Indians Spent Lots of Time on Both Sides of Near No-Nos

When Carlos Carrasco’s no-hitter was broken up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday in Tampa, it was only the most recent time that happened for an Indians pitcher.

Three times before, Indians pitchers were one out away from no-hitters, and three times before, they had been taken from them.

The first occurred on Sept. 27, 1904, as the defending world champion Boston Red Sox came to League Park. They faced pitcher Bob Rhoads, who gave up an unearned run in the third on a wild series of events. Freddy Parent walked with one out, and attempted to steal second. Catcher Harry Ostdiek’s throw sailed into center field, and Parent took third. Chick Stahl then walked, placing runners at the corners, and Jimmy Collins hit a chopper to Napoleon Lajoie, who couldn’t tag Stahl out as he was running toward second, but threw to first to retire Collins. Stahl then got caught in a rundown, and Parent scored before Stahl was tagged out for the third out of the inning.

Lajoie hit a two-run home run into the right field bleachers to give the Naps a 3-1 lead. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Stahl singled to right field, breaking up the no-hitter. But the Naps were able to preserve the win.

In 1942, in the first game of a double-header, Indians pitcher and Cleveland native Al Milnar was unhittable against the Tigers, facing just two more than the minimum number of batters entering the ninth. But Detroit pitcher Tommy Bridges was shutting out the Indians as well. With two outs in the top of the ninth, Doc Cramer singled to right field, ruining the no-hitter. Milnar got Barney McCosky to pop out to end the inning. But Bridges – who himself had lost a perfect game a decade earlier with two outs in the ninth – retired the side and the game went to extras. Ultimately, the game went 14 innings before it was called as a scoreless tie. Bridges and Milnar each pitched all 14 innings (in a sign of how things have changed, the official time was listed as two hours) and got a no-decision for their troubles. The Tigers beat the Indians in the nightcap.

On July 5, 1954, the Indians shared the front page with news of the murder of a Bay Village doctor’s wife. It was the first of years of news coverage of Sam Sheppard, but the Indians were in the midst of what would turn out to be one of the best seasons of a team in American League history. On the Fourth of July, the Tribe had beaten the White Sox 2-1 for their seventh straight win, including a four-game sweep of Chicago. The worst thing that could be said of the game is that it wasn’t a no-hitter.

Mike Garcia started for the Indians, and he hadn’t given up a hit when he had to leave the game with a burst blood vessel in his middle finger. Ray Narleski came on and threw more than four innings of relief – also without giving up a hit. Narleski walked Sherm Lollar to start the eighth inning, and after he uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Fred Marsh (pinch-running for Lollar) to take second, Al Lopez brought in Early Wynn in relief. Wynn got Willard Marshall to ground out, as Marsh took third, and Cass Michaels popped up for the second out. Johnny Groth hit a roller to first baseman Bill Glynn for what appeared to be the third out, but Glynn’s throw to Wynn, who was covering the bag, was wide, allowing Marsh to score, cutting the Tribe lead to 2-1. But Wynn got pitcher Bob Keegan to ground out to end the inning.

In the top of ninth, Wynn got Chico Carrasquel and Nellie Fox to fly out for the first two outs of the inning. But former Indian Minnie Minoso hit a single to center field to end the no-hitter, which would have been the first by three different pitchers. Minoso was then thrown out stealing to end the game.

Of course, the Indians have been even more guilty of spoiling others’ no-hitters with two outs in the ninth – mostly by the Tigers. Ben Paschal ruined a potential no-no by the Tigers’ Bernie Boland in 1915, Harry Simpson did the same to Detroit’s Art Houtteman in 1952, and most recently, the Indians, with an assist from umpire Jim Joyce, spoiled a potential perfect game at Comerica Park by Armando Galarraga in 2010.

But the Tigers haven’t been the only victims. Walt Williams ruined a potential no-hitter by the White Sox’ Stan Bahnsen in 1973, and Gary Alexander homered off Mike Flanagan of the Orioles in 1978, costing Flanagan the shutout as well. Flanagan was so rattled he gave up back-to-back singles to Ted Cox and Duane Kuiper. Now, the potential tying run was at the plate. Manager Earl Weaver came out with the hook and brought in Don Stanhouse to put out the fire for Flanagan to get the victory.

On Sept. 24, 1988, Dave Stieb was one out away from his first career no-hitter. It was the second time he’d taken a no-hitter into the ninth. The first was broken up with no outs. This would be worse.

With two outs, Julio Franco hit what appeared to be a game-ending grounder to second baseman Manny Lee. But the ball hit a clump of dirt in the infield, bounced up and went over Lee’s head into right field. Franco was safe at first. Stieb then recovered to get Dave Clark to fly out to center to end the game. Oddly enough, the next day’s Plain Dealer sports front had news of a no-hitter – a shortened one by Pascual Perez for the Expos.

Stieb, in what might be the most heartbreaking stat ever, then threw 8 2/3 innings of no-hit ball in his next start before losing that no-hitter to the Orioles. In 1989, he was one out away from a perfect game when Luis Polonia doubled. Stieb finally got his no-hitter in 1990 – against the Indians.

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