SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Afterward, having come oh so close to pitching a no-hitter with his family in the stands willing it to happen, Alex Cobb took a moment to thank center fielder Austin Slater for the sensational diving catch that preserved the bid.
Cobb did the same with Giants manager Gabe Kapler, offering up some gratitude for being given the opportunity. Kapler stuck with Cobb even as the pitch count went higher than it had ever been.
Cobb came within one out of a no-hitter before Spencer Steer doubled with two outs in the ninth inning of San Francisco’s 6-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night, settling for a spectacular complete game featuring a career-high 131 pitches — 83 for strikes.
“Still right now, this is surreal,” Cobb said. “In the moment I was just focused on the delivery and the game plan and executing pitches and then it started to become real. Had some cool thoughts going on in my mind of having my family here and thanking them. It was special, for sure.”
Cobb nearly notched the majors’ fifth no-hitter this year, dazzling with his split-finger fastball to shut down Cincinnati before Steer’s double provided the Reds’ only run.
Fans cheered the 35-year-old right-hander after the hit with chants of “Alex Cobb!” Once the final out was recorded, Cobb hugged teammates and coaches and acknowledged the crowd.
Slater had made the defensive play of the game when he chased down a shallow fly ball by Will Benson with the improbable catch in left-center to end the eighth — and Cobb raised both arms in celebration.
Even Kapler thought that would be a hit.
Cobb just missed tossing San Francisco’s first no-hitter since Chris Heston on June 9, 2015, at the Mets.
After getting Noelvi Marte’s first-pitch flyout to start the ninth, Cobb (7-5) issued a one-out walk to Nick Senzel before another fly to right by TJ Friedl. Then Steer came through with an opposite-field hit.
“Still fun,” said Cobb, the game ball safely tucked away in his corner locker with some other keepsakes like his strikeout from this year’s All-Star Game — his first. “I wasn’t mad, sad, just all right let’s finish it off kind of thing.”
A run scored on the double, and Cobb threw a called third strike past rookie Elly De La Cruz on his career-high 131st pitch for his eighth strikeout, sixth career complete game and second this year.
Kapler left him in the game, not immediately calling any relievers to get warm, confident Cobb still had his best stuff.
“The right thing to do is to let a guy who’s going like that continue to go,” Kapler said.
Senzel was credited with a single in the third inning on a two-hopper that third baseman Casey Schmitt snagged with a backhand grab. The rookie’s throw from foul territory was high and pulled a leaping J.D. Davis off the first-base bag.
Official scorer Chris Thoms originally called the play a hit, then changed it to an error several minutes later.
Did Cobb notice the hit initially went up on the scoreboard, then was later gone? “Oh yeah!”
“I was thinking about trying to go throw a 1-hitter and then challenge the play and get a no-hitter in about a week,” Cobb said.
Fans in the crowd of 26,078 leapt to their feet and cheered as Benson stepped in to face Cobb with two outs in the eighth. After going ahead 0-2, Cobb threw two straight balls to make the count 2-2 when Benson lofted a shallow fly into left-center as Cobb threw a fourth straight splitter. Slater sprinted nearly 20 feet to make the diving catch, which was immediately challenged by the Reds.
The play went to replay review and when crew chief Bill Miller announced moments later, “the call on the field stands,” the crowd roared.
“With everything on the line, what a spectacular play,” Kapler said.
Patrick Bailey hit a two-run homer to help Cobb win for the first time in nine starts since July 5. The Giants went ahead in the second on a balk then Luis Matos delivered an RBI double to back Cobb.
Reds starter Brandon Williamson allowed another run to score on a wild pitch in the third before Bailey connected.
Mitch Haniger returned from the 60-day injured list and played left field batting cleanup, going 0 for 4 with a strikeout in his first game since June 13 after missing 64.
Reds: LHP Nick Lodolo, sidelined by a stress reaction in his left tibia, will receive a second opinion Wednesday. … The Reds sent OF Jake Fraley to Triple-A Louisville to begin a rehab assignment as he works back from a stress fracture in the fourth toe on his left foot.
Giants: OF Mike Yastrzemski could be back in the lineup as soon as Wednesday from a strained left hamstring after missing the past 26 games. The Giants still consider him day to day.
Reds: The Reds selected the contract of INF/OF Alejo Lopez from Triple-A Louisville and optioned OF Michael Siani to Louisville while designating RHP Tony Santillan for assignment.
Giants: San Francisco optioned OF Heliot Ramos to Triple-A Sacramento after Monday’s game and designated OF Bryce Johnson for assignment.
RHP Hunter Greene (2-5, 5.06 ERA) takes the mound for the Reds in the series finale making his first career appearance against the Giants while pitching for the third time since coming off a 62-day IL stint.
RHP Logan Webb (9-10, 3.51) counters for San Francisco trying to snap a four-start winless stretch.