MILWAUKEE -- Six weeks ago, Dave Bush was banished to Triple-A to refine his fastball command. On Thursday, he was six outs shy of the Brewers' first no-hitter in more than two decades. Who had Dave Bush in the Brewers' no-hit pool? He was not exactly the ideal candidate. "Usually, guys like [me] aren't," Bush said after the Brewers held on for an 8-7 win over the Blue Jays that capped a three-game sweep. "Balls put in play have a better chance of being hits, so more often than not it's guys who have the overpowering stuff and can get strikeouts when they need them.
"It's still hard to do. There aren't many no-hitters, regardless of your stuff."The Brewers have played more than 6,500 games in franchise history, and only one pitcher has accomplished the feat. Left-hander Juan Nieves blanked the Orioles in Baltimore on April 15, 1987, working around five walks and getting three or four defensive gems other than center fielder Robin Yount's diving, game-ending catch, according to Brewers bench coach Dale Sveum, who was Nieves' shortstop that day. "This one would have been a lot smoother," Sveum said. It was not Bush's first no-hit bid. He took one into the eighth inning of his third Major League start for the Blue Jays before allowing his first A's hit -- a single by future Brewers catcher Damian Miller. Oakland starter Rich Harden carried a one-hit shutout into the eighth inning of that game, which wasn't decided until the 14th inning on another Miller single. Four years later, Bush was facing his former team at Miller Park on a sunny Thursday. He was perfect through five innings against the Blue Jays and didn't allow a hit through the end of the seventh as the Brewers built an 8-0 lead. Lyle Overybay -- one of the players that went to Toronto in the 2005 trade that brought Bush to Milwaukee -- broke up the no-hitter with a triple leading off the eighth. He scored on an Alex Rios single, and while Bush escaped the inning without further damage, his shot at history had passed. On a staff with Ben Sheets and Manny Parra, who throw harder, and Jeff Suppan, who has more experience, Bush is somewhat low on the list of likely no-hit pitchers. He did not convert to pitching until college at Wake Forest, and didn't become a starter until he entered the professional ranks with Toronto. "I could be snide and say that no pitcher is a no-hit candidate," Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "Bush does pitch to contact, and that was especially true today because he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and at that point he had struck out one [batter] all day. "He was on the attack very well today. He found himself behind in the count a few times, but it didn't matter. And fortunately, he had runs to play with. That helps a lot." The offense can help any pitcher, but particularly one like Bush, who works around his share of baserunners. It's just his style. Entering Thursday's start, opponents were hitting .271 against Bush, 37th-best of the 64 National League starters with at least 60 innings. "But he also is very tough to hit in a sense," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "A lot of pitchers that have consistent command, you can sit on a pitch. You can sit low and away, and they're going to be pretty much consistently low and away. Bushie kind of pitches to the whole zone, so to sit on one pitch is a little difficult because you might not get that pitch for one or two at-bats. "If you watch Bush, [the catcher] might set up in, and he throws it away for a strike. His stuff is very, very good, it's just refining command. When he's on like he was today, it's really, really difficult to get hits." Bush was aware that he was working on a no-hitter, and teammates didn't have to worry about disturbing him in the dugout as it stretched into the later innings. He typically retreats between innings to a small room just up the tunnel and sits quietly, waiting his turn at-bat or a return to the mound. "It's kind of my way of keeping myself focused and not caught up in the rest of the game," Bush said. "I stay focused on what I'm doing." He retired the first 15 Blue Jays hitters he faced before a leadoff walk in the sixth inning. He was still working on a no-hitter into the eighth, when Overbay led off for Toronto. He hit a slicing line drive to left field, where Ryan Braun attempted a diving catch but came up short. Overbay made it to third base with a triple, and Bush's no-hit bid was over. "I knew that if Braun was going to make the catch it was going to be an outstanding play," Bush said. "I guess I'd rather give it up on a nice, clean line drive than on a ground-ball single." An appreciative crowd of 35,173 offered a standing ovation for Bush, who knew he was bidding to make Brewers history. "I always know," he said. "Probably after the sixth I really started thinking about it, when the game was starting to wind down. I was just going to see what happened in the last couple of innings."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.