In order for a no hitter to be considered official, it needs to last for at least nine innings. On this day in 1964, Houston Astros pitcher Ken Johnson became the first pitcher in MLB history to lose a game where he pitched a nine inning no hitter.
It is rare to see a pitcher lose a no hitter. Throughout all of MLB history, this has happened all of five times, with three of those efforts being eight inning affairs. On this day in 1964, Houston Astros pitcher Ken Johnson not only became the first pitcher to throw a no hitter and lose, but became the only pitcher to do so with a complete game nine inning no hitter.
Johnson was phenomenal through the first eight innings, issuing only two walks as he stifled the powerful Cincinnati Reds lineup. However, Reds pitcher Joe Nuxhall was also doing his part to keep Cincinnati in the game, holding Houston off the board. It took until the seventh inning for Houston to get a runner to second, and they stranded Jim Winn after a leadoff double in the eighth.
Everything fell apart in the top of the ninth. With one out, Pete Rose bunted, attempting to put an end to the no hitter. Johnson fielded, and threw the ball away, allowing Rose to get to second on the errant throw. He came back to get Chico Ruiz to ground out, and induced a ground ball to second off the bat of Vada Pinson. However, the normally sure handed Nellie Fox booted the grounder, allowing Rose to score the first run of the game.
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Nuxhall came out for the bottom of the ninth, and got the first two outs quickly. Pete Runnels grounded the first for what should have been the third out, but Deron Johnson misplayed the ball. Houston was unable to take advantage of that second life, however, as Nuxhall struck out John Weekly to end the game.
Ken Johnson had put himself in the history books, although not in the way he would have wanted to. He was the first pitcher to throw a nine inning no hitter and lose, doomed by his own defense as he scrambled to get Rose out. Perhaps the pressure of trying to finish the no hitter was on his mind, leading to the errant throw to first.
In the history of the game, there has been one other nine inning no hitter that resulted in a loss. This actually became the second losing no hitter, when Stu Miller and Steve Barber combined on a no hitter, only to see the Orioles fall to the Tigers 2-1 on April 30, 1967.
Until this day in 1964, no pitcher had ever lost a game in which they threw a no hitter. Ken Johnson did just that, making MLB history in the process.