In the wake of last night’s sterling hurling by the O’s and Rays, here’s a look back at the six previous Baltimore games in which both teams had 2 hits or less. (Why Baltimore games? Well, I could bluster, “Because history is written by the winners!” Or I could just note that Tuesday’s was the first such game in Tampa history.)
1981-09-01 — The next-to-last win in the career of Steve Stone, the reigning Cy Young Award winner. (Stone won his next start, but was rocked in the next two and dropped from the rotation for the stretch run. His final MLB appearance was mop-up duty in a 14-0 loss, allowing HRs to John Wockenfuss and Tom Brookens, and a farewell single to Alan Trammell.) Stone’s dueling foe was Glenn Abbott, one of the original Mariners and (despite a minuscule K rate) generally among the club’s few decent pitchers in their first 5 seasons. On this night, Abbott went the distance for the only time that year, but lost on a Rich Dauer double and a couple of groundouts.
1978-09-06 — El Tiante bagged his 201st victory with a 2-hitter, besting the same by the future El Presidente, who was beaten by Yaz‘s 378th HR (2,849th hit). That left Boston 4 games ahead with 24 to go … and headed home for a nice, restful 4-game set with the Yankees.
1971-07-30 — From the New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, p. 277:
“The absolute, theoretical minimum number of batters that a pitcher can face and be credited with pitching a complete game is thirteen. That can happen if a pitcher pitches four innings, gets twelve guys out, but surrenders a home run to the other hitter, while his team is being shut out, in a game that is stopped by rain at that exact point. And it has happened. In Baltimore on July 30, 1971, Dick Drago of the Royals faced thirteen batters, and got them all out except Frank Robinson, who homered. Jim Palmer stopped the Royals on two hits through five innings, the game was stopped by rain, and the Orioles won, 1-0.”
The defending champs had just completed a 3-game sweep of the upstart A’s, a feat they would replicate in October. Drago, perhaps best known for his 3 scoreless innings in Game 6 (the Fisk one), would finish his career as Glenn Abbott’s teammate on the ’81 Mariners.
1967-04-30 (1) — Steve Barber took a no-hitter and a 1-0 lead into the 9th, but with 2 outs and 2 on, a wild pitch scored the tying run. After finishing his 10th walk, Barber was replaced by Stu Miller, who induced a grounder that should have been the third out — but the throw to 2nd was dropped by the rookie Mark Belanger, his first career error, and the go-ahead run scored. Earl Wilson earned the 2nd of his 22 wins that year for Detroit. Ironically, Barber’s manager in this game — the one who pulled him, albeit justifiably, with a no-hitter going — was Hank Bauer, who spoiled his other best chance at no-hit glory.
1964-09-12 — Dueling 1-hitters by two guys I’ve never heard of! In his 3rd career start, O’s lefty Frank Bertaina was nicked only by a Doc Edwards double to start the 5th. KC’s Bob Meyer was making his 11th career start, his 5th for the A’s, the 3rd team of his debut season. The only hit off him was also a leadoff double, also by the opposing catcher, John Orsino; the pinch-runner came around on Bertaina’s sac bunt and a sac fly. The A’s threatened in the 9th with a walk and career-high 3rd SB by Rocky Colavito, but Bertaina set down the next three to complete the 1-hitter. Just 5 days earlier, Meyer had beaten the O’s 6-1 with a CG for the 2nd and last win of his career. He got rocked in his last 2 games of ’64 and didn’t resurface until 5 years later with the Seattle Pilots — where, in his first start for Seattle and in Yankee Stadium, he held his original team to 4 hits and an unearned run through 9 IP, but took no decision.
Meanwhile, Bertaina never quite lived up to the promise of that 1-hitter, but with the ’67 Senators he tossed 4 shutouts in a span of 9 games down the stretch, and wound up with a big impact on the pennant race. On Sept. 5, he lost to 2nd-place Boston as they stayed a half-game out. On the 12th, he beat 1st-place Minnesota, knocking them into a tie. He blanked the 1st-place Tigers on the 17th, then fell to them on the 22nd as they got back within one game. Finally, his whitewash of the White Sox on Sept. 30 eliminated them from the race. That’s 3 September wins against Boston’s challengers — 2 more than CYA winner Jim Lonborg had against those teams that month.
1956-06-21 — Another game with 1 safety apiece. Chicago’s Jack Harshman allowed no hits until a Gus Triandos double leading off the 7th, but Triandos ran himself out of the inning by trying to move up on a come-backer, and Harshman retired the last 9 men to complete the only 1-hitter of his career. Harshman had 4 shutouts in ’56, including this 2-hitter duel with reigning ROY Herb Score. Chicago’s only damage off Connie Johnson came on a 1st-inning walk and a steal by Jungle Jim Rivera — surely the only man to debut after his 30th birthday and still log over 4,000 PAs(?) — and a double by Nellie Fox. Johnson, a veteran of the Negro American League, had been dealt from the ChiSox to the Orioles just one month before, and had the club’s best ERA in each of 1956-57.