Arrieta can join short list of pitchers to throw two no-hitters in one season

Clockwise from top left: Virgil Trucks (1952), Nolan R

Clockwise from top left: Virgil Trucks (1952); Nolan Ryan at Tiger Stadium after his second no-hitter of 1973; Allie Reynolds in 1951; Roy Halladay of the Phillies in 2010; Johnny Vander Meer (center) following his second no-hitter in 1938; and former Tiger Max Scherzer in 2015 celebrates his first no-hit game.

On Thursday in Cincinnati, Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs fired the first no-hitter of the 2016 season. If we use recent history as a guide, it won’t be the last.

The way the 30-year old Arrieta is pitching, it might not be the last one he throws this season. The bearded righthander, who won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, has been phenomenal over the last two seasons. His no-no against the Reds gives him two no-hitters in his last ten regular season starts, dating back to August 30, 2015, when he held the Dodgers without a hit, also on the road.

Arrieta has now won 15 consecutive regular season decisions, and he’s allowing less than six hits per game over that stretch.  His stinginess over that span is something we haven’t seen since Nolan Ryan was tossing one-hitters, two-hitters, and no-hitters like it was a bodily function.

Should Arrieta turn the no-hit trick again, he would join the short list of pitchers who have fired two in one season (including the postseason). Here’s a look at the six pitchers who’ve done that, Ryan included.

Johnny Vander Meer, 1938

When discussion arises about “unbreakable” baseball records, Vander Meer’s feat is often overlooked. On June 15, 1938, at Ebbets Field, Vander Meer no-hit the Dodgers for his second consecutive no-hitter. Just four days earlier at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, the Reds’ lefty had held the Boston Bees hitless. The odds against a pitcher firing three straight no-hitters is astronomical.

Vander Meer is the youngest of the six pitchers to throw two no-hitters in one season: he was only 23 years old when he became a household name. He’s the only lefty on this list, and the only pitcher to have a career losing record to toss two no-hitters in a season. He’s the only pitcher to earn a nickname due to his feat: the press immediately dubbed him “Double No-Hit.”

No other pitcher on this list walked as many batters in their no-hitters. Vander Meer walked eight Brooklyn batters in his second no-hitter, struggling to command his fastball. But his teammates supplied him with six scores, so the game was in hand most of the way. He walked the dangerous Dolph Camilli three times, and he issued two free passes to Kiki Cuyler, the only future Hall of Fame player in the Brooklyn lineup (future HOF manager Leo Durocher was at shortstop for the Dodgers).

This game was historic before Vander Meer even threw a pitch. It was the first regular season game played under lights at Ebbets Field. The game was preceded by great fanfare. There was a fife and drum corps that marched on the field, a parade of local politicians and officials of the power company who had installed the lights, which at the time were the most powerful lighting system at any sporting venue. Olympic champion Jesse Owens performed in a series of sprinting competitions that were set up on the field, and a record crowd of more than 40,000 crammed the tiny ballpark, which seated only about 38,000. Thanks to all of the pre-game hullabaloo, the first pitch wasn’t thrown until almost nine-thirty.

But Vander Meer stole the show, striking out seven to do the unthinkable. He struggled a bit in the bottom of the ninth, when the record crowd, probably still adjusting their eyes to watching baseball at night under lights, saw him walk three Dodger batters to load the bases with one out. But he coaxed a groundball that produced a force at home and then retired Durocher on a harmless flyball to secure his second no-hitter. A pitch earlier, Durocher had lined a ball foul that produced a groan from the crowd, who knew they were seeing history.

Because Vander Meer was from New Jersey, both of his parents were at the game, and 500 members of the Midland Park also traveled to Brooklyn to root him on. When center fielder Harry Craft caught the last out in short center field, most of the fans from New Jersey stormed the field, creating a spectacle that one paper reported “didn’t allow Johnny to escape for 15 minutes.”

A few pieces of trivia on Vander Meer’s no-hitters:

— Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi was behind the plate for both of them, and he even hit a homer to help his batterymate in the first game.

— All three managers involved in the two no-hitters were future Hall of Famers: Bill McKechnie of the Reds, Casey Stengel of the Bees (temporarily taking a break from being called the Braves), and Burleigh Grimes of the Dodgers, who was inducted due to his pitching prowess.

— Stengel did all he could to break up the first no-hitter, sending three pinch-hitters up in the ninth inning. two of them hit weak grounders, and the other struck out.

— In his next start after his second no-hitter, on June 19, Vander Meer squared off against the hapless Bees again, this time in Boston. He held them hitless through the first three innings, then retired the first batter in the fourth inning before Debs Garms grounded a single up the middle for a base hit. Vander Meer had went 21 1/3 innings without allowing a hit, and faced 74 consecutive batters without allowing a hit.

— In his start prior to his first no-hitter in 1938, on June 5, Vander Meer tossed a three-hitter against the Giants. In that game he held the G-Men hitless from the second inning to the ninth. Thus, over four starts in June of 1938, the 23-year old pitched 30 innings (the first three full games and the first three innings of the fourth) and held the opponent hitless in 28 of them.

Allie Reynolds, 1951

Like Vander Meer, Reynolds was a hard-thrower who relied on a fastball. He was from Oklahoma in Indian territory, which was why he was called “Chief.” OSU’s baseball stadium is name din his honor.

Reynolds was 34 years old when he had his double no-hit season, the oldest man to do it. At first it disn’t seem like ’51 would be his year, he didn’t get out of the first inning of his first start in April. He pitched just 4 2/3 innings in the opening month of the season.

His first gem came on July 12, the first game back after the All-Star Game. Maybe the Cleveland Indians were rusty after the midseason break, but it was more likely that Reynolds was well-rested — it was the only time between 1949 and 1954 that he did not go to the All-Star Game. The game was played in Cleveland and the opposing pitcher was pretty damn good too — Bob Feller. But Reynolds outshined Rapid Robert that day, but just barely. The contest was scoreless for the first five innings, and neither pitcher had allowed a hit. Then the Yankees broke up Feller’s no-hit bid in the sixth when rookie Mickey Mantle doubled, but they still failed to score.

Reynolds was a high fastball pitcher and he was known for inducing fly balls and popups. In his first no-hitter of ’51 he got eleven outs that way, with four coming via strikeout. The Yankees finally got a run off Feller in the seventh when Gene Woodling ran into a Feller fastball and hit a home run just over the wall in right field. Reynolds dug in and set down the last nine batters of the game to secure the no-hitter. In the ninth, Indians’ manager Al Lopez sent pitcher Bob lemon in to pinch-hit for Feller, but the moon-faced Lemon was sent back to the dugout on a strikeout by The Chief.

On the final weekend of the season, with the pennant wrapped up, Reynolds threw his second no-hitter on September 28 at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox. Reynolds struck out nine in this game, including Ted Williams, who was finishing up (by his standards) one of the worst seasons of his career.

Things got interesting in the ninth inning though, when with two outs Williams came to the plate. Reynolds got a strike past Ted and then threw three balls. On a 3-1 count, Williams swung and popped a ball behind the plate which Yogi Berra dropped. It was a fairly easy play and ruled an error. Berra later admitted he felt terrible at the time, worrying that he had cost Reynolds a chance to get the no-hitter. But Williams promptly swung at the 3-2 pitch and lofted another popup which Yogi camped under and caught standing in foul territory.

— Three days after his first no-hitter, Reynolds was summoned by Casey Stengel to put out a fire in the ninth inning against the Tigers. Reynolds entered a one-run game where Detroit had the tying and winning runs on base and recorded what would have been a save in later generations.

— In Reynolds’ second no-hitter, brothers Dom (Boston) and Joe (Yankees) were in the game. Back in ’38 when Vander Meer no-hit the Bees, the older DiMaggio brother (Vince) played.

— Of the pitchers on this exclusive list, Reynolds was probably the best big-game performer. He was 7-2 in the World Series and the Yankees won all six Series he was in for them, including five in a row from 1949-1953. Reynolds started and won six games in that five-year span in the postseason.

— None of the Yankee pitchers to throw a no-hitter (there have been ten pitchers and eleven no-hitters) is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Virgil Trucks, 1952

You really couldn’t dream up what happened to Trucks in 1952, a season in which he dealt with arm soreness, wildness, and generally terrible pitching much of the year. Once a very good pitcher who teamed with Dizzy Trout and Hal Newhouser on the Detroit Tigers to form the “TNT” rotation threesome, by 1952 Trucks was 35 years old and struggling to keep a job in the big leagues due to injury. In 1949 he’d been an All-Star, winning 19 games and leading the league with six shutouts. But the following year he suffered a tendon injury in his right arm and missed most of the season. In 1951 he was carefully eased back by the Tigers, starting only 18 games and pitching out of the bullpen for much of the year.

More than likely, Trucks was still recovering from a serious arm injury in ’52 but in that era the medical profession didn’t know how to treat it well. Plowing through it, he entered the regular rotation for the Tigers in May and stuck all year despite frequent troubles. But at least twice he was his old self, and then some.

On May 15, in just his fifth start of the campaign, Trucks no-hit the Senators at Briggs Stadium. He did hit two batters, and an error and a walk also gave Washington baserunners, but Trucks wriggled out of trouble. Good thing he did too, because his Detroit teammates were held scoreless by Bob Perterfield through eight innings. Trtucks had struck out Mickey Vernon to end the top of the ninth and secure his no-hitter, but it wasn’t official yet because the game was deadlocked at 0-0.

In the bottom of the ninth, Porterfield made his only mistake — he hung a curveball to Vic Wertz who hit it into the right field grandstand for a game-winner. There’s no report on whether Trucks came out on the field to thank Wertz, but a photo shows the two beaming with smiles in the clubhouse moments later. It was Trucks’ first victory of the season.

Virgil got one more win in May but then he pitched terribly in June and got just one win in July. As he entered his start against New York on August 25th in Yankee Stadium, Trucks’ record stood at 4-15.

But in New York for that game, Trucks had his good fastball humming and he fanned eight batters. But the game and the no-hitter were not without controversy. In an interview with Gregory H. Wolf years later, Trucks recounted teh circumstances of a disputed play in that second no-hitter:

“In the [third] inning, Phil Rizzuto hit a groundball to Johnny Pesky. We thought he’d thrown him out at first, but the umpire called him safe. When I walked off the field, on the scoreboard you could see there was an error. When I went back onto the field to start the third inning, there had been a hit put up. … The scorer that day was John Drebinger [of the New York Times], and the sportswriters were getting on him for changing it from an error to a hit. He called down to the bench and talked to Johnny Pesky; Pesky said that it was nothing but an error. The ball was not stuck in his glove, he said; he just could not get a grip on it. Drebinger accepted his word. When I went out in the eighth inning, they announced over the PA system what [Drebinger had] done and it had been corrected as an error. They put an error back on the board and it was still a no-hitter.”

The win proved to be the last of the season for Trucks, who finished the ’52 season at 5-19. He clearly ran out of steam: pitching only into the fourth inning in one of his last starts of the year, and failing to get out of the first in his final start, when he allowed six runs.

40% of Trucks’ wins in 1952 were no-hitters, while one of the other three was a one-hitter (July 22 against Washington when he allowed a leadoff single to Eddie Yost and then proceeded to hold them hitless the rest of the way).

— After the strange ’52 season of ups and down, Trucks recovered from his arm miseries, winning 20 in 1953 for the Tigers. Even though he was past his 35th birthday he wound up winning 69 more games and even made the All-Star team in 1954 with the White Sox.

— Trucks was the last visiting pitcher to throw a no-hitter at the original Yankee Stadium. In 2003 the Houston Astros had six pitchers combine on a no-hitter at Yankee Stadium.

— In his final major league game, in 1958, Trucks was pitching for the Yankees. In that game he blew a save in the ninth inning against the Orioles. His teammates in the game included Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, whom he had faced in his second no-hitter of 1952.

Nolan Ryan, 1973

Of all the pitchers on this list, Ryan was the one most associated with no-hitters. Almost immediately after his trade to the California Angels, Ryan established himself as an otherworldly talent who could dial his fastball past 100 miles per hour and flirt with no-hitters almost every time on the mound. He fired seven no-hitters in his career, 12 one-hitters, and 18 two-hitters. In 1973 he threw the first of his record seven no-nos.

The first masterpiece came on May 15 against the Royals in Kansas City. The Royals were a young team and not very experienced, but it wouldn’t have mattered how experienced they were that day, because Ryan was in complete command. He walked batters in the first, third, and eighth, but otherwise he got the Royals 1-2-3. He fanned KC’s power-hitting first baseman John Mayberry three times.

That was the first of eight straight complete games for Ryan that season, but including the no-hitter he was just 4-4 in those starts. On July 15 he spun his second no-hitter, this one coming at Tiger Stadium in Detroit on a Sunday afternoon. It was a giveaway day at the ballpark (helmets) so the stands were packed with youngsters, for a total of more than 41,000 at The Corner of Michigan and Trumbull. But Ryan was the star of the game, not the hometown team.

His second no-hitter of ’73 was arguably Ryan’s best. He was dominant: striking out 17 Tigers batters while walking four. He struck out the side in the second, the fourth, and the seventh. In the bottom of the ninth, one out away from his no-hitter, Ryan faced Norm Cash, a fun-loving ballplayer from Texas who enjoyed the game of baseball. Cash saw no way he was going to hit Ryan on that day and he brought a table leg to the plate to face the big righthander. Home plate umpire Ron Luciano and catcher Art Kusnyer got a chuckle out of the prank, but Luciano quickly ordered the Detroit first baseman to grab a bat. The shape of the piece of wood didn’t matter, Cash popped up to shortstop and Ryan had his second no-no.

The hardest hit ball that day was a line drive off the bat of Gates Brown, but went directly to the glove of Angels’ shortstop Rudy Meoli.

— Present that day when Ryan no-hit the Tigers for his second no-hitter of the ’73 season was Detroit manager Billy Martin, who had been there in 1951 when Reynolds threw his second no-hitter and in 1952 when Trucks threw his second.

— In his next start after no-hitting the Tigers, on July 19 against Baltimore, Ryan held the O’s hitless through seven innings. To lead off the eighth he hit Brooks Robinson with a pitch. The next batter was the notoriously light-hitting Mark Belanger, who broke up Ryan’s no-hit bid with a looping single to center field. Ryan allowed that solitary hit through nine innings and the game went into extra frames. He allowed another hit to Belanger in the tenth but escaped trouble. Finally in the tenth inning he exited after Tommy Davis doubled. In two starts, The Ryan Express had pitched 19 1/3 innings, allowing three hits while striking out 30 batters.

Roy Halladay, 2010

Halladay is the only pitcher of the six who tossed a no-hitter in the postseason. His first no-no came on May 29 against the Marlins in Miami. It wasn’t just a no-hitter, it was a perfect game, the only perfect game among the 12 no-hitters thrown by these six pitchers in their amazing seasons.

Like Casey Stengel in 1938 against Vander Meer, Marlins’ manager Fredi Gonzalez sent up three pinch-hitters in the bottom of the ninth against Halladay on May 29. The game was only 1-0, so there was every chance that the Fish might get something going and tie or possibly win the contest. But Halladay set all three down easily and had his masterpiece. The only run of the game scored on an error by center fielder Cameron Maybin.

Halladay didn’t actually pitch that well immediately after his perfect game, he was 2-4 in June. Then in the summer he really got rolling, winning eleven of his final thirteen starts. In his last start of the season, with the Phillies having already clinched the division title, Halladay was dominant, going the distance in a two-hit shutout to claim his 21st victory. He was peaking in time to enter the playoffs, but no one expected what came next.

After years of pitching for the Blue Jays in the American League where he never even sniffed the playoffs, Halladay was determined to make a good impression on the national stage as the Phillies entered the NLDS. He got the assignment for Game One on October 6 as the series opened against the Cincinnati Reds.

His teammates staked him to a 4-0 lead after two innings and Doc went to work. He retired the first 14 Cincinnati batters before walking Jay Bruce in the top of the fifth. He set down the side in order in the sixth, seventh, and eighth frames, still protecting a 4-0 lead. In the bottom of the ninth with the Philadelphia crowd in a frenzy on every pitch, Halladay easily retired the side, recording the last out when Brandon Phillips chopped a little roller in front of the plate which catcher Carlos Ruiz pounced on and threw to first.

— Halladay’s second no-hitter was the second no-hitter ever thrown in the postseason, the other by Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series.

— Ruiz caught both of Halladay’s no-hitters in 2010 — the perfect game and the postseason no-hitter. He also caught two more no-hitters, tying him for the most no-hitters caught (4) with Jason Varitek.

— Ryan (324) is the only pitcher on this exclusive list who won more career games than Halladay, who captured 203. Reynolds won 182, Trucks 177, Vander Meer 119, and Scherzer has 107 as April 23, 2016.

Max Scherzer, 2015

The former Tiger really put on a show in his first season with Washington. In his 13th start for the Nationals, on June 14 against the Brewers, he set down the first 18 batters, striking out 11 of them. He was really dealing. But Carlos Gomez broke up the perfect game with a solid single to right field to lead off the seventh. Scherzer resumed his mastery and recorded five more K’s to finish with 16 in a one-hitter.

Six days later he was in D.C. in front of the home crowd facing the Pirates. Mad Max was on his game again. This time he set down the first nine, the first 18, the first 24 batters. He entered the ninth with a perfect game, with ten strikeouts as his fastball and slider were exceptional. He got a foul popup and then a soft liner to short for the first two outs. The next batter, the 27th of the game, was pinch-hitter Jose Tabata. Scherzer got two quick strikes on him, then threw two balls. Tabata proceeded to foul three pitches off in an dramatic confrontation. On his eighth pitch, Scherzer fired a slider on the inside part of the plate to the right-handed hitting Tabata. The pitch sailed in a little bit but Tabata lunged in with his arms and the baseball struck him in the left elbow. The perfect game was gone and controversy ensued when some claimed Tabata had purposely dipped into the pitch. Scherzer got his no-hitter though, retiring the final batter on a flyball to the warning track.

On the last Saturday of the season, On October 3, Scherzer seemed to want to put an exclamation point on 2015 in New York against the Mets. That afternoon he set down the first 15 Mets batters before an error in the sixth ruined his perfect game bid. Scherzer struck out nine straight batters from the sixth to the ninth inning. The final out came off the bat of Curtis Granderson, who lifted a lazy popup to shortstop. And Scherzer had his second no-hitter of his first season with the Nats.

— The last batter of Scherzer’s first no-hitter was Josh Harrison, the same batter who spoiled Justin Verlander’s no-hit bid in the ninth inning in 2012. Scherzer was Verlander’s teammate at the time.

— The last batter of Scherzer’s second no-hitter was Curtis Granderson, who had been a key figure in the trade that also involved Scherzer after the 2009 season. As part of the blockbuster three-team deal, Granderson went from Detroit to the Yankees and Scherzer went from the Diamondbacks to the Tigers.

— Scherzer’s nine consecutive strikeouts in his second no-hitter are the most by a pitcher on this list.

— In three straight starts (June 14, 20, and 26) in 2015, which encompassed his first no-hitter of the season, Scherzer pitched 23 consecutive innings in which he allowed one hit. During that span he struck out 31 batters and walked only one.