In 1st MLB start, Gilbert hurls historic no-hitter

Chase Field charged up as onetime electrician pitches gem

August 15th, 2021

PHOENIX -- A year ago, with the Minor League season canceled, was working as an electrician with his father to make ends meet in Northern California while also throwing bullpens when he could to try to stay in shape.

On Saturday night at Chase Field, the D-backs left-hander etched himself into the record books as he threw a no-hitter in his first big league start in a 7-0 victory over the Padres.

Gilbert allowed three walks in the game, all to leadoff hitter Tommy Pham, while striking out five and throwing 102 pitches.

"For me, it's what Major League Baseball or the game of baseball is all about -- as long as you have a uniform, as long as you give the right effort, anything's possible," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "It lined up perfectly for him today. We're all celebrating him."

Gilbert, 27, became just the fourth player to throw a no-hitter in his first career start. The last pitcher to do it was Bobo Holloman in 1953. The other two happened before 1900.

It was the third no-hitter in D-backs history. Randy Johnson threw a perfect game in 2004 against the Braves, and Edwin Jackson no-hit the Rays in 2010. Both were on the road, so Gilbert has the distinction of being the first D-backs pitcher to throw a no-hitter at Chase Field.

There have been eight Major League no-hitters this season, matching 1884 for the most in a year in American League/National League history. Not among the eight is Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning complete game with no hits allowed on April 25 at Atlanta.

Gilbert originally came up in the Phillies’ organization before being dealt to the Dodgers in February 2020. The D-backs selected him in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 Draft in December.

After making three relief appearances for the D-backs, including his big league debut Aug. 3, Gilbert was named to start Saturday's game after the D-backs removed Caleb Smith from the rotation.

The D-backs spotted Gilbert five runs in the first inning off Joe Musgrove, who earlier this year threw the first no-hitter in Padres history.

"You have to tip your hat to Gilbert. It was a special night for him, " Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. "We've been a part of two of them this year, and it's a lot funner being on the other side."

Gilbert walked Pham to open the game and then set down eight in a row before once again walking Pham. The Padres did hit balls hard off Gilbert, 10 that registered at least 95 mph, but they were hit right at Arizona defenders.

"It was just one of those days," Gilbert said. "I know balls were getting hit around, but they were getting hit to guys. And then I was making good pitches. It was just kind of a rush the whole time, to be honest."

A rush, but Gilbert impressed teammates, including catcher Daulton Varsho, as well as Lovullo with how calm and in control he kept himself.

Lovullo, on the other hand, was a basket case after the fifth inning, when he started deciding just how many pitches he was going to allow Gilbert to throw.

"I was probably the most stressed out person in the entire stadium," Lovullo said.

Before the game, Lovullo and his staff had decided that 85 pitches would be Gilbert’s maximum, but then as he carried the no-hitter deeper into the game, Lovullo spoke with the medical staff and bullpen coach Mike Fetters, who was filling in for pitching coach Matt Herges.

Fetters impressed upon Lovullo the uniqueness of what Gilbert might be in the process of accomplishing and urged him to stretch the limits a bit. They came up with a number -- 105, but Lovullo likely would have stretched it to 110, if necessary.

When the eighth inning opened with Gilbert sitting at 88 pitches, it seemed like he might not be able to complete it under 110 pitches. But the Padres helped him out by going down in order on just three pitches, with two of them hit to the warning track.

That left Gilbert at 91 pitches. As he walked out to start the ninth inning with the crowd on its feet, he felt a sense of calm.

"It was weird," Gilbert said. "I wasn't nervous at all, and I felt like I should have been. I don't know why, but I kept just going out there and doing my thing. I was really nervous before the game leading up to the game, but after the three-pitch eighth inning, I was like, 'OK, this is going to happen.' But, no, I just kind of stayed levelheaded and then kept making pitches."

Trent Grisham and pinch-hitter Ha-Seong Kim struck out looking to open the final inning, and that brought Gilbert's nemesis, Pham, to the plate.

Pham swung at the first pitch, a cut fastball, and hit a sinking liner to center that Ketel Marte easily snagged for the final out.

"I did think it was going to go down [for a hit], but it kind of carried a little bit," Gilbert said of the final out. "I saw it hanging in the air, and I'm like, 'OK, this is it.' That's happening. So that's cool.'"

So, one year after helping his dad with his electrician work, Gilbert was mobbed on the field by his teammates and got a call from the National Baseball Hall of Fame requesting some of his gear to display in the museum.

"It's crazy," Gilbert said. "I'm happy to be here. I'd rather be doing this than pulling wires. No offense, Dad."