Bush flirts with history with near no-no

Bush flirts with no-no vs. Phils

PHILADELPHIA -- Juan Nieves' place in the Brewers' record books remains safe.

Phillies pinch-hitter Matt Stairs, who spent a season in Milwaukee in 2002, denied Dave Bush's bid for a no-hitter when he clanked a home run off the right-field foul pole with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning. Instead of celebrating Milwaukee's first no-hitter since Nieves accomplished the feat 22 years ago, Bush and the Brewers celebrated a 6-1 win at Citizens Bank Park and their first back-to-back wins this season on Thursday.

Bush (1-0) grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and was pitching Thursday in front of a fan club that included his parents, longtime Phillies season seatholders, his sister and his wife, Carrie. He worked to within five outs of blanking his boyhood team.

"It's fun," Bush told the crowd of reporters waiting at his locker. "It's a unique situation, so I try to enjoy it as much as I can."

Fun? Some would expect a certain level of stress for a pitcher trying to preserve a no-hitter.

"It's a lot more fun than getting your butt beat," Bush said. "Giving up line drives all over the place is not fun. This was a situation where I was able to kind of control the game and throw a lot of strikes, and those are the games that are fun to pitch."

Ryan Braun lined a two-run home run, Prince Fielder hit a three-run double and Bill Hall added a solo homer in support of Bush, but Hall's defensive gem in the bottom of the eighth inning stood out. Hall ranged into foul territory for a Greg Dobbs grounder and fired a long strike to Fielder at first base for the first out of the eighth inning. The play had Hall, Braun and other Brewers believing that Bush was about to make history.

"When you get a play like that during a no-hitter, everybody starts to feel a little bit of momentum, like it's actually going to happen," Hall said.

Added Braun: "When Billy made that play, I really thought it was going to be [Bush's] day, our day. It almost happened."

Stairs made sure it didn't happen. He launched a 3-and-1 cut fastball down the right-field line that banked off the foul pole for a solo home run, preserving Nieves' distinction as the only Brewer to pitch a no-hitter in the franchise's 40-year history. Nieves, a left-hander, was the second-youngest pitcher to do so when he blanked the Orioles in Baltimore on April 15, 1987, at age 22.

Stairs' home run robbed a neighbor of history. Bush was born in Pennsylvania, and Stairs in New Brunswick, Canada, but they are the only two Major League players who reside in Maine during the offseason.

"I know he is an aggressive hitter, and he was trying to just make a hard swing, like always," Brewers catcher Mike Rivera said of Stairs. "As soon as he hit it, I was like, 'OK, maybe it's going to hook.' But it stayed straight. He hit it pretty good, so you have to give some credit to him, too."

Had Stairs broken up a no-hitter before?

"In that situation? No," he said. "I've broken up a lot of no-hitters in the first inning."

After Stairs' home run, Bush retired Jimmy Rollins and surrendered a single to Shane Victorino before he was replaced by reliever Mitch Stetter to finish the game. In 7 2/3 innings, Bush was charged with one run on two hits with three walks, two hit batsmen and four strikeouts. He threw 113 pitches in front of a large group of family and friends that included his parents, Tom and Rita, who have held Phillies season tickets since 1992. Bush has fond memories of attending games at old Veterans Stadium.

Television cameras followed emotions in the Bush cheering section as the innings wore on.

"I wish they wouldn't have," Tom Bush said with a smile. "Dave kind of likes to stay under the radar, and we respect his wishes that way."

Dad declined to say more about his 29-year-old son's outing. Maybe that was fitting for the soft-spoken right-hander, who is 34-31 in three-plus seasons since a trade from Toronto to Milwaukee, and he has ranked among the National League's five best pitchers in terms of limiting baserunners (as measured by WHIP; walks plus hits per inning pitched) in two of the past three seasons.

"I've got a lot of confidence in his stuff," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "As the day went on, he just kept making his pitches."

The Brewers took the series, two games to one, thanks to their first back-to-back wins of the season. They scored their first series win in Philadelphia since May 26-28, 2006.

Braun was still in the Minor Leagues then, but he put together a smashing series this week. He went 2-for-3 on Thursday with a pair of walks and was 8-for-10 in the series, with three home runs, five runs scored and six RBIs. He reached base in 12 of 14 plate appearances.

"Probably the best series I've had as a professional," Braun said. "I'm really not a big believer in momentum, but confidence-wise, this series really helped."

Braun's homer snapped a scoreless tie in the fourth inning against Phillies starter Cole Hamels (0-2), who left the game one batter later when Fielder smoked a line drive off the left-hander's pitching shoulder. Fielder's double came the following inning against reliever J.A. Happ, and Hall added insurance in the eighth with his first home run of the season.

Fielder expressed some regret about knocking Hamels out, but the slugger was hit back in the ninth inning, when Phillies closer Brad Lidge caught him with a pitch.

"I can't remember a time when we came into Philly and took two of three games, so hopefully this is the start of something," Hall said.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.