Sep 1, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon (58), relief pitcher Ken Giles (53), relief pitcher Jake Diekman (63), and starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) are interviewed after a combined no hitter against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Phillies' pitch one of just 11 combined no-hitters, one of MLB's rarest feats

Ever wonder about combined no-hitters? I’d never really thought about them much myself. Probably because they are a rare feat to accomplish. There have been 286 recorded no-hitters since 1875. 43 of which were recorded before 1901, the year considered by most to be the beginning of the modern era of baseball.

In all that time there have been 11 combined no-hitters all during the modern era. This includes MLB’s most recent combined no-hitter accomplished Monday by four members of the Philadelphia Phillies, starter Cole Hamels, lefty Jake Diekman and righties Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon.

The combined no hitter, it’s a feat even more rare than pitching a perfect game. There have been 23 perfect games in MLB history yet just 11 combined no-hitters. To be honest, I was under the impression until Monday that perfect games were the rarest of feats to witness. Now (having been at MLB’s 19th perfect game) it appears there is another important baseball feat I need to be lucky enough to see.

At first glance it is easy to make the mistake of thinking that throwing a combined no-hitter might make the feat easier. To have your fellow pitchers with you would seem to lessen the weight that a pitcher must feel starting into the later innings without having yet surrendered a hit.

On second thought that kind of thinking doesn’t make sense. First of all why take out a pitcher that is completely dominating? Secondly, the more pitchers added into the mix the more difficult completing a no-hitter becomes, what is one pitcher in the mix is having a bad day or going through a rough patch?

It appears that is what makes combined no-hitters so rare. If a pitcher is in a rhythm why interrupt it. There is also the fact that over the past approximately 130 years that baseball has been in existence relief pitchers have been used very differently if at all.

Relief pitchers were hardly used during baseball’s early years, while starters would be used much more often than every five days like they are today. It was almost the opposite than how things are today. Relief pitchers make many more appearances throughout the season than starting pitchers.

The first combined no-hitter recorded was pitched by the 1917 Boston Red Sox. The two pitchers? Babe Ruth and Ernie Shore.

The second combined no-hitter was not until 1967 when Orioles’ pitchers Steve Barber and Stu Miller combined for nine innings to defeat the Detroit Tigers. The third was eight years later and like the Phillies’ accomplishment on Monday took four pitchers to complete.  The Oakland Athletics defeated the then California Angels using starter Vida Blue who went just five innings, Glen Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers to close it out.

Since 1975, there have been eight more combined no-hitters if you have been keeping count. They have become more frequent as  more and more teams used relief pitchers more often and bullpen roles like the set-up man and the closer were adopted and assigned.

The 2003 Houston Astros and the 2012 Seattle Mariners were both involved in combined no-hitters that used six different pitchers. There have been a total of three combined no-hitters, including Monday’s, that have used a combination of four pitchers, just one that used three pitchers and five that have needed only two pitchers to complete.

The more pitchers used, the harder it is to keep the no-hitter going is one reason they are so rare. The reason they have occurred more often since 1975 is that they way pitchers have been used has changed.

Because of the changes in the game and the complexity of the right pitchers coming together at the right times, the combined no-hitter remains one of baseball’s rarest feats. The list that isn’t even half as long as the list of perfect games now includes the 2014 Philadelphia Phillies.

 

Cole Hamels. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Hamels was dealing to the Braves on Monday but it wasn’t his best stuff, not by a long shot. The pitches that were on were great, but he threw quite a few out of the strike zone, walking five and hitting a batter. Still through six innings Hamels did not give up a single hit.

After 108 pitches Hamels was pulled from the game after the sixth. There really wasn’t reason to let him continue since ANY manager in the majors is going to pull a pitcher with any number of pitches over 120 unless he is one out away from a perfect game. Hamels was substituted for pinch-hitter Grady Sizemore in the seventh.

Diekman came in to pitch the seventh, Giles for a perfect eighth and Papelbon’s turn to close out the no-hitter by pitching the ninth.closed out. It was the first combined no-hitter in Phillies’ history and the 12th no hitter for the franchise.

That is the short version of MLB’s 11th combined no-hitter. With just three up until 1975, combined no-hitters occur on average approximately once every five years. Pretty crazy, since it isn’t something most of us think about the way we do solo no-hitters and perfect games.

The Phillies dedicated the last ball used in MLB’s 11th combined no-hitter to the team president David Montgomery who is recovering from surgery that was part of his treatment in fighting jawbone cancer and recently took a leave of absence from the team.

“That last ball, because it is so special … I think we are going to dedicate it to David Montgomery,” Hamels said. “He’s been a paramount person in the Phillies’ organization. I think it’s really nice to be able to give it to him because of the struggles of the organization and what David and his family have gone through. Hopefully this will be something special for this season and sum up what we’ve been trying to do and what he means to all of us.”

That was the perfect way to end a historic day.

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: Cole Hamels Combined No-hitter MLB History Philadelphia Phillies

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