in 2002. He was playing for the Toronto Blue Jays 10 months ago, when another former Brewer broke up Bush's last no-hit bid. The Jays were hitless through seven innings at Miller Park on June 19, 2008, before Lyle Overbay tripled to left field off Bush leading off the eighth. Overbay was a Brewer from 2003-04 before he was traded to Toronto for three players, including Bush.
Bush's other near no-no was during his final season in Toronto, when he blanked the A's for 7 1/3 innings in Oakland on July 20, 2004, in his third Major League start. That time, it was not a former Brewer but a future one -- Damian Miller, a Wisconsin native who would play for the Brewers from 2005-07 -- who broke it up with a one-out single.
Some pitchers don't notice they have a no-hitter cooking until the middle innings. Not Bush.
"I always know," he said. "From the first hitter of the game I know how many hits there are, who's been on base and how they got there. Probably after the sixth inning or so, when we had a little bigger lead and a little more comfortable situation, you give a run at it."
Bush's Brewers teammates are apparently a bit more superstitious than the right-hander. Other than catcher Mike Rivera, who sat with Bush on the bench throughout the game, they all left Bush alone between innings. But that wasn't at the pitcher's request.
"I feel like if you have too many superstitions, it kind of gets in the way," Bush said. "So I just kind of sit in the dugout, try to drink water and relax. Otherwise, keep going out there."
He recorded one more out and surrendered one more hit after Stairs' blast before calling it a day. Bush was charged with one run on two hits in 7 2/3 innings, with three walks, two hit batsmen and four strikeouts. He threw 113 pitches, and at some point, Bush's pitch count may have become an issue had the no-hit bid continued.
"You get up to 130 pitches or something like that, then maybe it's a little dangerous situation," Bush said. "But I still felt strong, still felt like I could keep going."
Once again, he finished just short.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.