When it comes to the controversies over baseball, maybe Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning no-hitter on Sunday falls short of the designated hitter, Kevin Cash’s decision to eliminate Blake Snell, or whether Jackie Robinson was still when he stole home plate in the 1955 World Series.
Or maybe yes. In fact, I was wrong. Bumgarner’s game is not officially a no-hitter as it was not a nine-inning game, despite the fact that:
1. Bumgarner officially earns credit for a complete game and a shutout.
2. Since it was the second doubleheader game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Atlanta Braves, it was a scheduled seven-inning game, not a nine-inning game.
The confusion dates back to a 1991 ruling by the Major League Baseball committee on statistical accuracy that defined a no-hitter as “a game in which a pitcher, or pitchers, allows no hits while throwing at least nine innings. A pitcher may accept a run or runs as long as he pitches nine or more innings and does not allow a hit. “
Before that change in official records, no-hitters of less than nine innings were considered no-hits. (I can’t say this for sure, but that records committee decision could have been a reaction to Andy Hawkins’ game for the New York Yankees in 1990, when he allowed no hits in eight innings but lost 4-0 with four dirty runs. The record holders might have considered it an affront to history that Hawkins deserved credit for a no-hitter in a game in which he pitched eight innings and allowed four runs.)
As our old friend Jayson Stark noted:
So here’s the absurdity of this no no-hitter. Zac Gallen threw a one hitter in the first game and that counts as a one hitter. But the no hitter doesn’t count as a no hitter because baseball!
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) April 25, 2021
The Diamondbacks made their own decision:
IT COUNTS IN OUR BOOK.
MADISON BUMGARNER HAS THROWN A NO-HIT GAME! pic.twitter.com/nRHNWX0DVV
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) April 25, 2021
Others had fun with it:
Since it’s an unofficial no-hitter, we made this for Madison Bumgarner to celebrate this momentous occasion pic.twitter.com/xofIw0ZoBm
— Cut4 (@Cut4) April 25, 2021
The Diamondbacks celebrated when Bumgarner inducted Marcell Ozuna to raise to right field for the final out of the 7-0 victory, though the celebration fell short of the usual no-hitter standards. In his postgame television interview, Bumgarner dryly joked, “I want to thank these shadows in Atlanta. They helped me a little bit. That was amazing. And I want to thank Rob Manfred for doing these seven-inning games.”
The wonderfully named Devern Hansack of the Boston Red Sox pitched the last shortened no-hitter, back in 2006, a five-inning game on the final day of the season (in his second career start). The last hitter-free pitcher in a seven-inning complete game was the Giants’ Sam Jones in 1959. The difference, of course, is that those games were scheduled for nine innings. At least Jones pitched an official career no-hitter for the Chicago Cubs in 1955 (the first black pitcher to accomplish the feat).
What is your opinion? ESPN colleague Jeff Passan had a clear take on Twitter:
The league and union agreed to official seven-inning games.
One team got no hits in this official game.
The league and union can agree to official seven-inning no-hitters, too. Make it happen. https://t.co/xHukpTdXsz
– Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 25, 2021
Okay, but this is also clear: seven innings is not the same as nine innings.
Just go back a couple of hours before the Bumgarner gem. In the first game of the doubleheader, Bumgarner’s teammate Zac Gallen had a no-hitter until the sixth inning before finally settling for a one-hit shutout in the complete game. I wasn’t having any of this seven-entry debate.
“It wouldn’t have counted, so it makes me feel better that it wasn’t really a no-hitter,” he said. “The complete game shutout, I guess, works. Okay. We won. It doesn’t really matter. That’s the most important part.”
So Gallen wants to win his no-hitter. Makes sense. Going back to 2016, less than five full seasons, 51 individual pitchers, not including Bumgarner on Sunday, have thrown seven no-hitter innings. Only 10 of them could finish the no-no. Bumgarner himself was one of those 51. In 2016, he allowed just one single in the eighth inning to Arizona’s Jake Lamb, settling for a one-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts (the best regular-season game of his career).
Those final six outs are the hardest.
As for Gallen and Bumgarner’s dueling games, they did some fun facts:
• The last team with two complete-game shutouts on a doubleheader was the 1977 Red Sox, with the famous duo of Don Aase and Reggie Cleveland doing the feat in September against the Toronto Blue Jays of expansion. Aase pitched a three-hitter while Cleveland followed up with a five-hitter. Both games were completed in less than 2 hours and 30 minutes.
• The Braves’ hit on a doubleheader set a record for futility. The 1992 Cleveland Indians recorded two hits on a doubleheader against the Red Sox on April 12. Here’s the really fun fact: Cleveland won the first game 2-1 without a hit. Boston’s Matt Young threw eight no-hitter innings (not an official no-hitter!), But allowed a run in the first inning when Kenny Lofton walked, stole the second and third and scored on a groundout error, and another. in the third with two walks and two outs with grounded infield.
• The last team to score one or fewer hits in two consecutive games was Cleveland in June 2014, when the Seattle Mariners’ Felix Hernandez and Fernando Rodney pitched for a hit on June 29 and then Dan Haren and two Dodgers relievers pitched. They combined for one the next day.
Regardless, we often have baseball records as sacred numbers permanently etched into tablets of stone. Certainly, MLB may reconsider how it views these seven-inning games. But consider the ramifications: If you change the decision on Bumgarner because it was a seven-inning scheduled game, then it must also include all eight-inning no-hitters lost, right? Andy Hawkins and Matt Young pitched complete games and did not allow a hit in a nine-inning game played to the end. If you’re going to give Madison Bumgarner credit with a no-hitter, then you should also give Hawkins and Young (and Don Wilson and Clay Kirby) credit.
So if you want to say that Bumgarner threw a no-hitter on Sunday, so did Andy Hawkins.
The last lesson here could be: no more seven-inning games.