This might be baseball's newest curse

June 18th, 2021

A no-hitter is a blessing for those who throw one. But this season, it’s acted as a curse for a couple of their teams.

How is that possible? Let’s explain.

On May 5 in Seattle, Orioles left-hander John Means threw Baltimore’s first individual no-hitter since 1969. Since then, Means’ club has lost 19 straight road games, with the latest coming at Cleveland on Thursday afternoon, when the O’s suffered their sixth straight road series sweep.

That was one of six official no-hitters thrown already in 2021, but don’t forget that D-backs left-hander Madison Bumgarner also notched a seven-inning no-no as part of a doubleheader at Atlanta on April 25. And wouldn’t you know it? Arizona hasn’t won a game away from Chase Field since, losing its astonishing 23rd in a row on Thursday afternoon at San Francisco.

Those numbers are cringe-inducing on their own, and the historical context doesn’t help. The D-backs became the first team in the Modern Era (since 1900) to have a road losing streak that long. They passed the 1963 Mets and '43 Philadelphia A’s, who both had 22-game streaks.

But even the Orioles’ 19 road defeats in a row is extremely rare. Only six teams in the Modern Era had managed that prior to this year, and none since the 1985 Pirates.

In other words, for 35 years (1986-2020), no team lost 19 consecutive road games. Now two teams have done it in the first two-and-a-half months of 2021 -- and both had that unfortunate streak begin right after the excitement and glory of throwing a no-hitter.

So what about that curse? Are the Baseball Gods suddenly smiting any team with the temerity to twirl a no-no in another team’s home ballpark?

It’s not that simple, or that silly, of course. While the baseball world has always loved its curses -- whether ignited by the Great Bambino or a simple billy goat -- there are some serious plot holes to account for here.

The Padres (Joe Musgrove, April 9, at Rangers), Reds (Wade Miley, May 7, at Indians), Tigers (Spencer Turnbull, May 18, at Mariners) and Yankees (Corey Kluber, May 19, at Rangers) also have thrown no-hitters on the road this season. All four teams also won either their next road game or the one after that. So no losing streaks to be found.

Then there’s the fact that we’ve also seen a third notably long road losing streak this season. That one belonged to the Rangers, who dropped 16 in a row from May 10-June 11, before winning at Dodger Stadium last Saturday. (Theirs is the third-longest streak since 2011). But while the Rangers have been no-hit twice in 2021, they haven’t thrown a no-no, much less in the game before the losing streak began.

So, no, there may not be a curse in play. But it’s certainly a strange coincidence, even in the quirky realm of baseball. Here are nine more eye-popping stats about the streaks, and the events that preceded them.

  1. How do you put Arizona’s streak in perspective? The club has now lost more road games in a row (23) than the 2001 Mariners lost in an entire season (22), on their way to 116 total victories.
  1. If you put Arizona and Baltimore’s streaks together, that’s 42 road losses, enough to guarantee that a team would finish under .500 away from home (39-42) over a full season.
  1. The D-backs’ streak is now just two games shy of matching the franchise’s two previous longest streaks combined. (They lost 14 in a row on the road in 2010 and 11 in '08).
  1. When the season began, neither the D-backs nor the Orioles gave any warning that they might experience these sorts of woes. Arizona’s away record was 9-8 through Bumgarner’s seven-inning no-hitter, while Baltimore’s was 11-6 through Means’ no-no, with series victories at Oakland and Boston (a season-opening sweep).
  1. It’s been 53 days since the D-backs last won a game on the road. But because baseball is funny like that, they actually won two games on the road that day, sweeping a doubleheader at Atlanta.
  1. Since Arizona’s last road win, Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has hit 18 home runs, Cincinnati’s Nick Castellanos has notched 63 total base hits and Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler has racked up 92 strikeouts. As for teams, both the Rays and Reds have won 17 road games in that span. And the Reds’ Tyler Mahle alone has gone 5-0 in road contests.
  1. Going back to May 6, the D-backs and Orioles are a combined 0-40 on the road. All other teams combined (entering Thursday) had won 218 road games during that stretch.
  1. It’s not just that they’re getting beat. In the 42 losses that make up their streaks, Arizona and Baltimore have been outscored by a combined 250-117. There have been plenty of close calls, of course (10 one-run losses) but just as many blowouts (11 losses by five-plus runs).
  1. And let’s not forget this all started after those no-hitters. Since Bumgarner’s seven-inning no-no, opponents have hit .266 against Arizona in road games. Meanwhile, since Means’ no-no, opponents have hit .297 against Baltimore in road games, the highest average in the Majors in that span.