Crew combines on record-breaking no-hitter

Burnes, Hader team up for Brewers' 1st no-no since 1987

September 12th, 2021

CLEVELAND -- didn’t bother bartering or pleading at the end of the eighth inning. His Brewers are steamrolling their way to October, and those are the innings when they’ll need him most. So while Burnes’ no-hit bid was not over, his outing was.

Still, with his good friend and teammate finishing off the 3-0 victory over Cleveland at Progressive Field, Burnes has his place in Brewers history, handling the bulk of the duties in a combined no-hitter that stands as the franchise’s first no-no of any type since 1987, while simultaneously sharpening his National League Cy Young Award case.

“Watching those eight innings,” Hader said of Burnes’ effort, “was incredible.

Burnes, who took a perfect game into the seventh, and Hader combined not just on the second no-no in Brewers history -- the first since Juan Nieves’ gem on April 15, 1987, against the Orioles -- but also the ninth of this Major League season, topping 1884 for the most in a year in MLB history (pending the inclusion of Negro Leagues stats).

And oh by the way, they pushed the Brewers’ record to a franchise-best 33 games over .500. Their magic number to clinch the NL Central is down to seven.

Of course Burnes, who threw a career-high 115 pitches, would have loved to get the last three outs. But he understood why manager Craig Counsell pulled him.

“Pushing the pitch count there probably wasn't the smartest idea,” Burnes said. “I had to fight to go out there for the eighth, so I knew I had no shot for the ninth.”

All night, though, the Indians batters looked like they had no shot against him. Cleveland became the first team to suffer three no-hitters in a season, and remarkably, each of those games was started by Zach Plesac. Only one pitcher previously, Jim Perry, had been on the losing team's end of three no-hitters throughout the course of his career (once in 1970, twice in '73).

This season, Carlos Rodón of the White Sox pitched a no-no in an 8-0 win vs. the Indians on April 14, and 23 days later, Reds starter Wade Miley etched his name into the record book during a 3-0 victory.

So this was a notable night on many fronts.

But above all else, it was a night to gawk at the impressive -- and, in this case, unhittable stuff of the 26-year-old Burnes.

“He’s having a season that’s bigger than just Brewer records,” Counsell said. “He’s having a season that’s historical in Major League Baseball.”

Burnes began it by setting an MLB record for strikeouts without a walk, at 58. Now, with a Major League-best 2.25 ERA, 1.49 FIP, 35.4% strikeout rate (tied with the Dodgers’ Max Scherzer) and 7.1 FanGraphs-calculated pitching WAR and an NL-best 4.9% walk rate, Burnes’ NL Cy Young Award case is growing clearer by the outing. And an outing like this will only place more emphasis and attention on his 2021 brilliance.

“The league knows how good he is,” Cleveland center fielder Myles Straw said. “You gotta come to the yard ready to compete against this guy.”

All the run support Burnes needed arrived immediately. Christian Yelich ripped an RBI double in the first, advanced to third on an error and scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0. The Brewers added a run in the second on a Rowdy Tellez RBI double.

From there, all one had to do was settle in and watch Burnes dictate terms to a Cleveland lineup that could muster little more than a handful of three-ball counts and a couple of fly balls against him. Burnes didn’t even allow a batted ball with an exit velocity greater than 87 mph until Cleveland catcher Austin Hedges lifted a fly ball to the warning track in the sixth.

Mostly, Burnes pitched himself into three-strike counts. He came into this start -- his 25th of the season -- just four strikeouts shy of 200 for the season. He got there on just the fifth batter he faced. And he only needed to face 13 batters to reach his seventh double-digit strikeout effort of the season.

"As soon as I got out of the first inning,” said Brewers catcher Omar Narváez, “I came to the manager and said, ‘His cutter is moving like a slider at 97 [mph]. It was even hard for me to try to catch it and frame it for a strike, because he had a lot of movement today.”

With his deep and complex arsenal of breaking pitches -- including the top-rated cutter in the game and one of the best curveballs -- Burnes was in total control from beginning to end. The only concern was a pitch count ratcheted up by his 14 strikeouts.

It's the control that accompanies the K’s that takes Burnes to another level, and he generally displayed that again. Alas, the leadoff walk he issued to Straw in the seventh took the perfect sheen off his outing. But Burnes calmly retired Cleveland’s Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters to shake off any threat of the Brewers’ lead being challenged. His 1-2-3 eighth was punctuated by a beautiful diving catch from center fielder Lorenzo Cain of an Owen Miller liner.

In the ninth, Hader struck out Oscar Mercado, induced a popup from Hedges that Jace Peterson chased down in foul territory with a great grab, then struck out Straw to seal his 31st save and the no-no.

“I was nervous,” Hader said. “I was nervous as heck when they called and said I was in the game. You don’t want to be the guy that gives up the hit in that situation -- especially after eight innings of clean baseball.”

But Hader picked up where Burnes left off -- a showcase of the elite starting pitching and relief work that has carried the Crew to quite possibly the best regular season in franchise history.

“We've done a lot of impressive things as a team as a whole,” Burnes said. “We're playing our best baseball as we come into September and I think we're only going to get better. It’s an exciting time in the organization.”

An organization that now has to update its record books.