It’s been 408 days since a major league pitcher successfully completed a no-hit bid. On Saturday, Marlins’ hurler Edinson Volquez brought that streak to an end with his first career no-hitter against the Diamondbacks.
The 33-year-old right-hander maintained a perfect game through four innings before issuing a walk to Jake Lamb to lead off the fifth inning. A few close plays nearly spoiled the no-no, including a controversial play in the fourth inning, when Paul Goldschmidt was called safe after evading a tag from Justin Bour at first base. Upon review, the call was overturned in the Marlins’ favor, gifting Volquez with his 12th out of the game.
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More alarming was Volquez’s violent collision with Rey Fuentes in the first inning, which left both players shaken up and almost forced Volquez to make an early exit from the game.
Volquez allowed a second baserunner in the eighth inning, walking Chris Herrmann on five pitches moments before Brandon Drury hit into an inning-ending double play. In all other respects, Marlins’ No. 3 starter looked untouchable on the mound, striking out 10 of 27 batters and expending just 98 pitches to earn another rare distinction: the ‘Maddux’, a title reserved for those who toss a complete game shutout with 99 or fewer pitches.
With the gem, Volquez became the first Marlins pitcher to record a no-hitter since Henderson Alvarez‘s no-no against the Tigers in September 2013. According to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro and Glenn Sattell, that was also the last time a pitcher of any MLB affiliation tossed a ‘Maddux’ no-hitter, as Alvarez needed just 99 pitches to complete the shutout.
Even more meaningful was Volquez’s motivation heading into the game. Hours before his start on Saturday evening, he posted a tribute to former teammate Yordano Ventura on Instagram. Ventura was killed in a car crash in late January and would have turned 26 years old on Saturday.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Zach Buchanan report that the Diamondbacks are one of several teams that have used labs other than the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Utah to process COVID-19 testing. MLB has encountered delays with its testing, despite promising 24-hour turnaround time, so teams have tried other avenues — with the league’s endorsement — in order to get faster results.
The SMRTL had processed performance-enhancing drug screenings for MLB. The league converted it to process COVID-19 tests amid concerns that having a season and all of the testing that would be required throughout would take away testing resources from the general public. That some teams are utilizing labs other than the SMRTL suggests the league, indeed, is usurping those resources.
In prospect Seth Beer’s case, he tested positive for COVID-19. He needed to test negative twice consecutively to be cleared to return to play. Beer went to a third-party site in the Phoenix area. He received his second negative test and was cleared to return on July 9.
The Diamondbacks said that the labs they have used have assured them that they are not taking away tests from the public. That seems like a claim MLB and the D-Backs should demonstrably prove. Per Rosenthal and Buchahan, the D-Backs have gone to an outside lab about 20 times, which accounts for less than one percent of COVID-19 tests taken by players and staff. Still, those are 20 tests that could have been used by the general public. And if the D-Backs and a handful of other teams already are using outside labs, then the rest of the league likely already is or soon will be doing the same. In the end, there will be a lot more than 20 tests taken at outside labs by MLB players and staff. Considering that “Tier 1” players will be tested every other day throughout the season, the total of third-party tests taken — if things continue the way they are now — could easily reach into the thousands by the end of October.
We all want baseball back, but the players, coaches, and all other staff are no more important than cashiers, teachers, and delivery drivers, so they shouldn’t have more access to COVID-19 testing simply by virtue of being associated with Major League Baseball and all of its influence and financial muscle. It would be unethical for MLB to be cutting in line ahead of other people who need testing just as much as if not more than the players.