Will Peralta be the 1 to end no-no drought?

Brewers starter yields just 1 hit, fans 8 over 7 strong IPs; Cards rally in 11th

May 12th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- With apologies to those who consider the mere mention of such things a jinx, here’s a question one pondered as put up zeros on Tuesday night:

Is this the year Milwaukee finally ends its no-hitter drought?

It’s a good year to do it, since there have already been four no-hitters in MLB in 2021, including two just last week. Peralta was an infield single away from giving it a go in his latest one-hit wonder, a scoreless, seven-inning performance against the Cardinals in a 6-1 Brewers loss in 11 innings at American Family Field.

Tommy Edman’s comebacker that caromed off the back of Peralta’s right leg as he twirled through his finish went as an infield single in the third inning. It stood as the only St. Louis hit off Peralta, who walked one batter and threw 97 pitches, and departed with a 1-0 lead before the Cardinals tied the game with aggressive baserunning against Devin Williams in the eighth and won it against Brad Boxberger in the 11th with Paul Goldschmidt’s tie-breaking, two-run home run and Tyler O’Neill’s three-run shot.

“All we try to do as a team is try to win the game,” Peralta said. “That’s all we can do.”

Of his own performance, he said, “it was a really good game for me today. I feel great about what I did today.”

Peralta has been doing his part, aside from a blip at the front of his previous start in Philadelphia. In seven starts in 2021, he has already pitched at least five innings and surrendered one or no hits on three occasions, matching the franchise record not even a quarter of the way into this season. (Skip Lockwood set that mark in 1972 and Jhoulys Chacín matched it in 2018.) The modern record (since 1900) for such starts in a season is five, by the Giants’ Matt Cain in 2006 and matched by the Rays’ Blake Snell in ‘18.

“That helps me, too,” Peralta said when asked about his low hit totals, “because sometimes the hitters look uncomfortable. That’s telling me, ‘OK, you can be more on the plate and be more aggressive with the hitters,’ because maybe they’re not seeing the ball really good. That’s my guess. What that means for me is my pitches are working really good.”

As a team, the Brewers already have seven such starts -- three from Peralta and two apiece from Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes -- in their first 36 games of 2021, which works out to 22 percent of a 162-game schedule. The modern record for starts that stingy is nine, shared by four teams all in the past six seasons as managers have become more apt to tap a fresh bullpen even when a starter appears to be in control. Craig Counsell’s 2018 Brewers are one of those teams, with the ‘18 Rays and Braves and the ‘16 Dodgers.

Yet the Brewers haven’t pitched a no-hitter since Juan Nieves on a dreary Tax Day in Baltimore on April 15, 1987. The only team that has gone longer without a no-no is Cleveland, which has waited since Len Barker’s perfect game against the Blue Jays on May 15, 1981.

Does Peralta ever think about what it would be like to do it?

“Yes. When I’m on the mound, I’m never thinking about that,” he said. “But I think every pitcher in the Major Leagues wants to throw a no-hitter one day in his career, and I hope it happens to me one time.

“Or, more than one time.”

His was the latest brilliant performance by a Brewers starter gone for naught. One way to measure that is game score, a metric developed by Bill James that measures a starting pitcher’s performance any given day. Peralta’s score on Tuesday was 82, making it the club’s second-best start this season, one tick shy of Brandon Woodruff’s 83 on April 7 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, when he took a no-hitter into the seventh.

Peralta’s performance marked the sixth time this season that a Milwaukee starter scored 75 or better. The team is 2-4 in those games, including Tuesday’s loss.

“We just didn't get the next hit,” Counsell said.

The Brewers finished 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position. They did strike some balls hard -- particularly Jackie Bradley Jr., who went 0-for-4 with a 105.1 mph groundout in the fifth inning, according to Statcast, a 103.1 mph lineout in the sixth and a 384-foot flyout in the ninth before he struck out in the 11th.

“I think the pitching is really good,” Counsell said. “It's tough to score against guys. I don't know if the [baseball] has got a ton to do with it. It feels like the pitching has got a bit of a leg up.”