Yet while pitching may be morphing into science more than art, the no-hitter remains one of baseball’s quirky delights, with no advance warning and no predetermined pedigree for those who pull it off. The feat has eluded some of the game’s most accomplished pitchers, including the Mets’ Jacob deGrom, the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole, Houston’s Zack Greinke and Cleveland’s Shane Bieber.
Many of the most hallowed names ever to take the mound also never did it, like Grover Cleveland Alexander, Steve Carlton, Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove, Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez, who once threw nine perfect innings before allowing a hit in the 10th.
For Kluber, 35, the return to dominance was hard-earned. He was probably the American League’s best pitcher for five years with Cleveland, winning two Cy Young Awards while going 83-45 with a 2.85 earned run average from 2014 through 2018. But a line drive fractured his pitching arm early in 2019, and he worked just one inning for the Rangers last summer before tearing a muscle near his shoulder in Arlington.
The Yankees signed him as a free agent for one year and $11 million, and Kluber has responded by going 4-2 with a 2.86 earned run average. His fastball is slower than before, but his signature, sweeping breaking ball is restored.
“I’ve probably been getting more and more comfortable with it as far as throwing the right one when I want to land it for a strike, the right one when I want to try to get a swing on it, the right one when I want to get a chase on it, that sort of stuff,” Kluber said. “Not saying that I execute every one the way I want to, but I think just on a more consistent basis, I’m kind of throwing it where and the way that I want to.”
Only Charlie Culberson reached base off Kluber, drawing a four-pitch walk in the third inning. A pinch-hitter, David Dahl, drove a liner to right with one out in the ninth, but Tyler Wade, who usually plays the infield, chased it down on the run. Willie Calhoun then grounded out to shortstop Gleyber Torres — who was shifted to the right side of the infield — for the final out.
With that, Kluber joined the relatively short list of Yankees to throw a no-hitter, including George Mogridge (1917), Sad Sam Jones (1923), Monte Pearson (1938), Allie Reynolds (two in 1951), Don Larsen (1956 World Series), Dave Righetti (1983), Jim Abbott (1993), Dwight Gooden (1996), David Wells (1998) and Cone. Larsen, Wells and Cone threw perfect games.