Once, Twice, 3 Times a No-No

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  Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Monday, September 2.  The Blue Jays knew Justin Verlander would be a challenge, but for the second time in 8 years they found him unhittable as he fired his third career no-no, with the Jays being his foil for the second time. 

 At 36, Verlander is pitching like a man 10 years younger, and pitching like a man possessed.  Before yesterday’s first pitch he already had a 16–5 record, the league’s best ERA and 243 strikeouts in 184 innings.  When the day was done, he had 14 more strikeouts and his third career no-hitter as his Astros beat the Blue Jays 2–0. His catcher Robinson Chirinos thought he saw something special while Verlander warmed in the bull pen before the game.  The catcher might do well to buy a lottery ticket.  Verlander, who had pitched his first no-hitter against the Brewers in 2007 and his second in 2011 against the Blue Jays whitewashed the Jays for the second time in their house. He was able to fire the no-hitter because he only walked one man, Cavan Biggio-the second hitter of the game.  After that, the Jays never had a chance. 

  To their credit, the Jays” pitchers had only allowed 5 base runners through 8 innings, none of whom had scored.  After a chat with manager AJ Hinch, Verlander knew he would be allowed to pitch the 9th and no more if the game went to extra innings. None of the Astros’ vaunted hitters came across in support of their ace–not George Springer, Yordan Alvarez, Michael Brandley, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, not even his catcher Chirinos.  When the Astros finally scored a run, it was the least of them-Abraham Toro, a man so unheralded he hasn’t even got a Wikipedia page yet. Toro slammed a 2-run home run giving his pitcher the runs he needed to cap off the no-hitter.      

 This effort puts Verlander in an extremely exclusive club.  Only Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, Cy Young and Larry Corcoran have 3 or more no-hitters to their credit.  Ryan has 7, Koufax 4, and Verlander with 3 now joins Feller, Young and Corcoran who threw his before 1900.  Verlander and Mike Fiers have the only two legitimate no-hitters of 2019, meaning they were the only pitchers in their no-hitters.  I have coined the term “dime store no-hitter” for what MLB calls a “combined no-hitter,” when two or more pitchers hold a team hitless.  Calling those games “no-hittters” is as bogus as most of the stats that have entered the game in the last decade or so.  Verlander isn’t the only man to toss a pair of no-hitters against the same team.  Addie Joss victimized the White Sox in 1908 and 1910.  More than a century later, Tim Lincecum registered two no-hitters against San Diego in 2013 and 2014.  But Verlander is the first man to no-hit the same team twice in their own house.  He no-hit the Jays back in 2011 when Verlander was still a Tiger, years before he would be shipped to Houston. Yesterday’s gem was the 65th no-hitter pitched in September.  No other month has seen so many no-hitters or even come close. June has seen 50 and May 49.  There are a few reasons why September has seen as many no-hitters as it has.  For one, teams that are eliminated tend to “mail in” games late in the season.  Second, September has traditionally been the month when players from the minors get a look.  If  they run into, say Max Scherzer as the Mets did in September 2015, the result is all too predictable. He not only threw a no-hitter, he struck out 17 Mets, 3 more K’s than Verlander put up yesterday.  Scherzer’s 17 ties him with Nolan Ryan for most strikeouts in a no-hitter. While he hasn’t a chance of reaching 300 wins for his career, yesterday’s performance went a long way toward punching Verlander’s ticket to Cooperstown within the next decade or so.       

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