Aug. 30, 2015 – Jake Arrieta’s No-Hitter
Since 2015, Jake Arrieta has undergone a dramatic fall from grace. Each season, with remarkable consistency, his ERA and WHIP have worsened.
To be fair, it is hard to build upon his legendary 2015 season.
Arrieta earned the Cy Young that year, posting a 1.77 ERA/215 ERA+, 0.865 WHIP, 22-6 record, with 236 K to 48 BB in 229 innings. He was the most unhittable pitcher in baseball, with an MLB-best 5.9 H/9 and 0.4 HR/9. But those numbers fail to reflect just how dominant Arrieta was in the second half.
Beginning on June 21, Arrieta pitched 147 innings of 0.86 ERA ball. In 20 starts, he earned 16 wins to one loss. Opposing hitters had a measly .410 OPS against him.
The ultimate peak of this stretch came on Aug. 30 when the Cubs, who were 9.5 games back in the central with a 73-55 record, visited the NL West-leading Dodgers (who had a worse record than the Cubs: 72 – 56). Yeah, the NL Central was kinda nuts that year, as three teams finished with at least 97 wins.
Heading into his last start of August, Arrieta had already pitched 33.1 innings of 0.54 ERA ball that month. Somehow, his Aug. 30 start was the best of them all.
Against a Dodgers lineup that would post the third-highest team wRC+ (106) that season, Arrieta was almost perfect. In fact, he was unhittable.
9 IP, 1 BB and 12 K in 116 pitches. The first Cubs no-hitter since Carlos Zambrano‘s back in 2008.
Sept. 1, 1964 – Masanori Murakami Debuts
Decades before Hideo Nomo, Ichiro and Shohei Ohtani, there was Masanori Murakami.
In 1964, Murakami played in the Japan Pacific League for the Nankai Hawks. The team decided to participate in a sort of cultural exchange program with the San Francisco Giants.
Murakami and two other players joined the San Francisco minor-league system, and Murakami was assigned to the Single-A Fresno Giants. In 106 innings, Murakami dazzled with his control, spinning a 1.78 ERA, 0.925 WHIP and 13.5 K/9.
He was so impressive that the Giants, who were 6.5 games back and in his third place for the NL Pennant, called upon Murakami to help with this pivotal push.
On Sept. 1, Murakami made his debut in front of almost 40,000 fans at the Mets’ Shea Stadium. As discussed in an interview with Murakami and Robert Fitts, author of “Mashi: The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami; the First Japanese Major Leaguer,” Shea Stadium was a hostile atmosphere to any opposing team. But the New York crowd provided a loud ovation in support of the trailblazer.
The score was 4-1, the Mets ahead, and Murakami came in during the bottom of the eighth. His first batter, Charley Smith, went down looking. Although Chris Cannizzaro followed that up with a single, Murakami retired the next two batters for a solid debut.
Murakami finished the year with a 1.8 ERA/202 ERA+, 0.600 WHIP and 9.0 K/9 in 15 innings. He would only pitch one more year with the Giants (1965), recording a 3.75 ERA/97 ERA+, 1.063 WHIP and 10.3 K/9 in 74.1 IP. Here is a video from that ’65 season featuring Murakami and a flying rocket man.
Why is there a flying rocket man? Well … your guess is as good as mine.
After the ’65 season, Murakami, who had promised the manager of the Hawks that he would return to Japan, followed his word. Murakami returned to Japan, pitching 17 more seasons. His Japan career stats: 103-82 record, 3.64 ERA, 1.241 WHIP and a 4.2 K/9.
The reason that no other Japanese player shifted to the United States until Nomo was that Japan Professional Baseball and MLB came to an agreement where each side would not pursue the other’s players. As a result, Murakami became the first and only Japanese-MLB player until 1995.
Sept. 4, 1993 – Jim Abbott’s No-Hitter
Look at this terrifying lineup: Manny Ramírez, Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga and Kenny Lofton. That’s a modern-day Murderer’s Row.
But on Sept. 4, 1993, Jim Abbott single-handedly silenced that Cleveland team.
Abbott was born without his right hand, but didn’t allow that to halt his athletic career.
At just 11 years old, Abbott threw a no-hitter. As a high school senior, Abbott hit .427 while posting a 0.76 ERA. Oh, he was also the school’s backup QB and punter.
In 1987 while he was in college, Abbott became the first and only baseball player to win the James E. Sullivan Award for America’s top amateur athlete. The next year, Abbott helped the United States baseball squad win its first ever Olympic gold medal.
Abbott started his major-league career in 1989 with the Angels, struggling in his first two seasons (4.24 ERA/90 ERA+ in 393 IP). But in the next two years, Abbott blossomed, delivering a 2.83 ERA/142 ERA+ in 454 IP.
The Yankees traded for Abbott before the beginning of the 1993 season, hoping to reverse a four-season long sub-.500 stretch — their longest such stretch since 1912 to 1915.
For the first five months of his tenure in pinstripes, Abbott struggled by posting a 4.31 ERA over his first 175.1 innings.
But on Sept. 4, Abbott did something few people ever do, and something that he first did 14 years prior — he threw another no-hitter.
Across 119 pitches, Abbott allowed a worrisome five walks, including one that happened on the very first batter of the game. But Abbott never walked more than one in an inning, and no Cleveland batter made it to second base.
His final career stats: 4.25 ERA/99 ERA+, 1.433 WHIP, 4.8 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 in 1674 innings, earning 19.6 bWAR.
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