Chris Heston and Other Terrible, Strange, and Memorable No-Hitters

On April 15, 1987, Juan Nieves became the first and only pitcher in Milwaukee Brewers history to throw a no-hitter, when he shut out Cal Ripken’s Orioles in front of 11,407 fans at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. At 22 years and 100 days old, he was the second-youngest pitcher ever to accomplish that feat. It was Nieves’ fourth career complete-game shutout in only his 33rd start. Having expertly driven up the hopes of the Brewers faithful, Nieves would go on to appear in just 57 more games over two seasons, posting a pedestrian 4.63 ERA before an arm injury ended his career.

Since that day, 72 no-hitters have been thrown by 64 different pitchers (attributing all instances of combined no-hitters to a single pitcher) on 27 different teams. Only two teams have waited longer than my Brewers: the Cleveland Indians (14 no-hitters, but none since 1981), because of course they have, and the San Diego Padres (zero no-hitters since their inception in 1969), but no one feels bad for anyone who lives in San Diego. Ten of the last 13 no-hitters were thrown by just four franchises: the San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Though the Brewers haven’t been on either side of a no-hitter in Miller Park since it opened in 2001, there has been one no-hitter thrown there. Former Chicago Cubs malcontent Carlos Zambrano did the honors against the Houston Astros in September of 2008, when Hurricane Ike relocated a three-game Astros home series to Milwaukee. For laughs, Ted Lilly took a no-hitter into the seventh inning the following day. If there’s anything the Cubs excel at, it’s being a bunch of no-good, dirty jokesters.

Chris Heston threw the first no-hitter of the 2015 season on Tuesday evening. The answer to your question is, “I’m not sure, some pitcher for the Giants, apparently.” This marks the fourth year in a row that a San Francisco Giants pitcher has tossed a no-no, which is fair, because their otherwise tortured fan base has had to endure a full two seasons out the last five in which their team did not win the World Series. It’s nice to see the baseball gods throw those poor San Franciscans a bone every once in a while.

No-hitters are dope. Fans with no particular rooting interest in the game still get excited when a pitcher is just a few outs away from the record books. When the winning pitcher is on your favorite team, I imagine no-hitters are orders of magnitude more exciting; I have to imagine, since I was a person only in the eyes of the pro-life movement during Nieves’ no-no. In the interest in torturing myself even further, I now present to you the top five worst, weirdest, stupidest, and most inexplicable no-hitters that all you jokers have gotten to enjoy.

5) June 9, 2015: Chris Heston – San Francisco Giants 5, New York Mets 0

We may need a new term for what Heston did on Tuesday, because “no-hitter” is somewhat of a misnomer; while the Mets failed to hit Heston, he certainly was able to hit them, as he beaned three different Mets while striking out 11 and walking none.

Now, recording a no-hitter is hard, okay? It is. Just from a mathematical standpoint, you need to face professional baseball players who, on average, get base hits about 25 percent of the time, and you have to get them out 27 times in a row (excepting walks, errors and things of that nature). The odds of that happening are about 0.04%. So, great job, Chris. But one thing that might make it a little easier is when the poor guys in the opposing batter’s box fear for their safety. I’m putting an asterisk by this one.

4) September 4, 1993: Jim Abbott – New York Yankees 4, Cleveland Indians 0

There’s nothing too far out of the ordinary about this performance on its surface: then-Yankee Abbott struck out only three while walking five, and threw only 66 of his 119 pitches for strikes. Abbott was a serviceable if not spectacular pitcher over his ten-year career, but he was just two years removed from finishing third in the Cy Young voting, and sometimes those kind of guys just have a day. One interesting note about this game: it was the third career appearance for 21-year-old DH Manny Ramirez. You may have heard of him.

So what makes Abbott’s no-no noteworthy? Well, it’s probably the thing that made his entire career noteworthy: HE WAS BORN WITHOUT A RIGHT HAND. Yes, that’s right, when Abbott’s teammates swarmed to congratulate him after he completed his gem, he was only able to high-five one of them at a time. My favorite Jim Abbott fact: he played one year in the National League–with the Brewers in 1999–and recorded two hits, three sacrifice bunts, and three RBI in 21 at-bats. Both hits came off of Cubs RHP Jon Lieber.

3) May 3, 2011: Francisco Liriano – Minnesota Twins 1, Chicago White Sox 0

Y’all, Liriano was stupid bad when he threw this no-no. He entered the game with a 9.13 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP over five bloody-awful starts. He entered the game with a 1:1 K:BB ratio, which worsened after this “gem,” in which he walked six batters while striking out only two. The no-hitter was sandwiched between a pair of three-inning starts from Liriano, in which he surrendered a total of nine hits, seven walks, and 11 runs. The White Sox’s starting first baseman was Adam Dunn, who was slashing .157/.293/.289, and Liriano only struck out two guys. Adam Dunn averaged more than a strikeout per game in his career. This was awful, and I just don’t know how to tell you any differently. A crime against baseball.

2) June 25, 2010: Edwin Jackson – Arizona Diamondbacks 1, Tampa Bay Rays 0

It was the bottom of the third inning with Arizona leading 1-0, but the Diamondbacks’ Jackson had just issued his seventh (!!!) walk to load the bases with no one out. He had thrown 61 pitches through two-plus innings, and had walked more batters than he retired. He was facing the middle of the order against a Rays team that was 43-30, and that went on to the win the AL East. Jackson wasn’t (and still isn’t) very good; he entered the game with an ERA just north of five. There were unlimited possibilities for how the game could’ve proceeded, but we can certainly go ahead and pull “Edwin Jackson no-hitter” off the table, right? Right!?

Wrong. The baseball gods must’ve decided to send some of that San Francisco luck to Phoenix. Jackson got out of the inning, and finished the game with a total of eight walks, which was better than it could have been, I suppose. Jackson needed an absurd 149 pitches to complete his no-hitter, but the outing didn’t turn his season around; he finished 6-10 with a 5.16 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. Now a member of the Cubs, he’s trying to put an awful 2014 effort, which saw him go 6-15 with a 6.33 ERA, behind him. Somehow, he’s “earning” $13 million this year as a mop-up reliever (the Cubs are 3-16 in games that he’s pitched), all of which must make Theo Epstein very happy.

1) June 11, 2003: Roy Oswalt, Pete Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel, Billy Wagner – Houston Astros 8, New York Yankees 0

Perhaps something jumps out at you right away here: Oswalt was yanked from the game early in the second inning after aggravating a groin injury that had sidelined him since May 31. The Astros then had to scramble to find eight innings from their bullpen. Normally, in this kind of situation, a team’s just trying to get through the game without anyone getting hurt, and without blowing up its bullpen for the rest of the week. Instead, the Astros bullpen went into Yankee Stadium and blanked the Bombers, breaking the host team’s MLB-record 6,980 consecutive games without being no-hit, a streak that dated back to September of 1958.

Pete Munro, who came in to relieve Oswalt, was terrible, walking three and hitting a batter in 2.2 innings. No other Astros pitcher allowed a baserunner. Octavio Dotel, who pitched the eighth inning, pulled off an even more improbable pitching feat when he struck out four hitters in one inning. If nothing else, at least I can take solace in the fact that the Yankees were the victims of the strangest no-hitter of my lifetime.

Photo credit: marbla123 / Creative Commons


Travis Sarandos writes for Brew Crew Ball and BP Milwaukee, among other places. Follow him on Twitter.