Musgrove makes history, spins SD's 1st no-no

April 10th, 2021

The hometown kid has made history for his hometown team.

, who grew up rooting for the Padres, threw the first no-hitter in the franchise’s 53-season history Friday night. He blanked the Rangers across nine near-perfect innings with 10 strikeouts in a 3-0 victory at Globe Life Field.

“Part of it doesn’t seem like it’s real,” Musgrove said. “It feels like it was meant to be.”

Musgrove’s bid at perfection was thrown off course in the bottom of the fourth inning, when he plunked Joey Gallo with a first-pitch cut fastball. 

Aside from that errant pitch, Musgrove was just about flawless. His slider dazzled, and his curveball danced.

In the final four innings, Musgrove abandoned any semblance of a traditional repertoire and threw almost exclusively breaking pitches and cut fastballs, mixing in a few changeups. Of his final 50 pitches, none of them were straight fastballs.

For Musgrove, the no-no is all the more special given the uniform.

The right-hander attended Grossmont High School in El Cajon, a suburb of San Diego. He regularly attended games with his father, who had been a fan of the Padres since the team’s inception in 1969. At Petco Park, Musgrove watched the likes of Jake Peavy, Chris Young and others carve up hitters during his adolescence.

On a night of magnificence in Arlington, Musgrove managed to do for his favorite team what no other pitcher had done.

“For him to do it, growing up in San Diego and this being his team, it’s about the perfect story written,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said.

Squatting 60 feet, 6 inches from Musgrove for the entire affair was a batterymate who was perfectly qualified for the job.

Less than a year ago, , then with the Cubs, caught Alec Mills’ no-hitter. Caratini has caught MLB’s two most recent no-hitters, which makes him the first starting catcher in MLB history to catch consecutive no-hitters for different clubs.

Caratini had the knowledge of what needed to happen for the no-no to be realized.

According to Musgrove, Caratini knew which formulas would work on specific Texas hitters. With some, Caratini knew he could get them to chase. With others, the backstop knew to pound the zone. Caratini never zeroed in on just one inning, rather creating a nuanced, multi-inning plan of attack with a level of calculus only reserved for the game’s sharpest.

“He was like a scientist,” Musgrove said.

As the game rolled on and the zeros piled up, Musgrove, Caratini and the dugout kept the environment as normal as possible. Not too loose, nor too tight.

For Musgrove, normalcy meant water. Lots of it. By his count, Musgrove drank 11 to 12 bottles of water over the course of the game. Due to the nature of his routine, he wouldn’t allow himself a bathroom break.

“I had to [go] so bad in like the fourth or fifth inning, but I couldn’t,” Musgrove said.

Along with the water, Musgrove had his gum. Before every start, Musgrove lines a towel with nine pieces of bubble gum. Between innings, he’ll chew on a piece, then spit it out when departing for the mound. The quantity of pink sugary bits he chomped on served to let him know how deep in an outing he has gone. By game’s end, those nine pieces had disappeared.

Fellow starting pitcher Blake Snell had his own superstition.

“I saw Blake sitting there in the same position with his feet on the rail still,” Musgrove said. “I was like, ‘I wonder if he’s moved at all today?’ After the game, he was like, ‘I didn’t move that whole game.’”

Snell may have not moved a muscle, but the same can’t be said about the bullpen. With Musgrove’s pitch count rising in the later innings, Tingler had to prepare in case the Rangers broke into the hit column. At various junctures, Tim Hill, Emilio Pagán and Mark Melancon started getting loose, all ready to enter at a moment’s notice.

None got remotely close to exiting the bullpen gates.

“I thought, honestly, he was pretty smooth the whole time,” Tingler said.

Musgrove’s achievement is all the more grand given San Diego’s tortured history with near no-hitters. Since the infamous “Curse of Clay Kirby” in 1970, when manager Preston Gomez pinch-hit for Kirby after eight no-hit innings, several Padres pitchers have come close, but ultimately fallen short. In total, the Padres have thrown 30 one-hitters.

Musgrove couldn’t recall any of San Diego’s close calls off the top of his head, but given his fandom, he may have witnessed a few. Now, the focus will no longer be on all the no-hitters that got away. The attention will fall to the San Diego kid who grew up watching the local team. The one who made history.

“As special as it gets,” Tingler said. “For Joe to throw the first no-hitter in organizational history, what do you say? It’s just a special night.”