PITTSBURGH -- Josh VanMeter called it.
As the Pirates were facing the possibility of being no-hit by Hunter Greene, the Reds’ electrifying rookie who looked as if he could do no wrong Sunday at PNC Park, VanMeter made his prediction. The Pirates would get no-hit, but they would still win the game.
The Pirates didn’t record a single hit, but they did not lose. Thanks to three straight walks and a fielder’s choice in the eighth inning, the Pirates spoiled Greene’s brilliant performance and squeezed out enough offense to beat the Reds, 1-0.
By the end of the evening, VanMeter’s new nickname might be “Nostradamus.”
“I’ve been no-hit before. To win takes the sting away a little bit,” VanMeter said. “It’s a heck of a situation. As long as we win, it doesn’t really matter. In the game of baseball, it seems like you see something new every day."
As unique of a game as this was, one that nobody in either clubhouse has experienced, this isn’t the first time a team has won without a hit. Pittsburgh became the sixth team to win a game without a single hit and the first since the Dodgers on June 28, 2008, when Los Angeles was collectively held hitless by Jered Weaver and Jose Arredondo. Of all the pitchers who ended up as the tough-luck losers, Greene was arguably the most impressive.
Greene, a 22-year-old in just his seventh career start, was phenomenal. Across a career-high 7 1/3 innings, he recorded a career-high nine strikeouts. Opposed to his fastball-heavy approach in his first couple starts, Greene leaned heavily on his slider, throwing the pitch 65 times.
“That was the first time I’ve seen Hunter in a couple years,” said VanMeter, who played for the Reds when Greene was in the Minors. “I saw him at the alternate site a little bit before with the Reds. His breaking ball has come a long way. Him throwing the breaking ball for strikes made the heater even better. The heater is electric already. The ability for him to throw strikes with the breaking ball kind of in any count made it difficult today.”
Added manager Derek Shelton, who was ejected in the seventh inning: “He had no-hit stuff, and it translated. We didn't hit a lot of balls hard. He was just really good.
Greene prevented the Pirates from recording a hit, but he wasn’t perfect. The rookie allowed five walks, including back-to-back free passes to Rodolfo Castro and Michael Perez with one out in the eighth inning that ended his afternoon and, ultimately, saddled him with the loss.
Following Greene’s departure, reliever Art Warren walked Ben Gamel to load the bases for Ke’Bryan Hayes. The possibility of the Pirates winning without a hit started to become real. A walk, a hit-by-pitch, a sacrifice fly, a fielder’s choice, all those possibilities would do. They didn’t need a hit. They didn’t get one.
On a 2-1 count, Hayes bounced a chopper at second baseman Alejo Lopez. With Castro already halfway down the line, Lopez opted to go for the double play but bobbled the exchange. With Hayes speeding down the line -- his 29.2 feet per second was his third-fastest sprint speed of the season -- there was no possibility of a double play.
The Pirates had their lead, and after David Bednar locked down the ninth inning, they had the rarest of wins.
“I don’t know if I’d like to draw it up that way every time to get wins for our team,” said Chris Stratton, who recorded the win
“It’s a kind of unconventional ‘W’ for sure, but we’re a scrappy, gritty bunch and we found a way,” said David Bednar, who got the save. “It was definitely cool to be on the winning side of it.”
Lost in the shuffle was the performance of José Quintana. Quintana, the veteran, went blow-for-blow with Greene, the rookie, throwing seven shutout innings with five strikeouts to one walk.
As good as Quintana threw the ball, he ultimately made a concession.
“I think he threw the ball better than me,” Quintana laughed
Greene may have thrown the ball better, but Quintana and his teammates walked out of PNC Park with the win. It may have been rare. Unconventional. Weird. But it counts all the same. More conventional wins are preferred, if for nothing but reduced stress, but the Pirates will take this one all the same.
“Winning a Major League game is really hard,” Shelton said. “Something I appreciate everytime we do it. We'll take the win. Sometimes they don't look the same, but they all count the same. I'll take it."