Seven-inning doubleheaders are something completely unique to the 2020 season, and they come with different definitions for pitcher feats.
Some things are the same. A starting pitcher is still in line for the win if he goes at least five innings and his team has the lead when he departs (and keeps the lead after he departs). And if a starter goes all seven innings without allowing a run, he will still get credited with a shutout.
But if a pitcher seeks the hallowed no-hitter and perfect game feats, nine is still the magic number.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Major League Baseball’s official statistician, neither a team nor an individual pitcher will be credited with a no-no in a scheduled seven-inning game of a doubleheader -- unless that game goes to extras. If the contest extends to at least nine innings and that pitcher (or a team’s group of pitchers) has still not allowed a hit, then it goes down in the history books as a no-no.
Elias’ designation follows the tradition of a 1991 ruling by a committee led by then-Commissioner Fay Vincent that stated that in order for a pitcher to be credited with a no-hitter:
“…a pitcher or pitchers had to pitch a complete game of nine innings or more without allowing a hit. Any game of fewer than nine innings in which a pitcher or pitchers do not allow a hit should be considered as a ‘notable achievement.’”
And if you’re wondering if a pitcher can throw a perfect game in a seven-inning game of a doubleheader, even if innings eight and nine begin with an automatic runner on base, the answer is yes. According to Elias, "A perfect game is a game of at least nine innings where no batter reaches base safely. In the case of a runner on second to start the inning he is not a batter to reach safely. Therefore it is a perfect game.”
MLB had seen starters complete at least seven innings only 17 times in 150 games across the first 13 days of the 2020 season, and Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks was the only pitcher to throw a complete nine-inning game. So, an official no-hitter in a doubleheader would be especially memorable this year -- in more ways than one.