Following up a no-hitter brings mixed results
Vander Meer famously tossed back-to-back no-nos; others struggled in encore
Johnny Vander Meer is still the gold standard, of course.
NOTABLE NO-HITTER FOLLOW-UPS
|Felix Hernandez||8/21/2012||7 2/3||7||1|
|Ubaldo Jimenez||4/22/2010||7 1/3||5||0|
|Dave Righetti||7/9/1983||10 1/3||7||2|
|Nolan Ryan||7/19/1973||10 1/3||3||2|
When the dust settles on any pitcher's no-hitter, Vander Meer's name soon becomes part of the conversation. He threw back-to-back no hitters from June 11-15, 1938, and nobody has matched the feat since then.
Right-hander Josh Beckett will take the mound Friday night for the Dodgers looking to put his name alongside Vander Meer's. The sheer statistical improbability of Beckett following up Sunday's no-hitter against the Phillies with another Friday against the Pirates would suggest that Vander Meer's claim to fame is safe.
But that doesn't mean Beckett isn't capable of doing something special in the start immediately following his no-hitter. Many other pitchers have.
Since Vander Meer's follow-up to his second consecutive no-hitter, pitchers coming off a no-hitter have recorded a 3.52 ERA in their next starts. They've given up an average of more than six hits in those outings, and few of them have flirted with repeating Vander Meer's accomplishment.
You don't have to look back too far to find notable no-no encores, though. After his perfect game against the Rays on Aug. 15, 2012, Mariners ace Felix Hernandez gave up one run on seven hits his next time out. Ervin Santana allowed only one run on eight hits in a complete-game victory following his July 27, 2011, no-hitter against the Indians. A few months before that, Tigers ace Justin Verlander limited the Royals to two hits over eight innings immediately after his second no-hitter.
However, recent history is full of post-no-no flops. Giants righty Tim Lincecum gave up eight runs on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings after he blanked the Padres on July 22, 2013. Johan Santana fired the Mets' first no-hitter, then gave up six runs and seven hits over five innings his next time out. Philip Humber threw a perfect game for the White Sox, surrendered eight hits and nine runs in his next start and struggled badly from then on.
Overall, the sequel to a no-hitter has more often turned out to be worth watching. While the past four no-nos have been followed up by unremarkable performances, 96 of the 167 follow-up outings have been quality starts. That figure doesn't include combined no-hitters, nor does it take into account the eight times when a starter's subsequent appearance came in relief. Several pitchers finished the season with a no-hitter, so they had to wait all winter for an encore.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to a pitcher's success right after a no-hitter. On one hand, there's the idea that he must be locked in, confident and seemingly untouchable. On the other hand, there's a chance that the pitcher may have tired himself out in pursuit of a historic accomplishment, that he'll somehow lose focus after etching his name in the record books.
Obviously the truth falls somewhere between those two ideas and depends on a number of factors -- from the pitcher and his health to the next opponent and their lineup. The simple reality of pitching is that there are only a few starts per season during which a player feels like he is totally in command of all his pitches, so even the game's best pitchers can't take the mound with no-hit stuff every time out.
If there's an exception to that philosophy, however, it exists in the form of Nolan Ryan. The Hall of Famer was the author of seven no-hitters, and only once in his next start did he fail to complete six innings. After his first five no-nos, Ryan threw at least nine innings in each of his follow-up starts. On July 19, 1973, Ryan gave up two runs on three hits and struck out 13 batters over 10 1/3 innings as a follow-up to his 17-strikeout no-hitter.
Ryan twirled a no-hitter on June 1, 1975, then got back on the mound five days later and threw a two-hit shutout against the Brewers.
The most recent pitcher to follow up a no-hitter with a shutout was Tommy Greene, who blanked the Expos with 10 strikeouts and seven walks on May 23, 1991, then turned around and shut them out again five days later, this time allowing three hits with no walks and nine strikeouts.
Even Vander Meer, after his second straight no-hitter, scaled the mound four days later and gave up one run on four hits in a complete-game victory.
Your move, Josh Beckett.