MILWAUKEE -- There was a no-hitter in Major League Baseball on Tuesday. Two, if you stretch the definition.
Of course, Hader’s feat won’t go in the history books like Lucas Giolito’s no-hitter for the White Sox against the Pirates on Tuesday. Relievers have been known to go on a run of hitless outings; Justin Wilson opened the 2017 season with a similar “no-hitter” for the Tigers, working 9 2/3 hitless innings over his first 11 games. Wilson, however, allowed an inherited runner to score along the way. Hader has not.
Coming off back-to-back National League Reliever of the Year Awards and working much more with his slider, Hader's treading special ground, as Brewers manager Craig Counsell sees it.
“We should never take Josh for granted,” Counsell said. “What he's done here has been brilliant, and he just continues to do it. He's been the Reliever of the Year for a couple of years, and he's doing it again.”
The Brewers have only one no-hitter in franchise history -- Juan Nieves in 1987 -- but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s J.R. Radcliffe identified a handful of “hidden” ones like Hader completed Tuesday. The most recent belonged to Hader himself. He struck out 20 batters in a remarkable stretch of 11 1/3 hitless innings last June.
Before that, Radcliffe noted, Tyler Thornburg worked 9 1/3 hitless innings over 10 appearances in May and June of 2016. (Thornburg happened to appear in Tuesday’s game for the Reds.) And before that, Derrick Turnbow pitched 10 hitless innings over nine games in April and May of '05 during his meteoric rise to becoming a National League All-Star.
It looks a little different than it did in recent seasons, when Hader worked almost exclusively with his fastball and ran up the highest strikeout rate in history at 44.6 percent entering this season. But this year, with his fastball velocity down a tick to 94.2 mph (from 95.5 mph in 2019) and his slider usage up to 34.1 percent (from 15.5 percent last year), he is getting similarly remarkable results.
Including Tuesday’s clean inning, Hader has 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings with five walks, a hit batsman and 13 strikeouts in 34 total batters faced. That’s a 38.2 percent strikeout rate.
“What he's done this year with how hard he's worked on the slider, it's become a big pitch for him and he's used it really effectively,” Counsell said. “I applaud him for that and I give him credit because that's what great players do. They continue to make adjustments. We're lucky he's on our side, I tell you that.”
“All-time-high confidence when that guy is on the mound,” Brewers outfielder Ben Gamel said. “No doubt about it.”