Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Wednesday, May 8. His name isn’t Scherzer, DeGrom, Syndergaard or any of the pitchers my nephew is likely to have on his fantasy team. JAWS doesn’t even pronounce his name right. For the second time in his career, Mike Fiers (pronounced Fires) has thrown a no-hitter. He beat the Reds 2-0 late last night in arguably baseball’s worst venue, Oakland.
Fiers will be 34 in June. He’s been in the game since late in 2011. He was with the Brewers until a 2015 trade sent him to Houston. 3 weeks after the trade, he threw his first career complete game, a no-hitter against the Dodgers. He joined the Tigers as a free agent for part of the 2018 season but was dealt to Oakland. Until last night’s first pitch, he sported an ERA close to 7.0, 7 runs per 9 innings. Even with the no-no, his record is 57–58 and his ERA is north of 4. He’s been undistinguished from day 1. He hails from South Florida but didn’t get a scholarship to any of the state’s baseball powers–Miami, Florida or Florida State. He was a late draft choice, taken in the 22nd round by the Brewers. You learn fast in the minors that how much playing time a player gets depends a lot on where he was drafted, and a first- or second-rounder will get a lot more chances to fail than somebody picked in the 22nd round. Against the odds, what Elton John might call “the young man in the 22nd row” made the big stage. In spite of his record and his ERA, there were flashes as early as 2012. As a Brewer, Fiers took a perfecto into the 7th against the Reds, who were his foil last night. He had one of those nights a pitcher would rather forget on September 11, 2014. He sent the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton to the hospital with an 88-MPH pitch to the grill. Stanton called it a season after that, and Fiers had to write a check to the Commissioner’s office.
Fast forward to last night. The game started in unusual circumstances when a large bank of lights in left field failed to work. Trust Oakland, whose troubled Coliseum has changed names more often than a teenage girl changes boyfriends and should have been condemned decades ago. After a delay of an hour and a half, The two teams agreed to play in substandard conditions rather than wait to see if maintenance could get the lights fixed. The Reds went quietly before Fiers during the first 5 innings. In almost every no-hitter there’s at least one close call and Fiers’ “moment of truth” came in the 6th. The Reds’ vaunted slugger Joey Votto sent one toward the distant center field fence. Ramon Laureano leaped and caught it, keeping the no-no alive. Before Votto’s long blast, Jurickson Profar robbed Kyle Farmer of a hit by diving on the outfield grass. Fiers and Laureano had breakfast together earlier in the day. Somehow, I think the pitcher will buy his center fielder a steak sometime soon. After their valiant try in the 6th, the Reds sent their bats back to the clubhouse.
Fiers’ no-hitter happened to be the 300th in MLB history. James Paxton, then a Mariner but now an injured Yankee threw the last one, on May 8, 2018. Jake Arrieta, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are the 3 active pitchers other than Fiers with two notches on their belts for no-hitters. Arrieta’s second also came against the Reds in 2016. Other than Fiers, no pitcher has twirled no-hitters in his only 2 complete games. Other than the two no-nos, Fiers hasn’t registered an out after the 8th inning. Oddly enough, Fiers’ no-hitter came on May 7, Catfish Hunter’s perfecto on May 8 and Dallas Braden on May 9. Only baseball can come up with that. 25 men have 2 no-hitters. Some are memorable-Jim Bunning pitched one in each league and later went to Congress. Warren Spahn and Randy Johnson are in Cooperstown, as is Christy Mathewson. Homer Bailey and Steve Busby had 2 each before their careers were derailed by arm injuries. Technically Bailey is still active but he has all he can do to last 5 innings after all the insult done to his arm over the years. Don Wilson of the Astros had 2 before tragically dying at 26. Fiers joins this group following last night’s stellar effort.