Tribe’s Near No-No Extends Long Drought

The no-hitter is easily one of the most exciting events to witness on a baseball field and for those who follow the Cleveland Indians, it has been some time now since fans were treated to such an elusive piece of history.

A certain amount of talent and a degree of luck is involved in being able to walk away as an elite member of the “No-Hit Club” and the Indians very nearly added to that group on Thursday afternoon in a 5-1 victory over the Astros in Houston.

The day’s starter, Trevor Bauer, has shown a flare of being unhittable in the past, but luck was not quite on his side as some effective wildness led to a higher-than-desired pitch count after six innings, courtesy in large part to his five walks and career-high eleven strikeouts. None of the first nine batters of the game saw less than four pitches in their first trip through and high pitch counts to many batters continued throughout the game. After manager Terry Francona handed the ball to the third reliever of the game, lefty Nick Hagadone, in the bottom of the ninth, a solo one-out blast off of the bat of Jed Lowrie left the Indians two outs short of their first no-hitter since 1981.

The Indians’ current no-hit drought feels lengthy, especially when considering that a young franchise overall, the Florida/Miami Marlins, has already thrown five no-hitters as they begin their 22nd year in the Majors.

An Indians pitcher last threw a no-no on May 15th, 1981, when Len Barker added his name to the long list of pitchers to make a hitless start and the much shorter list of those who did it with perfection – 27 up, 27 down. Since that start, Cleveland has gone 33 years, eleven months, and some change since seeing a zero on the scoreboard in the opponent’s total hits at the end of the game.

The longest current drought makes the Indians’ look pathetic in comparison.

The San Diego Padres, born in 1969, have yet to throw a no-hitter in their history. Now in their 46th year as a MLB franchise, their streak is the fourth-longest in baseball history, trailing the 60 years of the Orioles/St. Louis Browns franchise from 1898 to 1958, the 58 years of the Philadelphia Phillies from 1906 to 1964, and the 50 years for the New York Mets from their inception in 1962 until the 2012 season.

The Milwaukee Brewers are next on the list after the Indians. It will be 28 years this week since the last no-hitter lobbed by a Milwaukee pitcher. On April 15th, 1987, Juan Nieves blanked the Baltimore Orioles. Mike Flanagan was the losing pitcher that day for the O’s, but in a little over four years, the late Baltimore pitcher would tag-team in relief with three other Orioles pitchers for a combined no-hitter against the Oakland Athletics. Dennis Eckersley would be the last pitcher of that day for the A’s; he tossed a no-hitter for the Indians in 1977.

During the Indians’ long dry spell, they have seen four separate no-hitters thrown against them.

On July 27th, 2011, Ervin Santana of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim struck out ten Indians batters en route to a 3-1 victory at Progressive Field in the first and only no-hitter in the stadium’s history. Cleveland’s lone run came in the first, as Ezequiel Carrera reached on error, stole second, advanced to third on a flyout, and scored on a wild pitch.

At Yankee Stadium on September 4th, 1993, the Indians were held hitless by New York pitcher Jim Abbott. Making the accomplishment that much more memorable was that Abbott had already overcome immense odds in pursuing a career in baseball after being born without his right hand. Bob Milacki was the losing pitcher in the ballgame for Cleveland; he was the winning pitcher in Baltimore’s combined no-hitter in 1991.

In the last no-hitter in the long history of Cleveland Stadium, the Indians came out the victors on April 12th, 1992, despite putting up no hits in support of their starter, Charles Nagy. In the first game of a doubleheader against Boston, Red Sox starter Matt Young gave up a run in the first after Kenny Lofton drew a leadoff walk, stole second and third, and scored on a throwing error on a grounder from Carlos Baerga, and another in the third on an RBI fielder’s choice by Baerga with runners on first and second via walks, groundouts, and stolen bases. Nagy struck out ten over seven for the win.

During the last losing no-hitter at Cleveland Stadium for the Indians, they were shut down 3-0 by Dave Stieb and the Toronto Blue Jays on September 2nd, 1990. Stieb outdueled Cleveland starter Bud Black, who coincidentally enough would become his teammate just two weeks later after he was traded for a trio of prospects. Stieb struck out the side twice in the ballgame and nine batters in total. None of the four batters to be walked reached second base successfully until Alex Cole walked and moved to second on defensive indifference with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. This was the first and only no-hitter thrown by the Blue Jays in their brief MLB history.

Had Bauer and his teammates pulled off the feat on Thursday, they would have managed the 15th such performance since the Indians’ franchise debuted as the Blues in 1901 and the first time that the team had used more than one pitcher in the contest.

Cleveland’s first no-hitter as an American League franchise dates back to September 18th, 1908, when Bob Rhoads and the Naps defeated the Boston Red Sox, 2-1. “Dusty” was an Ohio native, born in Wooster, and spent the bulk of his professional career in Cleveland after stops with the Chicago Orphans and St. Louis Cardinals. His game remains the only no-hitter thrown in Cleveland history when a run was allowed.

The Naps would get another zero in the hit column just two weeks later, as Addie Joss tossed the first perfect game in team history and the fourth in MLB history. The Indians’ most recent no-hitter, Barker’s outing on May 15th, 1981, was also a perfect game and the tenth in MLB history.

Cleveland had what would have been the first no-hit game in American League history, but Earl Moore’s May 9th, 1901, start does not meet the criteria set forth by the MLB. In their inaugural season, the Blue’s Moore threw nine hitless innings against the Chicago White Sox, but then allowed a pair of hits in extra innings and Cleveland lost the game, 4-2, at League Park.

Joss also owns the third no-hitter in team history when he blanked the Chicago White Sox again in 1910. Ray Caldwell no-hit the Yankees 3-0 in the first game of a doubleheader on September 10th, 1919, marking the third no-hitter caught by Cleveland catcher Steve O’Neill.

Bob Feller threw three no-hitters to surpass Joss as the franchise’s all-time leader. He threw the only Opening Day no-hitter in MLB history on April 16th, 1940, in Chicago. Six years and two weeks later, he threw another 1-0 no-hitter, this time against the Yankees in New York. For good measure, he added a 3-0 no-hitter over the Detroit Tigers in the first game of a doubleheader in Cleveland on July 1st, 1951.

Wes Ferrell threw a 9-0 no-hitter on April 29th, 1931, and also hit a home run in the contest. Don Black gave up six walks on July 10th, 1947, but struck out five Philadelphia batter in a 3-0 win while adding two hits of his own at the plate. Bob Lemon was untouched in a 2-0 win in Detroit on June 30th, 1948. Sonny Siebert did the same in a win in Cleveland on June 10th, 1966 against the Washington Senators. Dick Bosman nearly had a perfect game on July 19th, 1974, but his own error in the fourth inning allowed Oakland’s Sal Bando to reach base. Eckersley had a holiday to remember in 1977, when he celebrated Memorial Day on May 30th with a 1-0 no-hitter over the California Angels.

The Indians have had a few close calls over the years, as Bauer and company’s one-hitter on Thursday was the eleventh since Barker’s perfect game and was just the 47th time in nearly 34 years that the pitching staff allowed two hits or less in a game.

But of those close calls in Indians’ one-hit and two-hit ball games, only once did a pitcher bring a no-hitter into the ninth inning. On May 4th, 1989, current Red Sox manager John Farrell was on the mound for the final frame against Kansas City when Willie Wilson reached on an error to start the inning and Kevin Seitzer singled to end the bid. Doug Jones came on in relief and got a double play grounder and a second grounder to earn the save.

Only twice in Cleveland history has the team lost its no-hitter with two outs in the ninth. It was last done on August 11th, 1942, when Al Milnar lost his bid against Detroit. Rhoads was denied with two outs in a start on September 27th, 1904, against Boston, but he would seal the deal against them four years later.

Bauer, Kyle Crockett, and Scott Atchison had given the Indians eight hitless innings until Hagadone allowed the one-out homer in the ninth to end the threat to history, putting that game in rare air in Cleveland lore. With all of the variables and luck involved, it could be the closest the Indians get to a no-hitter in decades. Or it could happen tomorrow. All Cleveland fans can take solace in is that one day, the streak will end, and hopefully long before they have established a new record drought in the process.

Photo: AP Photo

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