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Padres' no-hitter drought makes history

Friars pass Mets for longest streak to begin existence
@mattkellyMLB
May 16, 2019

Padres fans have seen plenty of memorable moments since the franchise was founded in 1969. There’s the club’s two National League pennants, its dramatic comeback against the Cubs in the 1984 NLCS, Tony Gwynn’s endless base hits through the “5.5 hole” and Trevor Hoffman’s 500th save, to name a few.

Padres fans have seen plenty of memorable moments since the franchise was founded in 1969. There’s the club’s two National League pennants, its dramatic comeback against the Cubs in the 1984 NLCS, Tony Gwynn’s endless base hits through the “5.5 hole” and Trevor Hoffman’s 500th save, to name a few.

But one thing San Diego fans have not seen? A no-hitter. And they’ve been waiting a long time to witness their team twirl one of those. As in, a historic amount of waiting.

The Padres now own a Major League record for the longest no-hitter drought to begin a MLB team’s existence, a record that the Wall Street Journal's Jared Diamond first noticed last week was in danger. Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier's third-inning single Thursday night against San Diego's Eric Lauer made it 8,020 consecutive regular-season games without a no-no for the Padres. With that, they surpassed New York's record -- one many diehard Mets fans likely still remember -- before Johan Santana famously snapped that franchise’s streak on June 1, 2012.

(And in case you're wondering, the longest drought ever was by the Phillies, who went 8,944 games between a no-hitter by Johnny Lush on May 1, 1906, and Jim Bunning's perfect game on June 21, 1964.)

Every team's most recent no-hitter

As Diamond notes, one of San Diego’s closest calls came, coincidentally, against the Amazin’s. Righty Clay Kirby put up eight hitless innings at home against the Mets on July 21, 1970, but was trailing, 1-0, thanks to some small ball ingenuity by New York. Padres manager Preston Gomez pulled Kirby for a pinch-hitter to try to tie the game, and reliever Jack Baldschun allowed a single to Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson in the ninth. San Diegans have witnessed some especially close calls since then:

July 18, 1972: Phillies second baseman Denny Doyle bounced a single over the head of Padres third baseman Dave Roberts -- who was drawn in expecting a bunt -- to break up righty Steve Arlin’s bid with two outs in the top of the ninth. San Diego went on to win, 5-1.

Sept. 22, 2006: After righty Chris Young walked Pirates third baseman Jose Bautista with one out in the ninth, former Padre Joe Randa took Young deep for a two-run homer. The Padres held on for a 6-2 win, and Randa retired at the end of the season.

July 9, 2011: Starter Aaron Harang and a combination of four relievers (Josh Spence, Chad Qualls, Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson) went 8 2/3 innings before Gregerson allowed a double to Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe. Catcher Dioner Navarro immediately followed with a walk-off single to give Los Angeles a 1-0 win.

July 20, 2014: Righty Odrisamer Despaigne was not only protecting a no-hitter; he was also holding the Padres' slim 1-0 lead when he collected the first two outs of the eighth. But former Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy sliced a double to left-center to end the bid, and David Wright singled to tie the contest up at one. Despaigne's teammate, Seth Smith, picked up his pitcher with a walk-off single in the ninth.

Padres fans may be the last group sitting on their first no-hitter, but they’re far from the only ones who have waited a long time. Below are the franchises with the longest no-no droughts behind San Diego, and a quick look at each of their closest calls.

Indians
Last no-hitter: Len Barker, May 15, 1981, vs. Blue Jays

Barker’s performance was more than a no-no -- it was the 10th perfect game in MLB history. The right-hander was so locked in that he refused to go to even one three-ball count against Toronto hitters, and he struck out seven of the last 11 batters he faced. Future NBA star Danny Ainge went 0-for-2 for the Blue Jays and was pinch-hit for in the ninth.

Their closest call since then: Rays left fielder Joey Butler spoiled Indians righty Carlos Carrasco’s day twice on July 11, 2015. Butler drew a seventh-inning walk to end Carrasco’s perfect-game bid, and then collected Tampa Bay’s first hit with two outs in the ninth. That game is one of a very small number of no-hit bids that have ended with the opposing team down to their final out.

Brewers
Last no-hitter: Juan Nieves, April 15, 1987, at Orioles

Nieves threw Milwaukee’s first -- and still only -- no-hitter at 22 years and 100 days of age. The southpaw was the second-youngest pitcher and first Puerto Rico native to twirl a no-no, doing so on 128 pitches on a cold and rainy night in Baltimore. Nieves’ gem improved the Brewers to a perfect 9-0; the Crew would go 13 games before suffering its first loss of the ’87 season.

Their closest call since then: Odell Jones certainly would have ranked among the more unlikely no-hit authors had he finished the job on May 28, 1988 -- his first start in seven years. Jones, a 35-year-old journeyman who was pitching in Triple-A the year before, kept a perfect game for 7 1/3 innings and maintained his no-no until Indians pinch-hitter Ron Washington lined a one-out single in the ninth. Jones was out of the Majors by the end of the ’88 season.

Blue Jays
Last no-hitter: Dave Stieb, Sept. 2, 1990, at Indians

Stieb came within one out of a no-hitter three separate times -- including in back-to-back starts in 1988 -- before enjoying a sweet payoff at Cleveland Stadium. Toronto’s ace actually walked his first batter of the afternoon but ultimately benefited from two caught stealing throws from catcher Pat Borders. Stieb set down 15 straight batters on his own accord before walking the leadoff man in the eighth, but this time he was able to hang on for history. Stieb’s teammates lifted him onto their shoulders, knowing just how close he had come before.

Their closest calls since then: Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay carried a no-no against the Tigers for 8 2/3 innings on Sept. 27, 1998 -- just his second big league start. He was famously sent back to the Minors to re-tool his arsenal and command before returning to become one of the dominant aces of his generation.

And, speaking of dominant, Brandon Morrow was as overpowering as one could be without actually finishing a no-hitter on Aug. 8, 2010, when he struck out 17 Rays hitters but permitted a single to Evan Longoria with two outs in the ninth.

Orioles
Last no-hitter: Bob Milacki (6 IP), Mike Flanagan (1 IP), Mark Williamson (1 IP), Gregg Olson (1 IP), July 13, 1991, at A’s

“Everybody congratulated different people,” A’s manager Tony La Russa would say postgame. “Nobody knew who to shake hands with. But it all counts."

Baltimore became just the second team to feature a quarter of pitchers in a no-hitter, following Oakland’s combination of Vida Blue, Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers in 1975. Milacki was rolling until Willie Wilson’s seventh-inning line drive struck him on the hand and leg, forcing him out of the ballgame. Olson struck out Jose Canseco and Hall of Famer Harold Baines to close it out.

Their closest call since then: Two Orioles pitchers have come within a pair of outs since Milacki, et al. Hall of Famer Mike Mussina retired the first 25 Indians hitters he faced before surrendering a single to Sandy Alomar Jr. on May 30, 1997 -- and Mussina would famously lose another no-no with two outs in the ninth as a Yankee in 2001. On Sept. 28, 2006, righty Daniel Cabrera saw Robinson Cano, his old friend from the Dominican Republic, break up his no-hit bid with one out in the ninth.

Royals
Last no-hitter: Bret Saberhagen, Aug. 26, 1991, vs. White Sox

Saberhagen’s trophy room already contained the 1985 World Series MVP Award and the ’85 and ’89 Cy Young Awards, so a no-hitter was more a feather in the cap for his tremendous career. He retired a pair of future Hall of Famers -- Tim Raines and Frank Thomas -- on ninth-inning groundouts to second to close out the sixth no-no of the prolific 1991 season.

Their closest call since then: Jorge Lopez was not even a Royal until he arrived via trade in July 2018, and less than two months later he was climbing the mound in the ninth at Target Field with a perfect game in hand. That came to an end when Minnesota’s Max Kepler drew a walk and Robbie Grossman followed with a single, and Lopez then exited the game at 110 pitches.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.