Brewers' only no-hitter hurlers meet in the D

September 14th, 2021

DETROIT -- For 34 years, owned the only no-hitter in Brewers history. And for most of those years, messages poured in every time someone else came close.

So it wasn’t altogether surprising when Nieves, now the assistant pitching coach for the Tigers, returned to his locker following his team’s loss to the Rays on Saturday and found his cell phone filled with texts. This time was different, however. The Brewers didn’t just flirt with a no-hitter; they actually threw one.

That was the night Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader combined for a masterpiece in Cleveland -- at long last giving Nieves company in the team’s record books.

“I think the longer I’m in the game and the more I see, I think, ‘Wow, that’s a special night,’” Nieves said. “All of a sudden the sun, the moon and stars line up correctly.”

The same could be said of the Brewers’ schedule. After completing a sweep of the Indians, it was on to Detroit, where Nieves was gracious enough to meet with Burnes and Hader prior to Tuesday’s series opener to shake hands and pose for photos.

“Congratulations to both guys and to the organization,” Nieves said. “One thing that I regret not happening with mine or the most recent one is the fact that it never happens in Milwaukee. I was hoping for the fan base in Milwaukee to see something like that. It would be wonderful. I’ve been involved as a coach [in no-hitters], and it is always more fun when you do it at home.”

Is Nieves surprised it took so long for the Brewers to throw another? Theirs was the second-longest no-hitter drought in MLB, after all.

“I’m surprised because they have had some great pitchers,” Nieves said. “But I’m sure Matt [Arnold, Milwaukee’s general manager] and David [Stearns, president of baseball operations], they are going to find some more. They have incredible talent there.

“I think if you ask them, they probably want the World Series more than they want the no-hitter. But I wish them both.”

Nieves’ no-hitter was memorable for his youth -- he was only 22 -- and because he was the first Puerto Rico-born pitcher to throw one. It included several highlight-reel plays, most notably Robin Yount’s diving catch in right-center field for the final out.

There were no official pitch counts in 1987, but Nieves estimates he threw 118 pitches or so in an outing that included five walks on a dreary night. Burnes was pulled from Saturday's game after eight innings and 115 pitches, leaving some fans frustrated that he didn’t get the opportunity to finish what he started. Some critics went so far as to question whether it should count as a “no-hitter” if it is a combined effort.

Nieves disagrees. Give Burnes and Hader the credit they deserve, he said.

“There’s combined no-hitters that have happened in the big leagues before,” he said. “It’s a different era. They’re going to be pitching right through October, so you have to be really careful not extending him so you have him fresh through that run. They have their reasons why and I’m sure will have many more shots at it. …

“Back then [pitch count] wasn’t really [important]. It was the second outing of the season, I remember that. But I don’t remember exactly how many pitches.”

Nieves was a hot prospect at the time, but his career wound up being cut short by arm injuries. He’s had much more staying power in the coaching ranks with the White Sox, Red Sox, Marlins and Tigers.

“Unfortunately, my career was a little short, but I’ve been blessed coaching,” Nieves said. “I’ve seen many of those on the other side.”