Major League Baseball's 2021 regular season turned three days old Saturday, but Jose Berrios and Corbin Burnes may have recorded the pitching duel of the year as part of the Minnesota Twins' 2-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. Through six innings the pair had combined for 23 strikeouts, zero hits, zero walks and two hit batters.
Though Berrios was not permitted to begin the seventh inning after throwing 84 pitches across the first six frames, the Twins were able to come within five outs of a combined no-hitter after Taylor Rogers struck out the side in the seventh. Omar Narvaez then singled off Tyler Duffey to end the bid with one out in the eighth.
Nevertheless, Berrios finished his night having punched out 12 of the 19 batters he faced. He amassed 18 whiffs on 36 swings, with nine of those coming against his signature curveball. He even limited the quality of contact the Brewers made to the extent that Milwaukee's batted balls had an average exit velocity of 78.1 mph; for reference, the worst exit velocity among qualified hitters last season was 82.2 mph. Berrios' outing was a resounding success, and a welcomed sign after a disappointing 2020 that saw him post his worst ERA and his worst strikeout-to-walk ratio since his rookie season.
Had Berrios and the Twins completed the no-hit effort, it would've been their first in nearly a decade. Francisco Liriano previously did the deed against the Chicago White Sox in May 2011. The Twins have had seven no-hitters in franchise history, but only two others since the 1970s: one thrown by Scott Erickson in 1994, and another by Eric Milton in 1999.
Berrios and Burnes became the first set of pitchers to have dueling no-hitters intact beyond the sixth inning since Jake Peavy and Jacob deGrom did it in August 2014, according to the Bally Sports broadcast. They're also the first set of pitchers in the modern era to have 10-plus strikeouts and one or fewer hits allowed in the same game, per STATS.
Burnes lost his no-hitter against his final batter of the night, as Byron Buxton hit a home run to right-center field. Overall, Burnes completed 6 1/3 innings, struck out 11 batters and threw 87 pitches. He generated 17 whiffs on 40 swings, including seven on his dominant mid-90s cutter. All and all, it was a magnificent season debut for Burnes, who finished sixth in Cy Young Award balloting last year after posting a 2.11 ERA and striking out 37 percent of the batters he faced across 59 2/3 innings.
Had Burnes completed the no-hitter, and it likely would have been a combined effort given his pitch count, it would've been the second in franchise history. The first and only other no-no was thrown by Juan Nieves in April 1987 against the Baltimore Orioles.
MLB had two no-hitters during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Lucas Giolito accomplished the feat against the Pittsburgh Pirates, then Alec Mills versus the Milwaukee Brewers. In 2019, the most recent season played under normal conditions, MLB saw three no-hitters thrown, including two combined efforts.