With the state of the Brewers pitching staff this season, many thought it would just be a matter of time before someone pitched a no-hitter. That night finally came on Saturday, though not in the traditional way.
Corbin Burnes was back on the mound, and it was clear early that he was in top form. After one trip through Cleveland’s lineup, he already had accumulated seven strikeouts. However, he was already running into a problem after three innings. He needed 13 pitches in the first, 14 pitches in the second, and 19 pitches in the third. That put him at 46 pitches through three innings, and with a goal of around 100 pitches per outing, he was already nearly halfway there.
Meanwhile, the Brewers offense made sure to backup Burnes early. Kolten Wong started the game with a walk, then two batters later, Christian Yelich doubled. That ended up scoring Wong, with Yelich reaching third with an error from center fielder Myles Straw. That set up Omar Narvaez to bring Yelich in, and he did with a sacrifice fly. That put the Brewers up 2-0 after the first inning.
The Brewers added on another run in the second inning. Daniel Vogelbach singled with one out and got to second on another error, this time by right fielder Bradley Zimmer. Rowdy Tellez then doubled to bring in Vogelbach. Lorenzo Cain singled and that got Tellez to third, but while running the bases, he injured his knee. He came out of the game in the bottom of the second, and it was later reported that he left with right knee discomfort. Pablo Reyes replaced Tellez in the lineup and played at third, with Eduardo Escobar moving to first base.
Zach Plesac of Cleveland calmed down after that and was strong for the rest of his start. The Brewers only managed one more baserunner against him, and their offense went quiet. However, they had Burnes staked to a 3-0 lead, and Burnes worked with it.
Burnes got a needed quicker inning in the fourth, adding two more strikeouts to up his total of the day to nine, while only adding 11 more pitches. It was a similar situation in the fifth inning, with Burnes adding another two strikeouts. He also added another 15 pitches, and his pitch count after five innings was at 72. The sixth inning was Burnes’ only inning without a strikeout, but it was another shorter inning with only 11 pitches, which included Burnes making a play to save his own perfect game. The pitch count was at 83 after 6 innings, with 18 batters up and 18 down.
Cracks started to appear for Burnes in the seventh inning. His bid for a perfect game ended as he walked leadoff hitter Myles Straw on five pitches, giving him a baserunner to worry about for the first time of the night. Burnes worked Bradley Zimmer to a full count before striking out, then Jose Ramirez grounded out for the second out the inning. Burnes struck out Franmil Reyes for the third out of the inning on three pitches. The no-hitter was still intact, but damage was done with 20 pitches thrown in the inning, putting Burnes at 103 through seven.
The Brewers had a chance to tack on some runs in the eighth to give Burnes some insurance. Yelich walked with one out and Narvaez singled to put two runners on base. After Peterson popped out, Luis Urias drew a walk to load the bases. Daniel Vogelbach came up with two outs and a chance for another grand slam, but he struck out to end the inning.
Burnes went back out for the eighth inning, with Craig Counsell realigning the defense to give him a better chance to keep the no-hitter going, bringing in Jackie Bradley Jr. over Pablo Reyes, moving Eduardo Escobar back to third and Jace Peterson from right to first. Burnes began the inning with his 14th strikeout of the night, then got a groundout from Harold Ramirez for the second out of the inning. Owen Miller then hit a ball hard to right center field that looked like it would end the no-hitter, but Lorenzo Cain made that defensive play that every no-hitter needs, making a diving catch to keep the no-hitter alive.
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With the energy from Cain’s catch fresh after the end of the inning, it felt like it should be Burnes’ game to finish and he should get the chance to get the no-hitter. However, his pitch count was up to 115 pitches after the eighth. That was too high for Craig Counsell. He made the difficult decision to end Burnes’ night there and got Josh Hader warming up in the bullpen. It was an incredibly difficult decision, as a pitcher always wants to finish a start like that. However, he had already blown past his previous high for pitches in a game (108 pitches on July 18 against Cincinnati), and Counsell didn’t want to take any chances. From a baseball perspective, it was the correct decision. From a fan perspective, it stung to see his night end like that.
Josh Hader came in for the ninth determined to finish the no-hitter. He started with a four pitch strikeout of Oscar Mercado. Austin Hedges was up next, and on the first pitch, he popped up a foul ball down the first base line that looked like it should be a standard foul ball. However, Jace Peterson made a leaping catch that took him into the net for the second out, adding another impressive defensive play to this night. Myles Straw came up as the final batter, and Hader struck him out on four pitches, with Narvaez throwing to first to secure the out. That ended the game and secured the second no-hitter in franchise history.
Corbin Burnes finished the night with fourteen strikeouts and just the one walk to go with no hits and no runs allowed. Josh Hader finished the game, striking out two and recording the save to finish it out. With the Reds losing to the Cardinals as well, the Brewers magic number for clinching the NL Central and a playoff spot is down to 7.
With another series win complete, the Brewers go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon in Cleveland. Eric Lauer will face Aaron Civale in the final game of the series. First pitch is at 12:10 pm.