As you probably know, allowing zero hits is usually a good way to set up your team for success and a win. To wit: There have been more than 300 nine-inning no-hitters in AL/NL history, including combined no-hitters, and the team to throw the no-hitter has won all but two of those. In other words, when you don't allow a hit over nine innings, you win more than 99% of the time.
But, as always, there are exceptions. On April 23, 1964, Ken Johnson of the Houston Colt .45s became the first pitcher to throw a nine-inning no-hitter and lose. In fact, he is still the only individual to throw an official (nine-inning) no-hitter and lose. There is also one instance of a combined nine-inning no-hitter resulting in a loss, as well as a trio of games in which eight no-hit innings still resulted in an L. (Why eight innings? Because the pitchers who threw them were on the road and the opposing team didn't get to bat in the ninth. Those are not officially considered no-hitters, but we will count them here for the purpose of this exercise.)
On Sunday afternoon, the Reds became the latest team to find themselves in this position, in a 1-0 loss to the Pirates. In honor of this rare outcome, here’s a complete look at the six times a pitcher or team have allowed no hits in a game and still come out on the short end:
Hunter Greene and Art Warren -- May 15, 2022, Reds at Pirates
This was very nearly an incredible feat. The Reds came into the game against the Pirates with an astronomical 6.18 team ERA, the worst in baseball by well over a run, and for his part, Greene had an even uglier 7.62 mark over his first six MLB outings.
The 22-year-old rookie, a highly touted prospect, struck out nine over the first seven frames. Somewhat surprisingly, the Reds sent him back out for the eighth, which resulted in his fourth and fifth walks of the day. With Greene having thrown an MLB season-high 118 pitches in 7 1/3 innings, Cincinnati finally went to the bullpen. But Warren issued another walk, loading the bases and setting the Pirates up to score on Ke'Bryan Hayes' fielder's choice grounder. That was all Pittsburgh would get, but the damage was already done, and the Reds went down in order in the top of the ninth to seal it. (BOX SCORE)
Jered Weaver and Jose Arredondo -- June 28, 2008, Angels at Dodgers
Weaver was once one of the game's best pitchers, finishing in the top five in American League Cy Young Award voting in three straight years (2010-2012). But before all that came the most unusual start of his career.
Weaver had held the Dodgers hitless through four innings in a scoreless game, but then the fifth inning happened. Matt Kemp reached on an error from Weaver himself, who was unable to field a weakly-hit grounder back to him. With Blake DeWitt batting, Kemp stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. DeWitt hit a sacrifice fly, and all of a sudden, the Dodgers were leading 1-0 despite not yet having a hit. Weaver got out of the inning without allowing another run, but his team was already down. The Angels did not have one of their own baserunners advance past second base the rest of the game and did not score in a 1-0 loss to their Interleague rival. Weaver's final line was six innings, one unearned run, three walks and six strikeouts. Arredondo came out of the bullpen with two scoreless, hitless innings and three strikeouts.
Said Weaver afterward when asked about his feat: "I'm sure you guys are going to eat this up a lot more than I am. I don't consider it a no-hitter for me." (BOX SCORE)
Matt Young, Red Sox -- April 12, 1992, at Cleveland
Young went eight innings in this one, not allowing a hit in the entire game, but not needing to pitch the ninth inning because the Indians, playing at home, were already leading 2-1. How’d the game get to that point? Well, Young’s full line wasn’t just eight innings and zero hits, he also walked seven batters -- and allowed two earned runs.
The first run scored in the bottom of the first. Young walked Kenny Lofton to start the inning and Lofton promptly stole second base. He then stole third during a Glenallen Hill strikeout, putting him just 90 feet from scoring a run. The next batter, Carlos Baerga, reached on a throwing error by shortstop Luis Rivera, scoring Lofton to put Cleveland up 1-0 early on, without a hit.
Then in the bottom of the third, Young walked the first two batters of the inning, Mark Lewis and Lofton. After a fielder's-choice groundout from Hill, leading to runners on first and third, Hill stole second base, giving his club runners on second and third. With Baerga at the plate again, he hit into a fielder’s choice, which scored Lewis, the runner from third. That gave Clevealnd a 2-0 lead, still without a hit, that it wouldn’t relinquish. The Red Sox scored a run in the top of the fourth on a Luis Rivera single, but couldn’t add on beyond that.
Young was somewhat philosophical about the whole thing after the fact. "It's irrelevant, because we lost the game," he said. "A no-hitter's supposed to be where you strike out the last guy and the catcher comes out and jumps in your arms. A loss is a loss." (BOX SCORE)
Andy Hawkins, Yankees -- July 1, 1990, at White Sox
Through 7 2/3 innings, Hawkins appeared to be putting together a normal no-hit bid. He’d issued three walks, but had not allowed a run or a hit and had kept the White Sox at bay. Of course, his own team hadn’t scored yet either. But with two outs in the eighth, the story changed dramatically.
White Sox right fielder Sammy Sosa reached on a error by Yankees third baseman Mike Blowers. Sosa then stole second base, but that wouldn’t matter, since Hawkins walked the next batter, Ozzie Guillen, anyway. He issued a walk to the next batter, Lance Johnson, too, loading the bases. Robin Ventura hit a fly ball which should’ve ended the inning, but left fielder Jim Leyritz -- who was a rookie and had come up primarily as a catcher -- dropped the ball and three runs scored. It was Leyritz’s third career Major League game playing left field and just his fourth overall in the outfield. He would go on to appear in left field in just 25 games total in his career, which spanned 11 seasons.
The scoring wasn’t over after that error. Ivan Calderon was up next, with Ventura on second base. Calderon lofted a fly ball towards right fielder Jesse Barfield. He battled the sun and wind and dropped the ball, allowing Ventura to score.
One Yankees batter reached base in the ninth inning, also on an error, but he was erased when Barfield hit into a game-ending double play. With that, the Yankees lost 4-0, despite Hawkins pitching the entire game and not allowing a hit -- or an earned run.
''Everybody congratulated me,'' Hawkins said after that game, ''but I gave up four runs and lost. I'm stunned that I threw a no-hitter, and I'm stunned that I got beat. I'll have to sleep on this.'' (BOX SCORE)
Steve Barber and Stu Miller, Orioles -- April 30, 1967, vs. Tigers
This is one of only two nine-inning no-hitters that resulted in a loss, though it was a "team" effort.
Barber’s line in this game was one for the ages -- 8 2/3 IP, 0 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 10 BB, 3 K. Stu Miller is noted as well because he faced the final two batters and also did not allow a hit. This game was scoreless through seven innings, and the Orioles actually took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth on a Luis Aparicio sac fly, making a win -- and possibly a traditional no-hitter -- seem likely.
But then Barber walked the first two batters of the ninth inning, Norm Cash and Ray Oyler. Earl Wilson executed a sacrifice bunt, successfully moving Dick Tracewski, who pinch-ran for Cash, to third and Oyler to second. Willie Horton then hit a foul pop for the second out, with no runners advancing. With Mickey Stanley batting, Barber threw a wild pitch, allowing Tracewski to score and tie the game, and moving Oyler from second to third. Barber walked Stanley and was taken out of the game, with Miller coming in to pitch. The first batter Miller faced, Don Wert, hit a grounder to Aparicio at shortstop, but when second baseman Mark Belanger -- a legendary defender who had just entered the game -- couldn't secure the throw, Oyler scored from third and Belanger was charged with an error. Miller finally got Al Kaline to ground out to end the inning.
The Orioles headed to the bottom of the ninth with the no-hitter intact, but trailing 2-1 and had some hope with two future Hall of Famers due up. But Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Mike Epstein went down 1-2-3 in the ninth at the plate, and the Orioles lost the game despite not allowing any hits. (BOX SCORE)
Ken Johnson, Colt .45s -- April 23, 1964, vs. Reds
This one is the gold standard -- the only losing nine-inning no-hitter thrown by one pitcher.
Johnson was cruising until the top of the ninth, when Pete Rose reached on an error (and advanced to second) due to an errant throw by Johnson himself. The next batter, Chico Ruiz, grounded out, moving Rose over to third. But even that was not run-of-the-mill, as the grounder went off Johnson’s shin. Johnson remained in the game and the next batter, Vada Pinson, hit a grounder to second baseman Nellie Fox that could’ve ended the inning, but Fox misplayed the ball and Rose scored. Johnson got Frank Robinson to fly out (yes, Robinson was involved in two no-hitters that resulted in a loss), and the top of the ninth was over. The Colt .45s got a baserunner in the bottom of the ninth when Pete Runnels reached on an error, but couldn’t get him across to tie the game.
Johnson’s final line was 9 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, and he had a blunt assessment of the day. "I pitched the best game of my life and still lost,” Johnson said. “A hell of a way to get into the record books.” (BOX SCORE)