Blanco Blanks Blue Jays

Ronel Blanco lived up to his name, turning in the young season’s first no-hit game as the Astros romped 10-0 over Toronto. Blanco walked the first batter of the game and the next-to-last (both former Astro George Springer) but retired everyone else, as no Blue Jay reached second base. It was the 13th no-hit game by an Astro pitcher (11th at home), and the second time Houston has no-hit Toronto. More after the jump.

Blanco is the 10th pitcher from the Dominican Republic to pitch a no-hitter, and the third within a year, after teammate Framber Valdez last August and Domingo German‘s perfecto last June. Blanco becomes the 10th pitcher with a no-hit game in his season debut, including fellow Astro Ken Forsch in 1979. Blanco is also the 10th pitcher with a no-hit game in his team’s first 5 games of the season, including Jack Morris (1984) and Addie Joss (1910), in their second starts of those seasons.

Blanco’s no-no gives the Astros their first win of the season. That’s happened only three other times, most notably in 1940 when Bob Feller blanked the White Sox on opening day. Blanco’s gem comes in his 25th career game (8th start), the 26th pitcher with a no-hitter that early in his career, and the oldest of that group at 30 years, 214 days.

Some random observations on the new season.

  • As of this writing, road teams have held the upper hand, winning 34 of 55 games (a nifty .618 clip) for the month of March. That winning percentage for visiting teams is the highest since 1970, when the away team posted a .633 mark through the first four team games of the season. Better road winning percentages to start the season (first 4 team games) happened only in 1937 and 1928 (.667), and in 1913 (.656). The Pirates and Yankees led the road warriors, sweeping the Marlins and Astros respectively. They are the 38th and 39th teams since 1901 to open the season with four road games and win all of them. They are also the only franchises to do so on four occasions, with the Bucs also posting that result in 1903, 1983 and 2003, and the Bronxmen doing likewise in 1911, 1928 and 2003.
  • Luis Arraez went 0 for 6, one AB shy of the worst opening day oh-fer. He is the first defending batting champion to start the season that way. But, he has good company, with 10 HOFers and Mike Trout among the 66 players with an 0 for 6 or worse OD game. The HOF contingent includes Luis Aparicio, one of six players sharing the OD record 0 for 7 mark. Arraez is the fifth league batting champion (at any point in a career) to record an 0 for 6 on opening day, including George Brett who claimed the 1990 AL batting crown despite that inauspicious start. (Quiz: which player began an MVP season with an 0 for 6 on opening day?)
  • Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Nick Martini drove in 5 runs, the 62nd and 63rd times a player has posted a 5+ RBI game on opening day, including 31 times in the past 30 seasons. (Quiz: who is the only player with two such games?) Gurriel becomes just the 3rd player to do so for a defending league champion, joining Yogi Berra (1956 Yankees) and Placido Polanco (2010 Phillies). Gurriel’s D-Backs smoked the Rockies 16-1; the only larger opening day winning margin was in 1955 when the Yankees pummeled the Senators 19-1 (a game attended by our own Richard Chester).
  • Corbin Burnes, in his Oriole debut, allowed one hit and no walks to claim the victory over the Angels. He is the just the 3rd starting pitcher to win such a game on opening day, following John Means (2021) and Irv Young (1906), the latter a CG shutout. Burnes joins Johnny Cueto (2008) as the only pitchers to win a 1 hit, 0 walk, 10+ K start in a debut game for a new franchise.
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Richard Chester
Richard Chester
2 months ago

Quiz answer: Hanley Ramirez drove in 5 runs on opening day in 2009 and 2015.

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Ramirez was the Marlins leadoff hitter in 135 games in 2008 and batted 3rd in 145 games in 2009. Hence, the dropoff in Runs and increase in RBI.
Hanley Ramirez? Was that a Hall of Fame career that never materialized? 136 OPS+ in first 5 seasons; 113 for the balance (908 G).

Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

That was it, Paul. His PA changed as follows from 2008 to 2009: -Bases Empty: down 23% -Men On: up 47% -RISP: up 39% That said, he was much better driving in those men on base in 2009 than in 2008. His %RDI improved 55% from 2008 to 2009, from 12.4% to 19.2%. That was due in part to cutting down both his strikeouts and walks, resulting by itself in about 50 more balls in play in the latter season. As to Ramirez not fulfilling early career expectations, the Bill James career projection tool estimated a 79.5 WAR career after… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Doug
Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
2 months ago

The player who began an MVP season with an 0 for 6 line on opening day was Zoilo Versalles in 1965. He led off for the Twins in an unlikely opener that narrowly averted postponement. The event predates me by a couple years, but I heard the story often growing up.

Record flood levels cut off access to Bloomington for players living south of the swollen Minnesota River. Twins broadcast partner WCCO arranged to fly the players by helicopter, two at a time, from Burnsville to Met Stadium and then home again after the game.

https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/april-12-1965-twins-win-in-extra-innings-on-opening-day/

Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

Quite the story, Scary. Thanks for that contribution.

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
2 months ago

Thanks for your post, Doug. It’s good to have the season underway and be talking about baseball again. Before finding the answer above, I came across a near-miss: Versalles was Minnesota’s first AL MVP after its 1961 renaming and relocation from Washington. Four years later Harmon Killebrew would become the second. He began his 1969 campaign similarly, going 0 for 6 with a walk in 7 PA in his second game, following a 1 for 5 opener. Minnesota lost both games by identical 4-3 scores (in 12 and 17 innings, respectively) to the expansion Kansas City Royals. Killebrew hit .118… Read more »

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Was going to ask if that was the year Reggie had 33 homers at the All-Star break. Then I decided to stop being lazy and just look it up. I was wrong. He had 37 (thru 91 games), and just 10 more over his final 61 games.

Howard wasn’t far behind, with 34 HR thru 100 games. Killebrew had some ground to make up, with 28 homers (96 games).

Tom
Tom
2 months ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

Through 100 games, Reggie hit .294/.423/.729, 41 HRs, 86 RBI.
Over his last 52, he hit .241/.388/,390, 6, 32.

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom

Tom,
I believe “The Straw That Stirs the Drink” was being pitched around and, as a young star, just didn’t have the patience and went chasing pitches out of the strike zone trying to catch Roger Maris.

Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom

Reggie and Killer played quite different schedules in 1969, with the A’s having 19 double-headers, including 5 in August, while the Twins had only six for the season, and none in August.

So, Jackson had considerably more off days and double-dips, while Killebrew had a more consistent and predictable schedule, a regular routine that can help a player stay in the groove.

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago

Figured I’d post this…. I entered the Zoilo MVP trivia question into CHatGPT (3.5?) and, initially, it gave me A-Rod in 2003, next time Ripken in 1991, and the third time, Wilver Dornel Stargell in 1979. All, obviously, incorrect.
In another oddity, Stargell played in 10 of the Bucs’ first 14 games in 1979. They went 4-10 overall but a mere 1-9 in the games Stargell played

Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

The ’79 Bucs, ’91 Twins and the 1914 Miracle Braves are the only WS champs to start the season 4-10 or worse. The Braves were 3-11 and swept their WS over the A’s. The other two staged series comebacks to win in 7 games.

Last edited 2 months ago by Doug
Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

And, Mack sold off the A’s starting shortly after the 1914 WS loss.Did jack Morris make the Hall based off of Game 7 in 1991? There is a famous confrontation between umpire Bill Haller and Earl Weaver where Earl boasts that “I’m a Hall of Fame manager” and the umpire retorts something to the effect of, “Yeah, you’re the genius that blew two 3-1 leads in the World Series.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrhmUGRaOwY

Bob Eno
Bob Eno
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Only one 3-1 lead, Paul. 1979. In Weaver’s other 7-game loss, in 1971, the O’s blew a 2-0 lead, but were 2-3 and staved off defeat in Game Six before falling. The ’71 Series was the end (to this day) of an unusual pattern. In 1955, Brooklyn became the first team ever to recover from a 2-0 deficit and win. They lost the first two at the Stadium, won the next three at home, and lost Game Six at the Stadium: all six games won by the home team. Then the Bums pulled out Game Seven as visitors. The pattern… Read more »

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Eno

Bob,
Thanks for the correction. Bill Haller only references the prior season’s WS in the link. Believe it or not, you’re onto something here….there is some school of religious thought that time is circular.

Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Eno

For the seasons that the WS was a best-of-7 format (1905-18 and 1922-present), road teams hold a narrow 21-19 record in game 7 (counting the final game of the 1912 series as a game 7). None of the four best-of-9 series (1903, 1919-21) went the limit. The game 7 results have been very streaky. 1909-1947: 7-4 for home team 1952-1979: 13-3 for road team 1982-2011: 9-0 for home team 2014-2019: 4-0 for road team Other notes: extra-inning games: 4-1 for home team 1-run games: 8-7 for home team 2-3 run games: 9-5 for home team 4+ run games: 9-2 for… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Doug
Bob Eno
Bob Eno
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

When I woke up this morning I realized I’d made a mistake (why should this morning be different?). I wrote, “In 1955, Brooklyn became the first team ever to recover from a 2-0 deficit and win.” That was true for a 7-game Series, but the 1921 Giants had done that in a best-of-nine Series, prevailing after losing the first two games to the Yankees.

I remember the distinction being much discussed at the time–I guess there were still plenty of folks around then who recalled the ’21 Series.

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago

In 1916, Babe Ruth pitched 323.6667 innings of zero ( 0 ) home run baseball. Is this a record for the most homerless innings pitched in a single season in the modern era? Any idea?

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

For the years 1901 to date Walter Johnson had 369.2 such IP in 1916. Also ahead of Ruth are Jack Coombs with 353.0 IP in 1910 and Ed Killian with 331.2 IP in 1904. From 1920 to date the leader is Allen Sothoron with178.1 IP in 1921.

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago

Thank you! I believe when Guidry threw 9 shutouts in 1978, he tied Ruth’s 9 shutouts as the most in a single season by an AL left-hander?

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Yes, they each had 9 shutouts and it is the seasonal record for an AL lefty.

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago

Thanks again!

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
2 months ago

Of topic here. I have noticed that there have been several games this season in which the Yankees had 5 players in their starting line-up whose first name began with the letter A. They are Aaron Judge, Austin Wells, Alex Verdugo, Anthony Volke and Anthony Rizzo. My curiosity got the better of me and I created a spreadsheet to see if that is a record. I found that 5 is the record (not counting 2023 for which I have not yet entered into my spreadsheet). It has occurred 14 other times, all by the White Sox in 2011 and 2012.… Read more »

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
2 months ago

Should be Off topic.

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago

Richard,
How about “most Cubans” in a game, one team? The Phillies have taken heat for not integrating in a ‘timely’ fashion but, sometime in the 1960’s they acquired Tony Taylor from the Cubs, Octavio “Cookie” Rojas from the Reds, Tony Gonzalez from the Reds and Mexico-born Cuban Ruben Amaro from the Cardinals. Gotta figure that there had to be a game (particularly with Mauch managing) with Gonzalez in CF, Taylor at 2B, Rojas in LF, and Amaro at SS ?
Is this even searchable?

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

I think it might be searchable but it would be difficult using my methodology. It probably would be easy for a sports bureau.

Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Most Cuban-born players in a game is 5, by:
1967 Twins (6 games)
1966 Angels (1 game)
1961 Twins (1 game)
1955 Senators (2 games)
1944 Senators (2 games)

Seems like a consistent Griffith’s pipeline, even after the Cuban revolution.

The White Sox had 4 Cubans in a game 136 times over the 2020 to 2023 seasons.

Last edited 2 months ago by Doug
Richard Chester
Richard Chester
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

So it looks like Doug is a 1-man sports bureau.

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Thank you!! I didn’t look through the entire set of ’67 Twins’ games but in the 9/27/67 game versus the Angels, Carew (Panama) & Tovar (Venezuela) both appeared. So seven Latinos out of nine players on the field – pretty remarkable.

Bob Eno
Bob Eno
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

When I was a kid, the Senators were well known for relying on Latin players, and the reason, I later learned, was the role of scout/minor league owner Joe Cambria (the link’s to Wikipedia).

And the Senators may have been the Nationals in 1955, but they were known as the Senators. (Evidence: “Damn Yankees,” 1955: “The other six months out of every year / We are hardly ever seen apart, / But then the Washington Senators take over my place in his heart.”)

Doug
Doug
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Eno

So, everyone called them the Senators, but it took the team 52 years before they finally gave up on the Nationals nickname. Go figure. In contrast, it took the Phillies only two seasons to give up on a new, additional, nickname of the Blue Jays. No surprise the new name didn’t catch on, given the team’s logo for those two seasons. The uniforms showed even less commitment to the new name, with only a blue jay shoulder patch and new blue lettering of Phillies. Of course, it didn’t help that it was the still the same old Phillies, posting a… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Doug
Bob Eno
Bob Eno
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

I should actually modify my comment a bit. People also called the Senators the Nats in the mid-’50s (which is where my baseball memory starts). I could never figure out why. It seemed like calling Brooklyn the Bums or Pittsburgh the Bucs, but I didn’t know what ‘Nats’ referred to (gnats?–don’t think that occurred to me). . . . I just checked: Topps baseball cards used “Senators” from at least 1940 on, except in 1956, when Topps used “Nats/Nationals” for that one year (well, they had a special edition card in 1951 that used “Nationals,” but the regular ’51 cards… Read more »

no statistician but
no statistician but
2 months ago

Here’s an unforeseen and possibly unnoticed effect of the current approach to pitching: Among the top 1000 pitchers as gauged by pitching WAR, from Cy Young at 165.6 down to Drew Smyly (and six others) at 12.7, the only active pitchers under the age of 30 are these: Walker Beuhler, age 29, 13.5 WAR, on the DL since 2022 Corbin Burnes, age 29, 14.3 WAR Logan Webb, age 27, 14.4 WAR Shohei Ohtani, age 29, 15.1 WAR, but currently not pitching because of arm issues German Marquez, age 29, 15.9 WAR, on the DL since early 2023 Shane Beiber, age… Read more »