Oakland A’s starter Mike Fiers made history Tuesday night, throwing a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds. There’s a lot to say about this achievement, so let’s take it one step at a time. Here are the 27 best things about Fiers’ gem, one for each out he recorded.
1. 300th no-hitter in MLB history
The majors last saw a no-hitter on May 8, 2018, courtesy of James Paxton. This one came on May 7, 2019, almost exactly one year later. Here’s the full list of all 300 no-hitters in history, dating back to 1876, plus some extra facts about them — including that this was the 37th since 2010, the most of any decade.
2. 13th for A’s franchise, 8th since moving to Oakland
A’s fans didn’t have to wait long since the team’s last no-no, as Sean Manaea shut down the Red Sox just last April. Now the A’s have 13 of them all-time, and you can read a little bit about each one at MLB’s site. Here’s the full list (more details here):
- Weldon Henley, 1905 vs. Browns (now Orioles)
- Chief Bender, 1910 vs. Naps (now Indians)
- Bullet Joe Bush, 1916 vs. Indians
- Dick Fowler, 1945 vs. Browns (now Orioles)
- Bill McCahan, 1947 vs. Senators (now Twins)
- Catfish Hunter, 1968 vs. Twins (perfect game)
- Vida Blue, 1970 vs. Twins
- Combined (Vida Blue, Glenn Abbot, Paul Lindblad, Rollie Fingers), 1975 vs. Angels
- Mike Warren, 1983 vs. White Sox
- Dave Stewart, 1990 vs. Blue Jays
- Dallas Braden, 2010 vs. Rays (perfect game)
- Sean Manaea, 2018 vs. Red Sox
- Mike Fiers, 2019 vs. Reds
Of course, the previous two names were on hand to congratulate Fiers, as Braden is now one of the club’s TV announcers and Manaea is still on the team and was in the dugout.
3. Second of Fiers’ career
Fiers threw another no-no back in 2015, for the Astros and against the Dodgers. He now becomes the 35th pitcher in history to toss multiple no-hitters, and here’s the full list. There are some impressive names in that group, and also a few that you’ve surely never heard of. The most recent handful gives an idea of what kind of company Fiers has joined, though:
- Jake Arrieta
- Max Scherzer
- Tim Lincecum
- Homer Bailey
- Justin Verlander
- Roy Halladay
- Mark Buehrle
- Randy Johnson
- Hideo Nomo
Of the nine pitchers on that list, six of them won at least one Cy Young, and two of those are in the Hall of Fame (with two more sure to follow). The list of active pitchers who have done it features just Verlander, Scherzer, Arrieta, and Bailey.
Fiers has never gotten Cy votes nor even been an All-Star, but he’s been a solid starter for years and now he’s got a notable place in history. As an odd coincidence, both of his no-hitters came in interleague matchups, though both were at home so the other teams got a DH. He also had to work a bit extra for both of them — he needed 131 pitches on Tuesday, the most he’d thrown in a game since the 134 he used in his previous no-no.
Brett Anderson witnessed both of Fiers’ performances, last time as the opposing starter with the Dodgers and this time as a teammate in Oakland’s dugout.
Witnessing this Fiers no-hitter was exponentially cooler than the 1st— Brett Anderson (@_BAnderson30_) May 8, 2019
The list of pitchers with three no-hitters is much more exclusive, with just five names: Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, Cy Young, and 19th-century hurler Larry Corcoran. Fiers will turn 34 years old in a couple weeks, so there’s still time for him to join that group!
4. 7th to throw no-hitters for two franchises
While a few dozen others have thrown multiple no-hitters, a much smaller number has thrown one for multiple different franchises. Here’s that list:
- Nolan Ryan (3 teams)
- Ted Breitenstein
- Cy Young
- Jim Bunning
- Hideo Nomo
- Randy Johnson
- Mike Fiers
Some versions of this list will erroneously include 19th-century pitcher Adonis Terry, but both of his came for the same Brooklyn franchise. They just changed their name from the Grays to the Bridegrooms, but it was the same team all along, now known as the Dodgers.
5. Fiers and the A’s needed it
Despite having done this before, Fiers was an unlikely suspect for this feat at this moment. He entered Tuesday with a 6.81 ERA and 5.57 FIP through his first eight starts this year, and he couldn’t find a groove despite consistently reporting that he felt great. His season-opening slump had him ranked among the worst starters in the majors.
The A’s weren’t doing much better as a team. They were coming off a 1-8 road trip that included two games in which they took a lead in extra innings and then lost anyway. The rotation was struggling just like expected, the bullpen was also leaking, and the powerful lineup had gone quiet. Overall they sat at 15-21, last place in their division, in a season in which they’re supposed to be contending.
Oakland needed a spark, and their Opening Day starter stepped up to provide it. The lineup still only managed two runs, but that was enough for Fiers, as the right-hander took care of the zeroes on the other end and gave the bullpen a night off.
It’s only one game, and the A’s are still in the cellar for now. But they needed someone to be a stopper, and Fiers did just that. He put the team on his back and carried them into the win column, and in doing so he also turned around his own slow start to the year. Add in the return of Matt Olson from the injured list, and suddenly things are looking brighter in Oakland than they were a couple days ago.
6. Another Laureano highlight
Just about every no-hitter includes some kind of memorable defensive highlight, and this one came courtesy of electric center fielder Ramon Laureano. In the 6th inning, former MVP Joey Votto drilled what should have been a home run, but Laureano jumped up and caught it before it could clear the wall.
This side angle shows beyond all doubt that this would have gone out.
Amazingly, this isn’t even the first homer that Laureano has pulled back this season. Just a couple weeks ago he robbed Teoscar Hernandez of the Blue Jays, and in nearly the same spot too. Last time he was to the right of that “My Teams” NBC Sports sign, and this time he was just to the left of it, not more than 10 feet away.
In addition to preserving the no-no, Laureano’s grab was pretty big in the context of the game, too. The score was 1-0 at the time, so this would have tied it. In fact, it could even have taken the lead if not for another nice play on the previous batter. ...
7. Profar steps up on defense
Before Votto came up and hit his almost-homer, Kyle Farmer skied a popup over no-man’s land in shallow right field. It was just the kind of pesky bloop that could fall in for a cheap hit, and such flukes are one reason that throwing a no-hitter is so difficult. But this time the BABIP gods smiled upon Oakland, and Jurickson Profar came racing out from second base to make a diving catch. He probably ran at least 100 feet to get to that ball.
If Farmer’s ball drops, and Votto’s gets past Laureano, then suddenly this would have been a 2-1 Reds lead and very possibly an eventual A’s loss. But they made the plays, and the no-hitter lived on.
8. Profar steps up on offense
Profar also chipped in with his bat. Actually, that’s an understatement — he accounted for all of the A’s scoring almost entirely on his own, with an RBI double in the 2nd and a solo homer in the 7th. In a 2-0 victory, he drove in both runs.
It’s worth a moment to appreciate Profar’s contributions here. It’s been a brutal season for him on both sides of the ball, but he stepped up in every way on Tuesday. He’s batting .193 with a 54 wRC+, but he provided all the offense in this game. His defense has completely fallen apart, with a case of the yips that has destroyed his throwing, but he made one of the key catches in a no-hitter. He also made a proper flip to start a double play in the next inning, which is one of the exact things he keeps messing up with his yips.
Profar still has work to do to put his disastrous April behind him, but this game was a great step in that direction.
In an ironic twist amid these defensive highlights, there was an error in this game, by none other than Matt Chapman. The Platinum Glover bricked a grounder in the 4th inning, one that was tricky but gettable. The third baseman was essentially playing shortstop in a shift, and Jesse Winker bounced it straight up the middle. It’s a play you’d generally expect a shortstop to make, but then you’d compliment him afterward, so I’m not holding it against Chapman too hard but at the same time I have no problem with it being called an error.
Think about that. It’s already hard enough to get enough hops in your favor to pull off a no-hitter, and Fiers did it even after the best defender in the sport gifted the opponent a free baserunner. (To be fair, Chapman did later make a nice play in the 3B/SS hole in the 8th inning, complete with an Eric Chavez-style pirouette.)
10. Legitimate gem
Not all no-hitters are created equal. Some are outright dominant from start to finish, but others require the pitcher to tiptoe around constant trouble. Edwin Jackson threw arguably the worst nine-inning no-no in history, walking eight batters and requiring 149 pitches. A.J. Burnett walked nine and hit another, and Dock Ellis came one walk short of matching those wild numbers.
Fiers was more toward the dominant side. The Chapman error was the only baserunner for the first six innings, and otherwise the Reds managed just a pair of walks in the 7th — one of them quickly eliminated by a double play. That was it, and Cincinnati never even got a runner to second base. Meanwhile, Fiers struck out six batters.
11. Statcast agrees
Not only did Fiers avoid hurting himself with free passes, but Statcast says he also didn’t need too much luck on his batted balls either.
There were two balls that the Reds absolutely smashed, and for which Fiers is truly lucky to have recorded outs. One was Laureano’s catch to rob Votto of the homer, which was hit 102.9 mph off the bat with an estimated distance of 395 feet. The other came in the 2nd inning, when Yasiel Puig sent a deep fly 398 feet into dead center, only to have it die in Laureano’s glove on the warning track in front of the 400 sign. Puig’s drive was the Reds’ hardest contact, at 103 mph.
Dingers are one of Fiers’ biggest weaknesses, as he’s prone to the long ball and he’d allowed eight already this year in his first eight starts. He nearly gave up two more on Tuesday, but the Coliseum barely managed to contain both.
Otherwise, the Reds never really came close to earning a hit. They clocked an exit velocity over 91 mph just six more times, but five of them were routine grounders and the other was a lazy routine fly to right field. Statcast calculates an expected batting average (xBA) on each piece of contact, based on the exit velocity and launch angle, and only three balls registered above a .250 mark — the two aforementioned almost-homers, and one of the sharp grounders from the previous sentence (which earned a .340). Only five other balls were even above a .120 mark.
Here are all 27 outs, so you can see for yourself.
Overall, Fiers posted a .216 xwOBA in this game. That’s not the best in the league or anything, and not even in the Top 100 starts of the year, but it’s within the Top 12% or so and constitutes an excellent showing. His season total of .323 is almost exactly the league average for starters, offering us a reminder that small-sample ERA doesn’t tell us everything.
12. Fiers not a flamethrower
Another metric that doesn’t tell us everything is velocity. Of course you’d rather have it than not, but Tuesday reminded us that pitching is about more than just how hard you throw the ball.
Out of Fiers’ 131 pitches, only 35 of them clocked at 90 mph or higher. Only 15 of them reached 91. Twice he hit 92, topping out at 92.1 mph. His fastball, which he used just over half the time, averaged 89.9 overall. Instead of blowing hitters away, Fiers mixed in a slider that earned him a bunch of swinging strikes, a slow curve that induced several pieces of weak contact, and a changeup to keep the opponent off balance.
13. Votto popped out
Need another example of how great Fiers was? He got Joey Votto to pop out for the first out of the game.
If that doesn’t sound like a big deal, remember that Votto never pops out in the infield. Depending on how you measure what counts as an infield popup, this was arguably only the ninth time he’s ever done so in his entire career, now in his 13th season spanning nearly 7,000 plate appearances. There have been 41 no-hitters thrown since Votto debuted, so technically getting him to pop out on the infield dirt is the more rare and impressive feat.
In hindsight, perhaps this should have been our sign that Fiers was going to do something special on this night.
14. Bob Melvin
This can’t be an easy situation for a manager. You want to give your pitcher a chance at history. But you also don’t want to let him hurt himself, and of course you want to win the game. I wouldn’t have blamed Bob Melvin one iota if he’d gone to Lou Trivino or Blake Treinen in the late innings, and at times I even found myself rooting for that to happen given the enormous pitch count. The A’s seem like just the kind of coldly objective team that would pull a starter in the middle of a no-hit bid if necessary.
Fortunately, Melvin went for it.
Melvin said he broke the unwritten rule by telling Fiers “no more base runners” after the seventh inning. Was concerned about the pitch count. Profar’s late homer bought him some room.— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) May 8, 2019
It was a bold gamble by the defending Manager of the Year, but it paid off.
15. Pregame shenanigans
Before Fiers’ heroics, the story of this game was going to be much different. In fact, it was in danger of not being played at all.
First pitch was scheduled for 7:07 p.m. as normal, but the lights in left field malfunctioned and the start of the game was pushed back. It ended up being 98-minute delay, before finally getting underway at 8:45. And then Fiers threw 131 pitches for a no-hitter. Insider Martin Gallegos reports that the game would have been called and postponed if they hadn’t started by 9:00.
The pun potential is always high with a pitcher named Fiers, but this turn of events took it through the roof.
The A's don't need light when they have Fiers.— Julian McWilliams (@JulianMack105) May 8, 2019
And the lights weren’t the only distraction. Before the game, Khris Davis gifted each of his teammates with a Nintendo Switch, complete with a cameo appearance from Mario and Luigi themselves.
Josh Phegley on the historic night: “It was pretty shocking. I showed up to the clubhouse and saw Mario and Luigi. We had a light delay. Mike throws a no-hitter, and then I get covered in steak seasoning. You couldn’t have put those moments together in a single day if you tried.”— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) May 8, 2019
The steak seasoning came after the game, as part of the traditional celebration of dumping things atop players who have done well (more on that later). And speaking of Phegley ...
16. Josh Phegley
You can’t talk about a no-hitter without a tip of the mask to the catcher. Athletics Nation was worried about the catching position this season, but Phegley has really stepped up from backup duty into an adequate starter. He’s getting it done with the bat, with a 111 wRC+ and a historic 8 RBI game last week. Now he’s got a major highlight from behind the plate, too.
17. Callahan milestone
In addition to all the other pregame hoopla, there was one more neat moment before this contest. Public address announcer Dick Callahan celebrated his 1,000th game with the A’s by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. The offering wasn’t quite up to Fiers’ lofty standards, but Callahan’s shrug at the end of this video makes up for it.
Hey, let’s see you do better when you’re approaching age 80.
18. A’s are better than Bees
This was actually the second game in a row in which the Reds had to wait through a pregame delay. On Monday in Cincy, they had to wait 18 extra minutes to begin their game against the Giants due to bees. A swarm found its way to the area around home plate and the dugouts, forcing everyone to stand around and wait while it dispersed.
The Coliseum lights issue was embarrassing, but it’s still better than being surrounded by bees. Either way, it all led to this offering from Dallas Braden, easily the best tweet of the night.
Yesterday it was the Bee’s that delayed the Reds, today it’s the A’s... #Nailedit— Dallas Braden (@DALLASBRADEN209) May 8, 2019
You might say that getting no-hit was a pretty big buzzkill for the Reds.
19. Korach call
No big A’s moment is complete without the Ken Korach radio call.
20. The Celebration
You’ve seen it all before, but it never gets old. First, the team rushes the field.
Then things get dumped on people.
And then, back in the clubhouse, more things get dumped on more people.
It’s a beautiful dance that I will never tire of.
21. This photo
The last A’s pitcher to throw a no-no, dumping the Gatorade shower on the latest one.
Bonus points for Manaea’s new Wolverine mutton chops.
22. Postgame interview
This was a pretty standard interview, but it’s always interesting to hear the takes from the players themselves.
Q: “How did this one feel different to you [than the first no-hitter]?”
A: “Just a little older, really.”
23. Good sportsmanship
Well played, Reds.
In all seriousness, congrats to Mike Fiers on an outstanding performance. pic.twitter.com/4NTgNJT6VM— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) May 8, 2019
24. Box score
Behold, in all its majesty.
Also a Bill James Game Score of 91.
25. Quirky stat
It’s not baseball without some super weird one-in-a-million stat.
Mike Fiers of the @Athletics now has 2 career complete games, both of which were no-hitters.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) May 8, 2019
He's the first pitcher in MLB history to have each of his first 2 career complete games be no-hitters.#RootedInOakland
The complete game is a dying art, but at least Fiers makes the most of it when he goes the distance!
26. Deja vu
It also wouldn’t be baseball without some absurd small-world coincidence.
Go with me here.— Doug Kern (@dakern74) May 8, 2019
Mike Fiers: First pitcher to throw a second NH since Jake Arrieta 2015-16.
Fiers' second one was against the Reds.
Arrieta's second one was against the Reds.
Final out of Fiers' second one: Eugenio Suarez.
Final out of Arrieta's second one: Eugenio Suarez.
27. All smiles
Great game, Mike Fiers!