A No-No... Maybe?
So, the baseball news of the day is that St. Louis’ Miles Mikolas almost threw a no-hitter on Tuesday night. He came within one out — or, if you want to make it sound a bit more dramatic, within one strike — of no-hitting the Pirates. Someone named Calvin Mitchell, a 23-year-old rookie who was hitting .203 in his first 59 at-bats, broke it up.
We’ll get back to that in a minute.
First: This game reminded me — no-hitters are weird. Well, no, not all no-hitters. Perfect games are not weird. They are priceless pieces of art. There have been 21 perfect games in the modern era of baseball, going back to 1901, and each one is beautiful in its own way, whether it’s King Felix’s gem in 2012, when his stuff was so electric that he got 26 swings and misses, or Philip Humber’s shocking brush with immortality that same year, or David Cone on Yogi Berra Day, or Sandy Koufax dealing with Vin Scully on the microphone, or Don Larsen in the World Series …
Meanwhile, no-hitters, the 252 others thrown in modern times, are this strange grab bag of brilliance and luck and walks and errors and odd calls by the umpire and the official scorer. That’s not to downplay the joy of a no-hitter; they are absolutely wonderful. It’s one of the thrills in my life to have seen one (and only one) major league no-hitter live, and that was Jon Lester’s no-hitter of the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park in 2008.*
*The only other no-hitter I saw live was a sort of perfect game — in Japan. This was during the 2007 Japan Series; I was there to write about future Royals manager Trey Hillman, who was managing the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Long story. Anyway, it wasn’t officially recognized as a perfect game because Chunichi starter Daisuke Yamai, who threw eight perfect innings and was in complete control, was pulled for closer Hitoki Iwase in the ninth.
But, it’s hard to deny that no-hitters — especially the sort that Mikolas almost threw on Tuesday — are kind of sketchy. The reason they’re kind of sketchy, I think, is that in some ways we treat a no-hitter as an individual achievement for the pitcher, but in other ways, we KNOW that no-hitters are team achievements.
Our feelings on the no-hitter clash constantly.
Here, let’s go through the Mikolas game to sort of explain what I mean.