Danny Duffy almost threw one of the most dominant no-hitters in MLB history
The Royals' lefty wound up allowing only one hit and striking out 16 Rays along the way
That effort pushed Duffy's 2016 ERA down to 2.98, and he has now struck out 126 batters against 23 unintentional walks. First and foremost, though, Duffy on Monday broke Zack Greinke's franchise record for strikeouts in a single game. Second and second-most, Duffy had a no-hitter through seven. To start the eighth, though, Desmond Jennings pulled a 1-2 fastball for a double to left, and the bid for the no-no was over. Still, Duffy recouped to strand Jennings and strike out the final two batters of the frame. Had Duffy managed to pitch a clean eighth, manager Ned Yost surely would've let him go for the no-hitter in the ninth, given his dominance and still somewhat manageable pitch count (110 after the eighth, 74 of which were strikes). Alas and alack, that didn't happen. But what if!
Only seven times has a pitcher twirled a no-hitter while also striking out 15 or more batters. Nolan Ryan did it three times, and Max Scherzer, Warren Spahn, Don Wilson and Clayton Kershaw each did it once. The record is 17, shared by Ryan and Scherzer. So if Duffy works the ninth and permits no hits, he would've set the all-time record for strikeouts by a left-hander in a no-hitter (presently held by Spahn and Kershaw). Duffy also would've obviously had a shot at tying or even breaking Ryan's all-time record. So, yes, if Jennings doesn't run into that fastball, we might be talking about whether Duffy crafted the most dominant no-no in the annals of no-nos (all 295 of them).
Instead, we can merely reflect upon Duffy's mastery as it actually exists. For instance ...
Danny Duffy forced 35 swings and misses today, tied with Clayton Kershaw for most in single game in last 15 seasons. pic.twitter.com/tQ2Z7rTtHi— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) August 2, 2016
Not a bad fellow traveler, right there. Nothing quite signifies pitcher dominance like teasing a hitter into a swing and having him come up with nothing. For Duffy, that happened 35 times on Monday night.
To poke further into Duffy's mastery, let's turn to Game Score, which is a quick-and-dirty Bill James metric that measures a pitcher's dominance or lack thereof in a given start (50 is average and anything 90 or higher is an absolute gem). Duffy on Monday night notched a Game Score of 95, which is rare indeed. In fact, only 151 times since 1913 (the back end of searchable data on the wondrous Baseball-Reference Play Index) has a pitcher logged a Game Score of 100 or more in 9.0 innings or fewer (Kerry Wood's 20-K gem in 1998 was good for a Game Score of 105, which is the record).
Of course, Duffy achieved that mark in only eight innings. On that note ...
Duffy is the 4th pitcher in MLB history with a Game Score of 95+ in less than 9 innings. All 4 (Kluber, Johan, Darvish) since 2007.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) August 2, 2016
No, Duffy didn't get the no-hitter on Monday night in St. Pete, but he did author an incredible start that Royals fans won't soon forget.
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