No-hitters are special achievements, part of what makes baseball such a compelling sport. Every starting pitcher has one at the beginning of his day’s work. Having it still in place after 27 outs, that’s the trick.
Joe Musgrove of the San Diego Padres performed that bit of abracadabra last week, throwing a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers. It was special for a several reasons. Begin with the fact that it was the first ever in Padres history. San Diego had been the only franchise without a no-no in its history.
Then there was the fact that Musgrove, something of a journeyman pitcher, pulled it off. He had previously pitched for Houston and Pittsburgh with little distinction. His 31-38 career record and 4.20 earned run average testify to his marginal major league credentials.
The Padres view themselves as pennant contenders and they went out last winter to solidify that status by adding a couple of frontline pitchers – Blake Snell and Yu Darvish.
And, oh yes, Joe Musgrove.
Musgrove was a neat story. He grew up in San Diego, rooting for the Padres, hanging out at Jack Murphy Stadium, dreaming little boy dreams of playing for his favorite team.
After signing with Toronto in 2011, he became something of a baseball vagabond, drifting with a multitude of minor league stops, light years away, it seemed, from the big leagues. Bluefield, Greenville, Tri-Cities. The list of stops seemed endless. Corpus Christi, Lancaster, Quad Cities. On and on, it went. Fresno, Altoona, Bradenton.
Musgrove reached the majors in 2016 with Houston and then stopped off at Pittsburgh before surfacing in his home town. He was hardly expected to be a difference maker on this team of Fernando Tatis Jr. Manny Machado and their playmates.
And then came that magical night in Texas and the little boy’s dream came true. Big time.
In the franchise’s 8,206th game, the Padres finally had a no-hitter. Musgrove’s gem was the first no-hitter this season. The last one before that was thrown by Alec Mills of the Chicago Cubs last September against Milwaukee.
Mills’ catcher for his achievement was Victor Caratini, who by some coincidence found himself with the San Diego Padres this season and behind the plate for Joe Musgrove’s start against Texas. That means he’s caught baseball’s last two no-hitters for two different teams. After that accomplishment, teammates now call Caratini “The Scientist.’’
Who knows what his test tube will come up with next.