On May 15, 2018, Padres pitcher Jordan Lyles took a perfect game into the eighth inning against the Rockies. Trevor Story broke it up with a solid single to left field. In doing so, Story didn’t just break up a no-hitter; he ended the chance that a Padres pitcher would throw the first no-hitter in franchise history.
A little less than a year earlier, Rockies pitcher Kyle Freeland took a no-hitter into the ninth inning. This game was against the White Sox, and a single to left field similarly broke up the no-hitter. Melky Cabrera’s hit didn’t just end the no hitter though. The hit drove Freeland from the game and because of that, it ended the chance that a Rockies pitcher would throw the first complete game one-hitter in franchise history. It ended up being the third group effort one-hitter in team history. In this case, Jordan Lyles came in for the final two outs.
The Padres are the only team in baseball to never have thrown a no-hitter of any kind. The Rockies are the only team in baseball without a complete game one-hitter. So, which one will come first?
The one-hitter will come first
It’s pretty impressive that the Padres have never thrown a no-hitter. They’ll be celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2019, and there have been 122 complete game no hitters since they began playing. And they’ve had a lot of close ones, as they have 19 complete game one-hitters. It’s also impressive that the Rockies have never managed a complete game one-hitter despite having thrown the rarer no-hitter. Since the Padres started playing in 1969, there have been 447 complete game one-hitters — about 3.5 one-hitters for every no-hitter. The frequency of one-hitters compared to no-hitters should make it more likely that the Rockies will beat the Padres in this race.
According to Baseball Reference, there has been at least one complete game one-hitter thrown in every season since 1908. While there are far more seasons with no hitters than without them, there are a lot of one and two year stretches without a no-no. In all but four seasons since 1908, there have been more one-hitters thrown than no-hitters. In 1922, 1924, and 1956, there were the same number of one-hitters as no-hitters (2, 1, and 3).
The only season with more no-hitters than one-hitters was 1962, five and four, respectively. There are more one-hitters, so it stands to reason that the Rockies will fall into one of those one-hitters at some point.
The no-hitter will come first
Reason suggests the one-hitter will come first, but context may indicate that the no-hitter will. Because the Rockies are the only team not to have had a complete game one-hitter, they are also the only team to have a complete game no-hitter without having had a complete game one-hitter.
But the way starting pitchers are treated suggests that Ubaldo Jiménez’s 2010 no-hitter would not have been a complete game one-hitter if he allowed a hit. Jiménez had walked six batters, and it took him 128 pitches to get the no-hitter. Even in 2010 he probably would have been removed from the game. In 2018 or in some unclear future he almost certainly would have. There are two reasons for that.
First, one-hitters don’t have the cachet of no-hitters, so it’s easier to remove pitchers who have allowed a hit. At the very least, it makes the decision much easier. That’s why Freeland was immediately removed from the game after he allowed a hit on his 126th pitch. It’s likely he was only able to make it that far because those pitches came in the ninth inning.
Second, complete games in general are getting rarer. There were only 47 complete games in 2017, the fewest in major-league history. That broke the record set in 2016, which saw 69 complete games. And that broke the record set in 2015, which had 80 complete games. There have been 18 full major-league seasons in the twenty-first century, and they are the 18 seasons with the fewest complete games. It’s as if the only way to get a complete game at all is to either have a no-hitter going or to have fewer than 100 pitches heading into the ninth inning. And I’ve heard on more than one broadcast that a manager may be “relieved” that someone with 90 pitches in the seventh finally allowed a hit. Even then, a pitcher may be pulled even with a no-hitter going. Just ask Ross Stripling.
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There’s a case to be made for each, and it’s fun enough to know that there’s a good case to be made that the no-hitter will come first. Still, it’ll probably be the Rockies one-hitter. Of course, there are other scenarios that could play out. On the one hand, the Rockies could throw more no-hitters before getting a one-hitter. On the other hand, the Padres, in underwhelming Padres-like fashion, might rely on the staff for their first no-no.
The Rockies have a squad of young talented pitchers, and there are even a couple more potentially really good ones coming along. They’re probably not in a position now to make the case to trot to the mound in the ninth inning having thrown 105 pitches through eight, but in the next few years they might. Young pitchers have a terrible track record of staying young pitchers, and once they become sturdier and more trusted past the 100 pitch mark they might be able to finish those one-hitters.
There’s also the possibility that the pitcher to accomplish one or the other of these feats and break the streak will come out of nowhere. You know, someone like Jordan Lyles.
What will happen first?
This poll is closed
Padres complete game no-hitter
Rockies complete game one-hitter