Oriole left-hander John Means no-hit the Mariners, facing the minimum 27 batters, with the only baserunner reaching on a strikeout on a wild pitch (he was erased attempting to steal). An “imperfect” complete game, with 9 IP, exactly 27 batters faced, and no hits, walks or hit batsmen, had been achieved only once previously, by Terry Mulholland for the Phillies against the Giants on August 15th, 1990, with the only batter reaching on an error and erased by a double play. More after the jump.
Means whiffed a dozen Mariner batters en route to his no-no, good for a 99 game score, tied with Lucas Giolito last season for the second highest total in a no-hit game, and trailing only 44 year-old Nolan Ryan‘s 101 score against the Blue Jays thirty years ago, on May 1st, 1991. Means’s only baserunner came with one out in the third inning, as Mariner outfielder Sam Haggerty swang through a 1-2 offering that Oriole catcher Pedro Severino couldn’t corral. It was the first no-hitter by an Oriole in many a season, 52 to be exact, going back to Jim Palmer against the A’s on August 13th, 1969 (Palmer was apparently running on fumes at the end, walking the bases loaded in the 9th before recording the final out of an 8-0 whitewash). Means becomes the 23rd pitcher, and second this season (after Joe Musgrove), to throw a no-no in his first career CG (Oakland’s Mike Fiers is the only pitcher to throw no-hitters in the first two CGs of a career; Hisashi Iwakuma in 2015, Philip Humber in 2012, Jonathan Sanchez in 2009, Bud Smith in 2001, and Bobo Holloman in 1953 are the only retired pitchers with a no-hitter in the only CG of their careers).
Means had been stingy in the hit department even before his no-hitter, with 21 hits allowed in 37 IP as he took the mound in Seattle. Upping his IP to 46, Means’s current 4.1 H/9, 0.674 WHIP, 4 wins and 1.000 W-L% all lead the junior circuit. If you want to score against Means, you’d better go deep, as 5 of the 7 runs he has allowed this season have come on home runs, all solo shots.
Means’s no-hitter is the third of this young season, following Joe Musgrove on April 9th and Carlos Rodon on April 14th. It’s the first time since 1969 that there have been three no-hitters this early in the season (in a team’s first 31 games), and only the third time since then with a pair of no-hit games in the early going. The 1969 season, despite being the first with a lowered mound and smaller strike zone, would finish with six no-hitters, then the record high for a season that has been exceeded since only by the seven no-hit games in 2015. Two of this season’s no-hitters have been by southpaws, one shy of the season record established in 1962 and equaled in 1990.
Two days after Means’s near perfect game, Reds’ lefty Wade Miley tossed the fourth no-hitter of this young season. Thus, 2021 joins 1962 and 1990 as the only seasons with three no-hitters by southpaws. It was Cincinnati’s 30th game, so there have now been four no-hit games within a team’s first 31 games; the only season with more was 1917 when there were five no-hit games in the early going. Cleveland was Miley’s victim, as they were for Carlos Rodon’s no-no earlier this season; the Indians join the world champion 1917 White Sox as the only teams to be no-hit twice in their first 31 games. As with Joe Musgrove’s no-hitter, Miley took the measure of an inter-league opponent; 2021 thus become the first season with no-hitters in two inter-league games.
Less than two weeks later, and it’s now the right-handers who have caught the no-hit bug. First, it was Detroit’s Spencer Turnbull (who led the majors with 17 losses in 2019) following Means with a no-no in Seattle. The next night saw Corey Kluber and the Yankees set down the Rangers in Texas. That brings the season total to six no-hitters in 9 inning games (plus one in a 7 inning double-header game). Those six no-hit games have come at the expense of only three opposing clubs, with the Mariners and Rangers now joining the Indians with a pair of no-hit losses; it’s the first time that three clubs have been no-hit twice in the same season (the Dodgers and Mets in 2015 is the only other time two clubs have suffered this fate). Seattle (2019, 2021) joins Detroit (1967, 1973) as the only teams to be no-hit twice (incl. team no-hitters) in two different seasons. For the Mariners, it’s their ninth no-hit game (four by their pitchers of which one was a team no-hitter, and five against their batters of which two were team no-hitters) in the past 10 seasons, and third baseman Kyle Seager has played every inning of all of those games.
With four no-hitters so far this month, May 2021 joins June 1990 for the most in any calendar month. Four no-hitters in 15 days falls just short of the record of 13 days, set in 1917 with no-hit games on April 24th and May 2nd, 5th and 6th. It’s the fourth time with no-hitters on consecutive days, after the 1917 Browns (against the ChiSox), the 1968 Cardinals and Giants (against each other) and the 1969 Astros and Reds (against each other). Dave Stewart for the A’s, and Fernando Valenzuela for the Dodgers, have the only same day no-hitters, on June 29, 1990.
Turnbull joins the list of pitchers with a no-hitter in the first CG of their careers. Turnbull’s season marks of 6.6 H/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 2.88 ERA as the took the mound in Seattle are easily the best of his career, an indicator of the talent the Tigers saw in their young right-hander when he was sent to the hill 30 times in his 2019 rookie season, compiling a forgettable 3-17 record, the lowest W-L% (.150) by far in a 30 start season with ERA+ of 100 or more (you have to go down to Ross Baumgarten‘s* .143 in 23 starts in 1980 to find a lower mark). So, give Turnbull credit for surviving that baptism of fire, and kudos to the Tigers for recognizing his underlying talent and sticking with the youngster.
Kluber’s no-hitter, the first of his career, is especially sweet for a pitcher most had written off after making just 8 appearances over the past two seasons. At age 35, Kluber is the oldest pitcher to record a first no-hitter since David Cone‘s perfecto in 1999 (which just happens to be the last no-hitter by a Yankee). Kluber’s no-no in Texas breaks a run of 7 straight regular and post-season Yankee no-hit games at home; Allie Reynolds in 1951 was the last Yankee with a no-hitter away from Yankee Stadium. In beating the Rangers, Kluber joins Terry Mulholland in 1990, and Ray Caldwell in 1919, as the only pitchers to no-hit the team they pitched for the season before.
* That 1980 season started the baby-faced Baumgarten on a 7-26 (.212) run for his final three seasons, the lowest W-L% since 1901 for any pitcher with 50 starts for those seasons of a career. Baumgarten had posted a 15-10 record (.600) over his first two seasons in 1978-79.
The season record for no-hitters has been tied by Arizona rookie left-hander Tyler Gilbert. This is the fourth no-hitter of the year by a lefty, a new record for a major league season. In the first start of his career, Gilbert set down the Padres in a tidy 102 pitches, with 5 strikeouts and 3 walks, while facing only one batter over the minimum, thanks to a pair of double-plays. Early on, it didn’t seem that Gilbert would last 9 innings, no-hitter or not, with 44 pitches over his first 3 innings, not a huge total but certainly not a pace that would normally allow a rookie to go the distance. Gilbert reduced that to 29 pitches for his next three innings, but an 8 pitch battle against Tommy Pham, who walked leading off the 7th, might have signaled that the end was near. However, the other Padres failed to take a cue from Pham, and Gilbert needed just 10 pitches to get the next six outs, including a 3 pitch inning in the 8th. Gilbert finished his gem striking out the first two in the 9th, both looking, before getting Pham to line out to center on the first pitch.
A no-hitter in the first start of a career has happened only one time before, by Bobo Holloman in 1953. Like Holloman**, Gilbert paid his dues in the minors, reaching the majors for the first time this season, after 6 years in the Phillie and Dodger organizations. Before his no-hitter, Gilbert had not made a professional start since the 2017 season, and hadn’t pitched regularly as a starter since 2016. For the D-Backs, it was the third no-hitter in franchise history, after Edwin Jackson (2010) and Randy Johnson (2004), but the first at home. For the Padres, this was their 9th time being no-hit, including 6 times this century. Seven of those earlier no-hitters were by name pitchers, but the eighth was at the hands of another rookie southpaw, Bud Smith of the Cardinals in 2001.
** Holloman, age 30, pitched for the Browns in their final season in St. Louis, after 7 years in the minors. He went 2-6, 5.82 after his no-hitter, was back in the minors before the year ended, and retired after one more minor-league season. One of Holloman’s starts was against the A’s on June 26th. Holloman was relieved in the bottom of the 7th by Satchel Paige and, in the top of the 8th, Bobo Newsom came on to pitch for the A’s, making the combined age of the two pitchers a whopping 92 years, 307 days, likely a record for two pitchers in a game at the same time.