It started with the dominance of a starting pitcher who struck out 14 batters, it was preserved with a thrilling midfield grip, and it ended with a reliever thanks to increasing pitching counts. But Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers combined to create a masterpiece in a 3-0 win over Cleveland, helping to set a single-season scoring record.
Burnes was comically dominant for most of the game, recording at least one strikeout against all but one Cleveland hitter. He was perfect in six innings and his only flaw was a starting walk to start the seventh. Burnes almost gave up a hit with two strikeouts in the eighth, but center fielder Lorenzo Cain pulled off a terrific sliding catch on an Owen Miller liner to keep the offer going without a hitting.
With that, however, Burnes received a handshake from manager Craig Counsell and his night was over as he had hit 115 throws – seven more than he had thrown in any other start this season.
Burnes was optimistic after the game, acknowledging that keeping him healthy for the playoffs was more important than individual achievement. But if it was his choice, he would have liked to stay. “I think anyone would want to keep throwing in this situation,” he said.
Hader came in for Burnes in the ninth and put the team out in order, striking out two strikes and getting good defensive play from first baseman Jace Peterson who crushed a pop-up in foul territory. .
The combined effort was the ninth without a hitting of the season, breaking the tie with 1884 for the most in one season. A three-game no-strike record against Cleveland, Zach Plesac having started all three games for the Indians.
The wave of non-hitters this season has raised questions as to why these seem to be happening at such an extraordinary rate.
Who threw a hit this season?
Kind of! Bumgarner, the former ace (and three-time World Series winner) of the San Francisco Giants shutout Atlanta on April 25 and did not allow any hits in the process. But due to the doubles rules developed last season, play was limited to seven innings. A 1991 decision to eliminate rain-shortened non-hitters and other oddities made pitching at least nine full innings a requirement for a play to be recognized as a non-hitter. Rather, Bumgarner’s play will be classified as a “notable achievement”.
“I didn’t allow any hits today,” Bumgarner said. “I don’t control the number of innings we play.”
What’s going on?
A number of factors are at play which lead to the increase in the number of players without hitting. Chief among these is the emphasis on power pitching and hitters who have shown a willingness to sell contact in order to increase power. These factors, along with the surgical deployment of high-quality relief agents, have resulted in bizarre numbers across the board.
Teams were averaging 8.09 hits per game through Sept. 10 – the third lowest score since 1909, according to Baseball Reference – and were eliminating 8.72 times per game, the second-highest on record. As a result, hitters were hitting .243 and the score was down significantly for a second straight season.
Another factor to take into account is control. Saves are almost entirely a thing of the past – there have been 28 this season, and there have been less than 40 in every season since 2015 – but starters who have pitched a hit this season have maintained their number of hits. low throws using remarkable control. Gilbert walked three hitters, Turnbull walked two, and Miley, Kluber and Burnes each have one. The other three pitchers who have pitched a hit this season haven’t allowed a single free pass. This was obviously not the case in the Cubs no-hitting combination, where each pitcher allowed at least one walk.
Factor in colder weather in April and May, new baseball, preponderance of banned substances before MLB crackdown, advanced defensive positioning and other changes in the game and that has apparently become a recipe for making non-hitters a common occurrence.
But you can’t rule out the simple variance. While the non-hitters arrive at a fairly predictable pace over long stretches of time, they often came in clumps and then went long stretches without one.
Do only the most dominant pitchers throw hits?
Barely. While Nolan Ryan was the most untouchable pitcher in major league history and threw a record seven without a hitter, other dominant pitchers failed to pitch one despite similar credentials – notably Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Steve Carlton and Grover Cleveland Alexander.
Current superstars who haven’t started one yet include Yankees’ Gerrit Cole, Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, Houston Astros’ Zack Greinke, and Mets’ Jacob deGrom.
Meanwhile, Mike Fiers, a somewhat uninspiring Oakland Athletics veteran, threw two.
Where are the perfect games?
With all of those hits, it would seem logical that a perfect game would be mixed, but baseball is in a weirdly long period without one. Carlos Rodon and John Means both came close to perfect this season, but Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners pitched baseball’s last perfect game on August 15, 2012. The nearly nine-year span is the longest between perfect games since the 13 year 7 day gap between the Catfish Hunter masterpiece on May 8, 1968 and Len Barker’s masterpiece on May 15, 1981.