B-day boy Peralta nearly gifts Crew a no-no

June 5th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- arrived in the Major Leagues on Mother’s Day in 2018 as a 22-year-old in braces, with a live fastball and a lot of work to do on the rest of his arsenal.

While coming within five outs of Brewers history on his 25th birthday Friday night, Peralta was the total pitching package.

The right-hander from Moca in the Dominican Republic threw four different pitches for strikes and didn’t allow a hit until Nick Ahmed flung his bat at Peralta’s 109th pitch, a slider below the strike zone, and dropped a single into left field with one out in the eighth inning. Peralta departed to a standing ovation from the American Family Field faithful and watched Brad Boxberger and Trevor Richards complete a one-hitter for a 5-1 win over the D-backs.

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“I mean, he got me. Do this to him,” Peralta said, doffing his cap. “But it was awesome, man. I enjoyed every moment of this game.”

Only one pitcher has thrown a no-hitter on his birthday, and it’s going on 109 years since the Tigers’ George Mullin, born on the fourth of July, no-hit the St. Louis Browns in the second game of a doubleheader on that date in 1912. Since then, five birthday boys had thrown one-hitters, but none has matched Mullin’s feat.

So the Brewers’ no-hitter drought persisted. The only pitcher in franchise history to toss a no-no was Juan Nieves on April 15, 1987. Cleveland (Len Barker in 1981) is the only team with a longer wait.

“It’s coming with these guys,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who, in Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Peralta, has three of Major League Baseball’s best 13 starting pitchers by fWAR. “We’ve flirted with this stuff a bunch of times, really. You’re hoping to have these nights. They’re good things.”

Will any of them catch Nieves? He’s the only pitcher in Brewers history to throw a no-hitter -- no matter what the men and women who watched CC Sabathia’s one-hitter at Pittsburgh in 2008 will tell you. Nieves blanked the Orioles on a dreary night in Baltimore, walking five batters and getting a diving catch from Robin Yount in center field to end the game.

Thirty-four years later, Peralta’s assist came from second baseman . Urías, starting in place of injured two-time Gold Glove winner Kolten Wong, made a sensational diving, tumbling catch of Christian Walker’s tricky flare up the middle for the second out of the seventh.

That’s when it dawned on Peralta that he had a chance to throw a no-hitter.

“Urías’ play was really a spark,” first baseman Daniel Vogelbach said. “Everybody realized, ‘You know, it’s real now.’”

“I knew what was going on,” said the Brewers’ catcher, . “But you just have to keep pitching and try to calm down Peralta a little bit. Sometimes he gets excited and gets a little bit quick, but I knew what was going on, and we just had to keep pitching."

By that time, a crowd of 15,261 was cheering every pitch.

“Everybody in the stadium was in on it from then on,” Counsell said.

They’d watched Peralta take the mound on an 89-degree night under an open dome and put up zeroes while the sky turned from blue to a glowing purple to black. Peralta walked the first hitter of the night before retiring the next 14 in a row through Pavin Smith’s line drive over first base, where Vogelbach made a lunging catch. The next hitter, Josh Reddick, walked, but Peralta then retired eight more in a row before Reddick walked again ahead of Ahmed’s spoiler of a single.

Peralta struck out nine, walked three and was charged with one run when pinch-hitter Asdrúbal Cabrera greeted Boxberger with a warning-track sacrifice fly.

Through 11 starts plus a planned relief stint on Opening Day, Peralta is second among Major League qualifiers with a 36.9 percent strikeout rate, behind the Mets' Jacob deGrom (45.8 percent) and ahead of the Yankees' Gerrit Cole (36.5 percent). Peralta is tied for 12th with a 2.25 ERA.

“Myself included, we definitely helped him out a little bit chasing pitches here and there,” Ahmed said. “That happens in every game, but in a game like that it gets amplified. ... He was better than us tonight. A lot better.”

The night didn’t necessarily begin that way.

“To be honest, during the bullpen before the game, I wasn’t feeling that good,” Peralta said. “My body, my arm and legs were really good, but, I don’t know, my release point wasn’t there. As soon as I got on the mound, there was a change.”

The Brewers hit two more home runs (Vogelbach in the first inning and Narváez in the eighth at the end of a 12-pitch at-bat) to back their stellar pitching, giving this previously slumbering offense 11 home runs in the past three games. It wasn’t the first time Narváez circled the bases; he also made the circuit on a two-run Little League homer in the third inning, when he smacked an RBI double and kept running thanks to a pair of Arizona errors.

Moments like that were rare while the Brewers slumped through most of May. But now the bats have come alive, and they have won seven of their past eight games.

“It’s nice to finally put offense, defense and pitching together,” Vogelbach said.