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Gary Armida's Blog
The Rarest No-HitterPosted on June 11, 2012 at 07:09 AM.
Another week, another no-hitter in Major League Baseball. Well, it’s not exactly one per week, but the Seattle Mariners added 2012’s fourth no-hitter of the season on Friday night. In the modern era, 1990 and 1991 are the seasons with the most no-hitters thrown with seven thrown each season. Just three away from the modern record, 2012 may not be the Year of the Pitcher, but it could be the ‘Year of the No-No’. The beauty of the no-hitter is that it is not reserved for the elite pitching. Any pitcher, from a journeyman, to a rookie, to a superstar can throw one. And, it can elude even the game’s most dominant hurlers. It is one of the areas of baseball that cannot, nor will it ever be, broken down into a number.
2012 has already shown all of the magic about the no-hitter. Philip Humber, a once top prospect who was included in the Johan Santana trade to the Mets, was viewed as a disappointment until last season when he put together a better than league average season. Jered Weaver is a legitimate ace, who rarely, if ever, breaks 90 MPH. A night like May 2nd was expected for him. Santana’s no-hitter was likely expected a few years ago, not the season after his two year recovery from shoulder surgery. Friday night, exactly a week after Santana’s historic night, Kevin Millwood, the 37 year old right hander who has compiled one of the more odd careers, started an eventual no-hitter.
When Kevin Millwood made his Major League debut with the Braves, he was supposed to be the next guy in the Braves’ rotation. He was supposed to be the fresh blood to carry on the tradition of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. His age 22 and 23 seasons were slightly better than average, but they were promising enough given his age. At age 24, he finished third in the Cy Young Award voting after compiling an 18-7 record with a 2.68 ERA and averaging a league low 6.6 H/9 and 0.996 WHIP.
That promising season began the odd pattern of Millwood’s career. He posted two league average seasons in 2000 and 2001 before finishing his career in Atlanta with an 18 win, 3.24 ERA season. He was traded to the Phillies in a swap for catcher Johnny Estrada the following winter. After two league average seasons in Philadelphia, he signed a free agent deal with the Cleveland Indians and promptly led the league in ERA in 2005. That was followed by three below league average seasons, then a season very solid 2009, and capped off by a 16 loss 2010 season. Last year, he made just 9 starts for the Rockies; he had to win a rotation spot out of Spring Training with the Mariners for this season. All of that promise was shown in glimpses. He even had a magical night in 2003 when he pitched a no-hitter as a member of the Phillies.
Millwood has been a pleasant surprise for the Mariners this season. On Friday night, Millwood used six different pitches--a four season, two seam, and cut fastball, a curve, slider, and changeup--to weave his way through 6 no-hit innings. He struck out 6 Dodgers and walked just 1. But, as Millwood came out for the seventh, he couldn’t complete his warmup pitches. He walked off the mound with a groin injury and left it to the bullpen to finish the last nine outs. The man who compiled 16 years filled with promise and despair added yet another odd moment.
It certainly wasn’t a moment that hasn’t been seen before. The Mariners became the 10th team in Baseball history to finish off a combined no-hitter. That doesn’t sound so special but consider that there have actually been 21 perfect games thrown in Baseball history. The combined no-hitter is actually the most rare of the no-hitters. The six Mariners pitchers used tied the record for most pitchers in a no-hitter, which was accomplished by the Houston Astros in 2003 against the Yankees.
In many ways, the pressure of the no-hitter was lifted off of Manager Eric Wedge when Millwood walked gingerly off the field. The game was scoreless heading into the seventh. Millwood has posted just two complete games in the past three seasons, with one of them being this season. After Millwood exited, Wedge was able to mix and match for the final nine outs. Charlie Furbush got two outs in the seventh, sandwiched between his own throwing error. Rookie flamethrower Stephen Prior got Juan Rivera on a strikeout to end the inning. Prior then walked two batters to begin the 8th. Wedge summoned southpaw Lucas Luetge to face Loney, who successfully sacrifice bunted. Brandon League came on to get the two most important outs of the game. Tom Wilhemsen got the final three outs for the save and to complete the no-hitter.
Prior was credited with the victory, the first of his Major League career. He is the third pitcher since 1901 to get his first victory in a no-hitter, joining Bobo Holloman and Wilson Alvarez. Millwood is just the fourth pitcher in Major League history to have pitched a complete game no-hitter and then be a part of a combined no-no. He joins Vida Blue, Mike Witt, and Kent Mercker. Catcher Jesus Montero is the youngest catcher to catch a no-hitter since Ted Simmons caught Bob Gibson’s no-hitter in 1971. Montero is the 7th youngest catcher to catch a no-hitter.
The Mariners also become just the second team since 1992 to have a no-hitter thrown against them and to pitch a no-hitter in the same season. They were the victims of Humber’s perfect game. The fact that they had a perfect game pitched against them makes them just the second team since 1901 to have a perfect game thrown against them and to pitch a no-hitter (the 2010 Rays were the other team).
Even more rare is the fact that this is just the fourth time since 1900 that the team with the best record in Baseball was no-hit. The Dodgers were the first victim since 1990 when Nolan Ryan no-hit the Oakland A’s. The Dodgers were also the Mariners’ 30th shutout victim in Interleague play. The Mariners 30 interleague shutouts are eight more than the next best total.
2012’s fourth no-hitter may have been its most interesting. It had so many of the elements that make the sport what it is. It had a veteran who fought his way into the rotation with a good spring. That veteran had so much promise at the start of his career, only to have a career filled with brief glimpses of fulfillment. Even last night was symbolic of what could have been for Millwood. The game gave the Mariners likely future closer Stephen Prior some work in a pressure filled game. Six Mariners pitchers made history. In a 1-0 game, the bullpen was able to work under that pressure. And, it gave us the most rare form of a no-hitter.
Only Baseball can give us these types of moments. Only Baseball can have the same feat accomplished in so many different ways by some many different types of pitchers. 2012 is now halfway to housing the record for the most no-hitters thrown during a season. The best part of a no-hitter is that we don’t know when another could happen. This could be the last one thrown this season. Or, we really could be halfway towards a new record. That’s the beauty of it. That’s what makes it so special. We’ll just have to watch and wait.
BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
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