In a sometimes sticky season, Corbin Burnes has a grip on history.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ ace on Saturday night combined with reliever Josh Hader to pitch baseball’s record ninth no-hitter this season, breaking a mark set when pitchers began throwing overhand in 1884, as the Brewers beat the Cleveland Indians 3-0.
Months after the MLB clamped down on pitchers’ use of illicit foreign substances following a rash of early no-hitters, Burnes cemented 2021 as the “Season of the No-No” with just the second no-hitter in Brewers history.
“It was a masterpiece,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said.
Burnes (10-4) struck out 14 with a career-high 115 pitches over eight innings, taking a perfect game into the seventh, while overpowering the Indians, who were no-hit for a record third time this season. All of those came with starter Zach Plesac on the mound.
This time, Cleveland was stymied by Burnes — who has become a Cy Young contender as the Brewers run away with the National League Central — and Hader, one of the game’s top closers.
“Anyone would want to keep pitching in that situation, but if there was anyone I would want out there for the ninth, it would be Josh Hader,” Burnes said. “There were no nerves with him. It was more like a done deal when he came in.”
The right-handed Burnes was in control from the start, striking out 11 of his first 14 hitters and retiring the first 18 in order. After walking Myles Straw to start the seventh, the 26-year-old went through the eighth thanks to a diving catch by center fielder Lorenzo Cain on Owen Miller’s liner.
“I was definitely on my horse, ready to go get that one,” Cain said. “You need a little bit of everything to go right in a no-hitter.”
Juan Nieves pitched the Brewers’ previous no-hitter on April 15, 1987, against the Baltimore Orioles.
Arizona Diamondbacks rookie Tyler Gilbert had thrown the majors’ most recent no-hitter on Aug. 14, and the Chicago Cubs threw the only previous combined effort on June 24.
The other no-hitters this season were thrown by the San Diego Padres’ Joe Musgrove (April 9), Carlos Rodon of the Chicago White Sox (April 14), the Cincinnati Reds’ Wade Miley (May 7), the Detroit Tigers’ Spencer Turnbull (May 18) and the New York Yankees’ Corey Kluber (May 19).
Most of those gems were thrown before the league cracked down on the use of sticky foreign substances by pitchers in late June.
“I don’t think anyone’s going to be upset about putting a no-hitter in the books,” Burnes said.
The no-hitters by Miley and Rodon were both against Cleveland, as was a seven-inning no-hitter by Tampa Bay on July 7 that did not officially count in the MLB record book. Arizona’s Madison Bumgarner also had a seven-inning no-hitter in the second game of a doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves on April 25.
The Brewers completed this bit of history three days after Minnesota Twins rookie Joe Ryan retired the first 19 Indians batters in a 3-0 win at Progressive Field.
Plesac could not get his head around being on the wrong side of three no-hitters.
Prior to Saturday, Jim Perry was the only starter in baseball history to have his opponent throw a no-hitter three times in a career prior to Saturday, according to Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistician for the MLB.
“I don’t even know if that makes sense to me,” Plesac said. “That’s insane. I don’t know if it’s me or what.”
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