Corey Kluber threw the the major leagues’ sixth no-hitter this season and second in two nights, leading the New York Yankees over the Texas Rangers 2-0 on Wednesday night.
The 35-year-old right-hander, nicknamed Klubot for his robot-like demeanor, came within a four-pitch walk to Charlie Culberson in the third inning of throwing a perfect game.
Kluber, a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner, pitched his gem a night after Detroit Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull threw one against the Seattle Mariners, marking the first no-hitters on consecutive days since 1969, when Cincinnati’s Jim Maloney threw one on 30 April and Houston’s Don Wilson on 1 May.
“It was a lot of fun, I think it was a special night,” Kluber said. “I’ve never been part of one, witnessed one, yet alone thrown one.”
While looking calm on the outside, Kluber said he had to take a breath after warming up before his first pitch in the ninth inning to “calm myself down a little bit”. But he also drew back to the feelings he’s had before playoff starts, when the heartbeat is faster and the adrenaline is pumping.
Kluber (4-2) struck out nine and and threw 71 of 101 pitches for strikes in his ninth start for the Yankees. With his fastest pitch at 92.5mph, he mixed 31 curveballs, 27 cutters, 23 sinkers, 18 changeups and two four-seam fastballs.
“I had butterflies in that ninth inning, I’m getting a little emotional now, even just getting to witness that was was really, really special,” manager Aaron Boone said. “And to see his teammates and the excitement of everyone for Corey and just the excitement for themselves being a part of such a thing. What a performance.”
Kluber was pitching on that same mound when he was hurt after one inning last season, when he tore a muscle in his right shoulder on July 26 in his Texas debut. He said he didn’t even think about that until after that game when Robinson Chirinos, the former Rangers catcher now on the Yankees taxi squad, mentioned that it was better than his previous start there.
That was the second straight shortened season for Kluber, whose 2019 season ended on 1 May when he was hit on the forearm by a comebacker. He left the Rangers as a free agent to sign an $11m, one-year deal with the Yankees.
Right fielder Tyler Wade made a running catch of pinch-hitter David Dahl’s flyball for the second out in the ninth inning before Willie Calhoun’s game-ending groundout to shortstop Gleyber Torres. Wade entered in the third inning after Ryan LaMarre injured a hamstring.
Boone, whose dad Bob caught Angels pitcher Mike Witt’s no-hitter at Texas in 1984, said he got nervous on the ball Dahl hit, thinking it was going to get down the line, but then noticed what a good jump Wade had gotten on the ball.
“I knew I was going to catch it,” Wade said. “I didn’t know if I was going to have to dive, or catch it like I did. But I knew I was going to catch it.”
Wade said he wasn’t sure because he was unable to hear the bat off the ball with a screaming crowd of 31,689 – many of them Yankees fans.
Kluber said that was one of the few balls hit during the game that he thought might fall for a hit.
“His closing speed was pretty impressive,” Kluber said.
“It stinks. It’s baseball. No-hitters happen. There’s been a lot so far this year. Unfortunate for us that we’ve been a part of two of them,” Culberson said. “It just shows you how good these pitchers are, these teams are and what they’re doing.”
It was the 12th no-hitter in Yankees history, the 11th in the regular season and the first since David Cone’s perfect game against Montreal on 18 July 1999. It was the fifth against the Rangers, who were nalso at home on 9 April when San Diego native Joe Musgrove threw the first no-hitter in Padres history.
“We expected some outings like that in our ballpark, unfortunately not against us,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “I can’t say enough good things about him. I’m not surprised by this guy’s success. I’ve watched this guy go through his routine and the work he puts in.”
New York got its only runs in the sixth inning when Kyle Higashioka had a leadoff walk and scored on a triple by Wade. DJ LeMahieu followed with a sacrifice fly against Hyeon-Jong Yang (0-1).
That is about the time Kluber really starting thinking about a no-hitter.
“After that point, we had gotten a couple of runs … makes it a little easier to kind of pound the strike zone and know you have that run support in your back pocket,” he said.
Before getting hurt in 2019, Kluber was a 20-game winner in 2018, and had thrown at least 203 innings with 222 strikeouts each season from 2014-18. He was the Cy Young winner in 2014 and 2017.
“Obviously wish this guy well,” Woodward said, ”but I didn’t wish him that well.”
The four no-hitters in May are the most in a month since June 1990. It is also the first time three three teams have been no-hit twice in one season, with the Rangers joining Cleveland and Seattle.