Almost Perfect: John Means no-hits the Mariners UPDATED AGAIN

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.

Postscript

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.

Post-Postscript

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.

Post-Post-Postscript

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.

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JDV
JDV
5 months ago

What a gem! I tuned in on mlb.com in the 6th inning, and couldn’t figure out how the Mariners had 0 H, 0 BB, but 1 CS, until I looked at the play-by-play. Means was unbelievably strong to the end…92 / 93 on his fastballs, and great locations on his change-ups. Not only had it been 52 seasons since an Oriole pitcher threw a CG no-hitter, but Means is also the first Oriole LHP ever to do so. As a life-long Oriole fan, and a proud lefty, that’s a big deal. Dave McNally was my first favorite Oriole, and the… Read more »

Doug
Doug
5 months ago
Reply to  JDV

Thanks for sharing, JDV. Barber’s game was the first of only three with a starter pulled from the game after 8+ hitless innings. In each case, his team lost the game. https://stathead.com/sharing/Z6bd1 Excluding the games above, a starter has been pulled from a game after 7+ hitless innings on 13 occasions, 11 of them since 1990. The pitcher left the game leading or tied in 12 of those 13 games. If the 7 inning double-header game remains beyond this season, will probably have to acknowledge those no-hit games as well, the first coming on April 25th this season by Madison… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Doug
JDV
JDV
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug

I was just reading about Clay Kirby’s game last week after Musgrove broke the ‘Kirby Curse’. It seems like keeping Kirby in would have given his team a much better chance of winning than keeping Barber in his game.

Ironically, Don Wilson was also just in the news, as his was one of the three early-season no-hitters in the 1969 season that you also referenced above.

Count me as hoping the 7-inning double-header games do not continue past this season. I understand it under the circumstances, but not beyond. And please…please, no more extra-inning free baserunners beyond this season.

JDV
JDV
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug…I tried to reply with a copy and paste of what I can see. Short answer is ‘no’, I could not see it in table format. Could just be my old hardware / software.

JDV
JDV
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug

This worked…thanks.

JDV
JDV
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug

I had read a similar take on the reaction to Gomez’ decision. I did not know about Kirby’s other near misses. He was a solid pitcher. The Padres had some good players from the expansion draft, but never got out of the cellar with them.

I found this story from 2013. Apparently, Ryan took a no-hitter into the 8th against the Orioles after no-hitting the Tigers in his previous start (1973).

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/9362022/nolan-ryan-came-close-matching-johnny-vander-meer

Doug
Doug
5 months ago
Reply to  JDV

I see that Dave Stieb did it too, on Sep 24th and 30th, 1988. Two one-hitters, both hits coming with two outs in the 9th.

Stieb had another one-hitter earlier in the 1988 season, and followed that up with two more one-hitters and one two-hitter in 1989. Finally got his no-hitter in 1990.

More Stieb trivia: in the first win of his career, in 1979, he gave up a hit to Paul Molitor; in the last win of his career, in 1998, he gave up a hit to Paul Molitor.

Last edited 5 months ago by Doug
JDV
JDV
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug

I was thinking that there was another familiar one, but I couldn’t come up with it. Stieb was an outstanding pitcher. I remember being amazed by that stretch of dominance. And those were really his last three seasons of a great career.

Nice trivia piece there too. Stieb’s last win was also five years after his second-to-last-win, as he made an age-40 comeback after being out of the game for that long.

Doug
Doug
5 months ago
Reply to  JDV

That age 40+ comeback after 4 years out of the game is probably unique. Dizzy Trout did the same, on paper, but it wasn’t a real comeback; 25 lbs over his playing weight, he faced only 5 batters over two appearances, retiring just one.

Mike L
Mike L
5 months ago

Means doesn’t throw particularly hard, and neither did Mulholland. Of course “hard” seems to have defined upwards by ten miles an hour, but maybe there’s an article about soft-tossing no-hit pitchers? Or soft-tossing left-handed no-hit pitchers.

Paul E
Paul E
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

Mike L
IIRC, back in the early 1990’s, Mulholland threw in the low 90’s, which was pretty decent for a LHP. When he was interviewed after throwing the no-hitter, he said something along the lines of, “geeze, I’m just a guy from Uniontown. This is unbelieveable”. He was genuinely thrilled.
I believe he didn’t imbibe but was, curiously enough, a chain smoker?

Mike L
Mike L
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Paul, good stuff. My only extended first-hand memories of Mulholland was his wincingly bad 1994 with the Yankees. BTW, career SO per 9 of 4.6. Pitched for 20 years, 11 different teams, 11.1 cumulative BWAR in that time. The very definition of mediocre.

JDV
JDV
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

Give me that badge of mediocrity for 20 seasons of MLB, to include a no-hitter. Any other takers?

Mike L
Mike L
5 months ago
Reply to  JDV

JDV, I’d be happy to play baseball for 20 years. But averaging one half WAR a year is mediocre

Mike L
Mike L
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Four year “Peak” he had an aggregate 10.5 WAR. 16 other years, an aggregate of .6. Impressive longevity.

Paul E
Paul E
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

He threw left-handed and spent a lot of time specializing in one-batter situations? I guess some of these Lh’ers hang on forever

JDV
JDV
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

I wouldn’t call a 92-93 MPH fastball, maintained throughout the game, soft-tossing. Combine that with one of the best change-ups in the game and you’ve got a guy at or near the top of the rotation on any team. Means has really become an excellent pitcher.

Mike L
Mike L
5 months ago
Reply to  JDV

I’d be happy to have Means. Fine pitcher. He’s at the top or near the top of most rotations in the game, and I wasn’t trying to diminish him. My point, which I’ve managed to bury, is that he isn’t among the hardest throwers, and, I’d be interested to see how “no hit” pitchers sort themselves out, contextualized for era, of course.

JDV
JDV
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

Agreed. Koufax and Ryan get their own category, then it gets interesting.

Josh D
Josh D
5 months ago

Can we get an update for Spencer Turnbull?

Mike L
Mike L
5 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug, the way the season is going, you might as well just draft a template, and then fill in the names as each no-no becomes a yes-yes

Paul E
Paul E
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

Kluber? 9 GB 9 FB 9 SO …..alas, 1 BB

Doug
Doug
4 months ago

In the first game of a double-header at Yankee Stadium, 23 year-old Alek Manoah of the Blue Jays started and pitched six scoreless innings in his ML debut. Just the fourth visiting pitcher with such a career debut at the Stadium, after Luis Tiant (1964, CG w/11K), Billy Rohr (1967, CG one-hitter), and Vaughn Eshelman (1995, 6 IP). In Rohr’s game, the 21 year-old had a no-hit bid broken up with two outs in the 9th, prompting a cameo on the Ed Sullivan Show two days later! His next start was another CG win, this time allowing just one run,… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Doug
Doug
Doug
4 months ago

The Blue Jays bashed their way to 8 HR in blowing out the Red Sox 18-4 on Sunday (Jun 13th) at Fenway. It’s the most HR by a visiting team at Fenway, and the first time the Red Sox have allowed 8 dingers, home or away. Different story on Monday, in the fourth game of the wrap-around series, as Toronto was held scoreless until Vlad Jr. went deep (452 feet deep) with two outs in the 9th. He becomes the second visiting player to homer in four straight at Fenway in the same series (nobody will guess who the first… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Doug
Richard Chester
Richard Chester
4 months ago
Reply to  Doug

The only thing that prevented Joe DiMaggio from doing it in June 1949 when he returned to the game from his injury was the fact that it was only a 3-game series.

Paul E
Paul E
4 months ago

Richard,
An odd thing from June 28, 1949: The Phila A’s were in 2nd place behind the NYY, and ahead of the defending champion Indians and the Red Sox. For the season, the A’s finished 81-73 by going 52-25 at Shibe Park and 29-48 on the road. Gotta wonder if that 23 full game disparity is a record for a 154 game season

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

The 1945 A’s were 39-35 at home and 13-63 on the road with 3 ties,

Paul E
Paul E
4 months ago

Thanks Richard.
THAT is pretty bad. How does that kind of disparity happen? 13-63? Phewww, that stinks worse than Bridesburg

Mike L
Mike L
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Poor roster construction? What’s weird about the 45 A’s is that they had a comparatively small differential is runs scored between home and away (265/229) but a huge pitching difference: (368/270)

Paul E
Paul E
4 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

Theoretically, per Pythagoras, it’s 21-55 on the road and more like 37-37 at home. So, that’s somewhat less of a disparity of only 17 games difference between home and away. But, if you take the 8 game difference (between real results and Pythagoras) on the road and double it, that’s 16 games of bad luck! And, that would have to be some sort of terrific unlikelihood. Maybe bad in-game decisions by Mack?

Mike L
Mike L
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Connie Mack, born during the Civil War, managing at the end of World War II. Possible game had passed him by.

Doug
Doug
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

So, Mack was only a bad manager on the road?

If it was only one season, you might call it a fluke. But, twice in five years does make you wonder.

Mike L
Mike L
3 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Good question about Mack but, if the game was passing him by, he’d likely have more trouble on the road than on his home field, wouldn’t he? Lack of adaptability?

Bob Eno (epm)
Bob Eno (epm)
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

As I understand it, Mack’s in-game control had slipped away by the late ’40s and Al Simmons, who returned to the A’s as a coach in ’44, took care of keeping up with play on the field. Midway between ’45 and ’49, the ’47 A’s had a marginally winning season and identical home/away records. And in ’48 they were contenders at 84-68, with a road record twelve games better than at home (48-29 vs. 36-41)–they turned in that fine record despite a Pythagorean projection of 76-78 (sharp managing in Mack’s age-85 season, no?). I think it would take some detail… Read more »

Mike L
Mike L
3 months ago
Reply to  Bob Eno (epm)

Great stuff, Bob. I’d be interested in seeing a study of players who only played during wartime. Gerkin had 25 Ks in 102 IP (amazing, if you think about it).

Bob Eno (epm)
Bob Eno (epm)
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

Mike, I agree that the players who filled in to keep the game going and then were relegated to the Minors deserve more attention. Gerkin’s K/9 rate of 2.2 was low, but the league’s was 3.4, so his was not as surprising as it looks today. For comparison, the Yankee’s most valuable pitcher in ’45 was the ill-fated Tiny Bonham, whose rate was 2.1, and on the WS-winning Tigers, Stubby Overmire had a qualifying season at 2.0. Both Bonham and Overmire had positive career WAA beyond the War, so their viability in ’45 was not a fluke. It’s not till… Read more »

Mike L
Mike L
3 months ago
Reply to  Bob Eno (epm)

It’s funny, but when you read on MLBTR about a pitcher’s K rate, if it’s 1/3 below the league rate, it’s a big deal. But we are dealing with much bigger numbers, and, of course, the game has changed physically and strategically. Still amazes me that Babe Ruth held the record for most career Ks for decades, and is now 138th