Edinson Volquez began his Saturday start against the D-backs by throwing a 92-mph sinker past D-backs center fielder Rey Fuentes for a called strike one. Many games begin the same way, but for Volquez -- who twirled a no-hitter in the Marlins' 3-0 victory over Arizona -- it was a
Edinson Volquez began his Saturday start against the D-backs by throwing a 92-mph sinker past D-backs center fielder Rey Fuentes for a called strike one. Many games begin the same way, but for Volquez -- who twirled a no-hitter in the Marlins' 3-0 victory over Arizona -- it was a sign of the historic focus he would show throughout the afternoon.
Just hours earlier, Volquez had posted a photo of he and his late Royals teammate Yordano Ventura on his Instagram account. It was clear his determination to honor his fallen friend -- who would have turned 26 on Saturday -- was evident from the very start. The righty has struggled to find the strike zone all season, but that wasn't the case Saturday at Marlins Park, as Volquez recorded his highest single-game strike percentage of the season on his way into the record books.
:: Edinson Volquez's no-hitter ::
"When a guy has stuff like that, working ahead of hitters is absolutely key," said Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, who called Volquez's no-hitter behind the plate. "He was able to flip his curveball in there for first-pitch [strike] a lot of the time. His fastball command was really good. The fact that he was working ahead all game, getting quick outs, keeping his defense involved -- that was huge for his success."
Volquez's called strike to Fuentes was his first of 25 such pitches Saturday, his highest single-game called strike total since June 26, 2015, with the Royals. He threw 66.3 percent of his pitches in the strike zone, as determined by Statcast™, after ranking fifth-lowest among qualified starters with a 59-percent strike rate entering Saturday's games. Volquez faced the minimum 27 batters and began 19 of their at-bats with strike one; he owned the sixth-highest percentage of balls on 0-0 counts (45.9 percent) coming in. And he battled better than he has all season: Volquez threw a strike on 61.9 percent of his pitches while behind in the count, after ranking second-to-last in that category among 87 qualified starters.
That's how a pitcher turns around his command issues, and how one can shut down one of the highest-scoring lineups in the National League.
"I just threw whatever J.T. put down today and just followed him," Volquez said of his synergy with Realmuto. "We were on the same page. He called the right pitch in that situation. I don't think I shook my head with J.T. today."
Volquez and Realmuto worked through the D-backs' lineup with blinding speed, recording the first complete game by a Marlins pitcher in 480 consecutive games, and even more impressively, the Majors' first no-hitter in "Maddux" fashion (a shutout on 99 pitches or fewer) since another Marlin -- Henderson Alvarez -- recorded his no-no on the last day of the 2013 season. The proud Dominican struck out 10 and walked only two, a complete turnaround from just one month ago when he became the first pitcher in history to record nine strikeouts and eight walks in fewer than five innings. It just goes to show that predicting a no-hitter continues to be a fruitless endeavor.
"It was just one of those days," said Volquez. "You wake up and you don't know what's going to happen in the game. Today, I got a no-hitter."
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.