It would appear that 2021 is Major League Baseball’s ‘Year of the No-Hitter’. Detroit Tigers righty Spencer Turnbull pitched the fifth no-hitter of the embryonic season on Tuesday in Seattle, leading many to question what it is, exactly, about this year which is leading to so many dominant pitching performances.
Turnbull’s clinic, which included just two hits against nine strikeouts on 117 pitches, in the Tigers’ 5-0 win marked the second occasion in just 13 days that the Mariners have been no-hit following on from John Means’ first career no-hitter for the Baltimore Orioles at T-Mobile Park on 5 May. And the Mariners are not the only ones to have achieved such infamy, with the Cleveland Indians having also been kept hitless twice this season, first by the White Sox’s Carlos Rodon on 14 April, then by the Reds’ Wade Miley on 7 May.
The total of five no-hitters in just 48 days to begin the year puts the MLB on record pace, with 1884’s return of eight being the most ever recorded in a full Major League season according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
For Turnbull, Tuesday’s was a real statement performance following a 2019 campaign in which he suffered the most losses of any pitcher in the Major Leagues, returning a 3-17 record. His reasonable ERA of 4.61 was a more accurate reflection of his quality at the time, and after chalking up a 4-4 return with a 3.97 ERA in the truncated 2020 season, his mark has dropped to 2.88 so far this term with a 3-2 winning record.
The win was the Tigers’ latest in a recent mini-revival which has seen them win seven of their last nine games to transform an MLB-worst start of 9-24 to a 16-26 mark which has lifted them above the Minnesota Twins into fourth in the AL Central Division.
But for now the questions will continue regarding the trend of no-hitters, with some wondering whether it is actually hitters, rather than pitchers as expected, who will feel the effects of returning from a shortened 2020 season the most.
Few could have predicted that undercooked arms would produce such stunning early returns, although Turnbull’s history-making shift on Tuesday actually was foretold by a group of fans behind the Tigers’ dugout at T-Mobile Park, as the pitcher explained to MLB.com.
“I got through the first inning and they’re like ‘Oh, you’re the guy pitching tonight?’ And I was like ‘Yeah’ They’re like ‘You’re throwing a no-hitter!’ It was the first inning, I got three outs. I was like ‘All right, man.’
“Obviously it’s the greatest achievement in my baseball career so far. It’s by far the best night of my life. And it’s definitely one of those landmark stamps on my career up to this point.”