In this era of the pitcher, of the strikeout, will no-hitters ever become so common as to lose their shine?
Perhaps. We’re not there yet, though.
For when Corey Kluber officially joined this increasingly inclusive club Wednesday night at Globe Life Field, retiring Willie Calhoun on a grounder to a shifted Gleyber Torres on the right side, the highly accomplished veteran raised his arms in triumph, hugged his catcher Kyle Higashioka and received a mob of jubilant teammates. The 12th no-hitter in Yankees history (and the sixth of this crazy Major League Baseball season) came courtesy of their newcomer Kluber, who absolutely dominated the Rangers en route to a 2-0 victory.
“It was a special night,” Kluber said.
“That was so much fun to be a small part of and be on the team to see Corey go out there and spin that,” Aaron Boone said. “It truly was a privilege.”
The right-hander utilized only 101 pitches to face 28 batters, the sole blemish occurring on a third-inning walk to Charlie Culberson, and strike out nine, giving the Yankees their first hitless performance since David Cone pitched a perfect game against the Expos on July 18, 1999 at the old Yankee Stadium. Kluber didn’t require any miraculous defensive plays, just some speedy work by fill-in right fielder Tyler Wade on David Dahl’s ninth-inning laser.
Quite an accomplishment, even for a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner. Quite a proclamation by the 35-year-old on whom the Yankees took a pricey ($11 million) flyer in January, at the very place where he pitched a total of one inning in 2020 before going down with a right shoulder injury, his Rangers career over in a blink.
Every no-hitter, regardless of how many get thrown, features its own treasured details. The Tigers’ Spencer Turnbull, who threw 2021 no-no No. 5 Tuesday night against the Mariners (making this the third time in the game’s history that pitchers threw no-hitters on successive nights), led Major League Baseball with 17 losses in 2019. The Orioles’ John Means nearly achieved perfection, only a dropped third strike preventing him from 27 up and 27 down. The White Sox non-tendered Carlos Rodon last winter and brought him back on the cheap, getting rewarded with their own piece of pitching history. And so on.
Kluber began his Yankees voyage modestly, not going as far as five innings in his first four starts, and you didn’t need to concentrate to hear the chirping from impatient Yankees fans. He turned a corner in start five, beating the Orioles in Baltimore with 6 ²/₃ strong innings, and he hasn’t recorded fewer than 17 outs since.
Pretty solid for a guy who essentially missed last year, but who recorded an uncharacteristic 5.80 ERA with the 2019 Indians, a pair of injuries disrupting the flow of excellence he compiled from 2014 through 2018. And that’s what made this one so memorable, a great of his era beaten down and clawing back to history in pinstripes, showing off the promise that he might just be able to join Gerrit Cole as a serious October weapon.
“I’m excited for him and his story,” Boone said, “and what he’s been through as a Cy Young Award winner. One of the dominant pitchers in the game. Obviously coming back from what he’s been through the last couple of years to work to this point.”
“I feel like it was almost like what you would imagine the feeling of winning the World Series,” Higashioka said. “It was a crazy, euphoric feeling”
Frequency can’t stop ballplayers from getting hooked on that feeling. Not for a while longer. Just ask the Yankees.