Here’s the situation: your team is unable to do anything against a Cy Young caliber pitcher. Your ace gave up two home runs to the same guy on the other team. Your bullpen was less than stellar. You’ve now lost the homefield advantage and you have an often erratic starter going in Game 2. Time to panic?
Hardly, because that describes the exact scenario the Yankees faced in Game 2 of the 1996 World Series.
Because I’m an Atlanta Braves fan, I remember it well. I was in law school then, and I remember the gloom and doom of my many, many New York Yankee fan classmates. I even had a professor — himself a native New Yorker — who got bent out of shape when I wore my Braves cap in to class the day after Andruw Jones hit those two bombs. Being young and relatively unschooled in the ways of the world, I gloated like crazy. I was even worse about it following Game 2.
But we all know how that turned out. The ace lefty acquitted himself quite nicely his next turn out. The Yankees’ deep bullpen asserted itself. The Braves, after getting one lights out performance from Greg Maddux in Game 2, had no answer for the New York nine. A dynasty was reborn that year, and that Game 1 has been rendered a mere footnote, notable for Andruw Jones’ coming out party and not much else. That law school professor took a few minutes at the beginning of the first class following Game 6 to lecture me about premature jubilation. It’s probably the only thing I remember from that class.
Will history repeat itself? I have no idea. But I do know that Yankees fans would be well-advised to relax, and Phillies fans would be well advised to hold their “nobody believed in us” and “we told you so” rants until after Pedro Martinez and Cole Hamels pitch.
For my part, I stand by my prediction: Yankees in six. Just like in 1996.
Tossing a no-hitter doesn’t just require physical excellence; it’s a mental feat, too. Which is why it may have helped that Athletics hurler Sean Manaea didn’t realize his no-hitter was intact until the eighth inning of Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Red Sox.
While the first few innings passed uneventfully, Sandy Leon managed to reach base in the fifth inning after skying a ball to shallow center field. It wasn’t a clean hit, of course — shortstop Marcus Semien dropped the ball on the catch and was promptly charged with an error to preserve Manaea’s no-hit bid.
That was news to Manaea, who told reporters that he didn’t realize he still had a no-hitter going until he saw the scoreboard in the eighth inning. “Until the eighth, I thought it just like was a one-hitter,” he said. “I looked up in the eighth and saw there were still zeros and was like, whoa, weird.” The delay of that realization may have calmed his nerves as he continued to blank the best team in baseball, eventually capping his 108-pitch, 10-strikeout effort in the ninth.
A few fun facts about the feat:
- Manaea’s no-hitter was the 12th of its kind in franchise history, dating back to Weldon Henley’s no-no against the St. Louis Browns in 1905.
- The most recent pitcher to do so for the A’s was fellow left-hander Dallas Braden, who completed the club’s second-ever perfect game against the Rays in 2010. Surprisingly, Manaea managed to make even more efficient use of his pitch count than Braden did during his perfecto; he fired just 108 pitches against the Red Sox, a hair under the 109 pitches used by Braden against the Rays.
- Manaea himself, however, is just the seventh Athletics pitcher (and third lefty) to toss a no-hitter. Legendary southpaw Vida Blue pitched two no-nos for the team, including a combined no-hitter that also featured Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers against the 1975 California Angels.
- Until Saturday, the Red Sox had the second-longest streak without being no-hit in the majors, at 3,987 games… a record that was only eclipsed by the A’s own streak.
- With a 17-2 record and .895 winning percentage, the Red Sox were the most successful team to be no-hit in major-league history. Prior to Saturday’s loss, they averaged 6.4 runs per game and had yet to be shut out by any team in 2018.
- Since 1908, 46 no-hitters have been pitched against AL East teams: four against the Blue Jays, five against the Rays, eight against the Yankees, 13 against the Red Sox and 16 against the Orioles. Mariners lefty Chris Bosio was the last pitcher to no-hit the Red Sox, a feat he accomplished almost exactly 25 years ago on April 22, 1993.