The no-hitter is one of the most notable achievements in baseball. A no-hitter can happen on any given night during the MLB season. The phrase, no-hitter, also goes by the phrase no-hit game and a no-n0. So what exactly does it mean, how can a pitcher achieve it, and more? Find out more below!
What is the Difference Between a No-Hitter and a Shutout?
When a pitcher takes the mound, the idea is simple: don’t let the batters achieve anything. Unfortunately for the pitcher, the batter has multiple ways to get on base. They can walk. They can get hit by a ball. And they can use the most popular method: they can score a hit.
Let’s look at some of the levels of pitching achievement at the highest level:
- A perfect game: A game in which a pitcher, or multiple pitchers, never allows a single batter to a base throughout the entire nine innings of the game. In this case, a walk would result in moving from a perfect game to a potential no-hitter. In Major League Baseball, this is one of the most elusive achievements. The last perfect game took place in 2012 with Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners. However, this blog post is as of 5-27-2021, so there may be a different answer.
- A no-hitter: The no-hitter is a little looser with the qualifications, which is why it happens more often. A pitcher can technically walk a player, allowing them to get to the base without ever throwing a hit in the game. But the same rules apply to no hits throughout nine innings of baseball. You don’t have to achieve a no-hitter through strikeouts, though. For example, a pitcher could theoretically throw nothing but fly-outs and still score a no-hitter. Other elements, like bases granted through errors, won’t count as hits.
- A shutout: Also an excellent defensive achievement, a shutout means a team didn’t allow another team to score a run. For example, if the Tigers generate ten hits against the Yankees but don’t score a run, it’s still technically a shutout, even if it’s not a no-hitter.
- A complete game: This refers to a pitcher lasting all nine innings with a team. With extra innings, it may refer to a pitcher closing out those innings, as well. A pitcher may allow hits, a home run (or more), and plenty of runs during this period. However, generally, a complete game is considered an achievement for endurance and quality; after all, a manager is more likely to send in a replacement if a pitcher is struggling.
As you get more specific about how those runs were avoided, you get to increasingly rare feats, especially when it comes to the pitching mound. MLB history is full of shutouts, of course, but then even fewer no-hitters, and so on.
In all three scenarios above, a shutout occurs, which is a tremendous defensive game, right?
Has Anyone Ever Pitched a No-Hitter and Lost?
Can you pitch a no-hitter and lose a game? The answer is yes, which may surprise fans. Ken Johnson of Houston Colt .45s—not yet the Houston Astros—once pitched a no-hitter in a losing effort. Here’s how it went down.
- The Colt .45s failed to get on base enough to win the game
- In the ninth inning, despite Ken Johnson’s efforts, several errors occurred that let the opposing team, the Cincinnati Reds, score
- Ken Johnson never allowed a hit, but it didn’t matter—the game was lost
True: it’s such a rare event that we’re still talking about the Cincinnati Reds and Houston all these years later. But through a series of errors, it’s possible for a pitcher not to allow a hit and for players to get on base. From there, it’s possible for the opposing team to win a no-hitter game, even if they’re the ones without any hits.
What Happens if the Game Goes Into Extra Innings?
Let’s say the Marlins are playing the Phillies. A pitcher for the Marlins has a no-hitter going into nine innings and finally gets the third out of the inning. Not only is it a shutout, but the starting pitcher has thrown a no-hitter through nine. However, what if the score remains 0 against 0?
Technically, you’ve thrown a no-hitter if you’ve allowed no hits in nine innings and won the game. But with extra innings, there’s still the possibility that you’ll allow a hit, which can technically break up the “no-hitter” effort. This fact is crucial to consider in the postseason, where extra innings can be that much more critical—and starting pitchers still throwing good stuff may be asked to remain on the mound.
What Season Has Had the Most No Hitters?
According to Baseball Almanac, there have been two seasons in which seven no-hitters throughout both halves of Major League Baseball: 1990 and 2015. However, the record belongs to the 1884 season, in which eight no-hitters were thrown. 2021 is off to a hot start and could surpass the record by the end.
Random Facts About No-Hitters
Major league history contains all sorts of legendary tales of no-hitters, near no-hitters, and no-hitters continued by a reliever or two. Here are some random facts about no-hitters that may surprise you:
- Playing for the Mets, Astros, Angels, and Rangers, Nolan Ryan holds the record for no-hitters, having thrown seven in his career.
- Legendary pitcher Sandy Koufax comes next-highest on the list, having thrown four no-hitters for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers.
- Playing for the Cincinnati Reds, Johnny Vander Meer is the only player to throw no-hitters in consecutive starts.
- Despite being “no-hit” by two pitchers for the Baltimore Orioles, the Detroit Tigers won a 2-1 victory on April 30, 1967.
- There have been outstanding pitching efforts in the World Series. Don Larsen, who pitched for the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, among other teams, pitched a perfect game and no-hitter in the 1956 World Series and won World Series MVP for his effort. While playing for the New York Yankees, a famous photograph of catcher Yogi Berra embraces him after the effort.
- 2005 was the most recent season in Major League Baseball history to have no no-hitters recorded.
- Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies threw two no-hitters in one season, one in regular-season play and one in postseason action.
- For whom the infamous pitching award is named after, Cy Young was the first pitcher for the Boston Red Sox to pitch a no-hitter.
- Kent Mercker of the Atlanta Braves threw one solo no-hitter effort for the Braves and contributed to another no-hitter with six innings of no hits allowed in 1991.
- After a seven-inning no-hitter, the Arizona Diamondbacks launched a promotional deal to celebrate Madison Bumgardner’s achievement.
- The Tampa Bay Rays have only had one no-hitter in history. The no-hitter took place when Matt Garza allowed no hits for the Rays in 2010.
- One pitcher even threw a no-hitter despite a lightning delay, with Oakland Athletics pitcher Mike Fiers throwing his second career no-hitter in 2019.
- There is a pitcher in the MLB (Spencer Turnbull) with a chance to equal Johnny Vander Meer’s achievement of two no-hitters in a row. Spencer Turnbull of the Detroit Tigers threw a no-hitter in May.
- Babe Ruth, a pitcher, didn’t throw a complete no-hitter himself, but he did contribute to a no-hitter. It was an argument with the umpire, resulting in Ruth’s ejection. The pitcher who came in to substitute for Ruth then retired the next 26 batters in order.
- The first opening day no-hitter took place between the Cleveland Indians defeating the Chicago White Sox in 1940.
- The most no-hitters for any expansion team since 1961 belong to the Houston Astros, most recently capped off in a no-hitter from star pitcher Justin Verlander.
- The Pittsburgh Pirates had an interesting no-hitter in 1997 when two pitchers combined for a no-hitter that involved extra innings. Francisco Cordova had technically thrown what would have been a nine-inning no-hitter if the Pirates had outscored their opponents in the first nine innings.
- The Colorado Rockies are still one of the only teams with one no-hitter, with Ubaldo Jimenez throwing one in 2010. However, Kyle Freeland came within two outs of throwing one for the Rockies in 2017.
- It took the San Diego Padres over 8,000 games before the franchise had a no-hitter. This one was thrown by Joe Musgrove, who played high school baseball near the Padres home.
- Bud Smith of the St. Louis Cardinals was only pitching his 11th career start when he threw a no-hitter for the Cardinals in 2001.
- The most recent no-hitter for the Baltimore Orioles belongs to John Means. John Means threw one in May of 2021, ending a streak of almost 30 years for the Orioles.
- Carlos Rodon of the White Sox threw the most recent no-hitter for the franchise and was on track to a perfect game when one pitch struck a hitter in the foot.
Conclusion about No-Hitters
In conclusion, a no-hitter happens when a pitcher does not allow any batter to reach base via a hit. However, a pitcher can walk hitters since that does not count against the no-hit bid. If a pitcher does not allow anyone to hit and or reach base over nine innings, a perfect game happens.
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