If Cy Young Awards are won and lost in September, Corbin Burnes is putting his best possible closing statement together.
The breakout ace of 2021 helped make Brewers history Saturday night when he and Josh Hader combined to toss the second no-hitter in franchise history, following Juan Nieves’ no-no in 1987. Burnes carried a perfect game through six frames and, besides a leadoff walk against Cleveland’s Myles Straw in the seventh, was untouchable in Milwaukee’s 3-0 victory at Progressive Field.
The right-hander racked up 14 strikeouts, raising his season total to 210, while pushing through a career-high 115 pitches by the shores of Lake Erie. Hader then finished off the performance with two more punchouts and a perfect ninth inning.
In a year packed to the brim with no-hitters, Burnes and Hader’s combined gem ranks among the most dominant. Here are 14 facts and figures to know about Milwaukee’s big night:
1) Burnes and Hader bring the Major Leagues’ second-longest team no-hitter drought to an end. The Brewers had played 5,473 games between Nieves’ no-no against the Orioles on April 15, 1987, and the combined effort on Saturday. The Majors’ longest no-hitter drought belongs to the Crew’s opponent; Cleveland has not enjoyed one since Len Barker spun a perfect game against the Blue Jays on May 15, 1981. Second place on that drought list now goes to Toronto (Dave Stieb -- Sept. 2, 1990, against Cleveland).
Bill Schroeder was the man who caught Nieves’ no-hitter in 1987, and he was in the Brewers’ broadcast booth on Saturday for the franchise’s second no-no.
2) This is the ninth no-hitter of the 2021 season, setting the record for most in a single season in MLB history, pending the inclusion of Negro Leagues stats. The previous total of eight had been tied with the 1884 campaign -- which was before the mound was even moved to its current distance in 1893.
3) Burnes and Hader authored the 16th combined no-hitter in AL/NL history and the second of 2021, following a combined effort by the Cubs (Milwaukee’s rival) against the Dodgers on June 24. There were also two combined no-nos in 2019 (Astros, Angels) and in 1991 (Braves, Orioles). It’s the first time Cleveland has suffered at the hands of a combined no-hitter.
4) Cleveland is now the first team in AL/NL history to be no-hit three times in the same season, and that doesn’t include the hitless loss it suffered to the Rays in the seven-inning, second leg of a doubleheader on July 7.
5) Brewers manager Craig Counsell made a tough decision and lifted Burnes after the eighth with his ace having put up a career-high pitch count. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Burnes became only the third pitcher in AL/NL history to be lifted from a game after eight hitless innings and not come back out to begin the ninth. San Diego’s Clay Kirby (July 21, 1970, vs. Mets) and Houston’s Don Wilson (Sept. 4, 1974, vs. Reds) were the other two.
(That list does not include the Yankees’ Andy Hawkins on July 1, 1990, and the Red Sox’s Matt Young on April 12, 1992, as the opposing team won and did not need to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning.)
6) Cleveland hitters struck out 16 times, thanks to Burnes (14) and Hader (two), tied with Nolan Ryan’s 16-strikeout no-hitter for the Rangers on May 1, 1991, for the third-most in any official no-hit performance. Ryan struck out 17 Tigers by himself during his July 15, 1973, no-hitter, and Max Scherzer punched out 17 for the Nationals on Oct. 3, 2015.
7) Every no-hitter seems to have “The Play” that aids it on defense, and who better than Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain to provide it Saturday night. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Wisconsin native Owen Miller lined a ball to center field that looked like it could be Cleveland’s first hit. But Cain covered 55 feet in just 3.5 seconds and made an excellent sliding catch to end Burnes’ night with a flourish. Statcast gave Cain just a 10% probability of making the play, based on that time and distance.
For Brewers fans, Cain’s play probably called to mind Robin Yount’s diving catch that secured the final out of Nieves’ no-hitter.
8) Zach Plesac was already one of just two pitchers to start two games where his team was no-hit in a single season, along with the Tigers’ Jim Perry in 1973, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Now, he’s the only pitcher to start three such games in a season -- which makes sense, since no team had been no-hit three times in a season before this. Those three starts opposite his team being no-hit also tie Perry for the most for any pitcher in a career. Perry started for the Twins against the A’s in Vida Blue’s no-hitter in 1970, then faced the two in 1973. Plesac has tied that career mark over the course of just one season.
Plesac is also the first player to pitch in three different no-hitters in a single season -- from either side.
9) Burnes racked up 26 swings and misses against Cleveland. He now owns the Brewers’ two highest single-game whiff totals in the pitch tracking era (dating back to 2008), as he set the Milwaukee record with 30 whiffs against the Cubs on Aug. 11 -- the game in which he tied Tom Seaver and Aaron Nola for the AL/NL record for consecutive strikeouts (10) in a single contest. Cleveland whiffed on 42% (13 of 31) of its swings against Burnes’ signature cutter, 57% of its swings against his curveball, 60% against his changeup and 33% against his slider.
Burnes finished with a 44.8% overall whiff rate on the night, but that’s only good for the third-best rate by a Brewers pitcher in the pitch-tracking era behind … two other Burnes starts this year (Aug. 11 and June 6). That’s how dominant he has been.
10) Saturday marked Burnes’ seventh start of 2021 with at least 10 strikeouts, one or fewer walks and one or fewer runs allowed, tying him with five other pitchers for the third-most such starts in a single AL/NL season behind Pedro Martinez (nine in 2000) and Clayton Kershaw (eight in 2015).
11) Burnes’ effort was the Brewers’ 12th different start of at least six innings and one or fewer hits allowed, far and away a single-season record for any AL/NL team since at least 1901. Freddy Peralta owns four of them, followed by Burnes with three, Adrian Houser and Brandon Woodruff with two and Brett Anderson with one.
12) Burnes became the first Brewers pitcher to strike out 10 or more batters while allowing no hits in a single outing. Milwaukee’s previous high for strikeouts in a hitless appearance was eight, recorded by the man who finished off Saturday’s no-no. Hader did it in an electric 2 2/3-innings save on April 30, 2018, against the Reds.
13) For Brewers fans who have watched Burnes all season, Saturday was just another crowning achievement amid his incredible (and possibly NL Cy Young Award-winning) 2021 campaign. Burnes entered Saturday with the Majors’ best FIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio, and he was also second in the Majors in walks per nine innings and third in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts per nine innings.
14) This is the fourth no-hitter thrown on the date Sept. 11. Eric Milton threw one for the Twins against the Angels in 1999. In 1991, three Braves pitchers combined to no-hit the Padres. And way back in 1882, Tony Mullane threw one for the Louisville Eclipse at the Cincinnati Red Stockings in the Major League American Association.