Kenta Maeda's no-hit bid turned into a tough luck no decision Tuesday night. The Minnesota Twins right-hander was three outs away from the first no-hitter of the abbreviated 2020 MLB season when Milwaukee Brewers infielder Eric Sogard poked a soft line drive single to shallow center. The Brewers then rallied against Twins closer Taylor Rogers to erase a 3-0 deficit.
Here is the Sogard single that ended Maeda's attempt at history:
Once Maeda was out of the game, Rogers allowed a double and a walk to load the bases with no outs. Keston Hiura brought home Sogard with a single, then the Brewers tied the game when second baseman Ildemaro Vargas threw a ball away on a double play pivot. One run would have scored on the play, but the poor throw allowed Christian Yelich to scamper home and score the tying run.
The Twins failed to score in the bottom of the 9th inning, thus invoking the extra innings tiebreaker rule. Neither team was able to push across the automatic runner at second base in the 10th and 11th innings. The Twins finally broke through and won the game on Jorge Polanco's walk-off fielder's choice in the 12th. Maeda couldn't finish the no-hitter and was stuck with a no decision, but his team managed to win the game (MIN 4, MIL 3 in 12 innings).
Maeda was dominant. He struck out eight consecutive batters at one point, setting a new Twins record and falling one strikeout short of the American League record. Maeda allowed just two balls to be hit out of the infield. Sogard's single had a weak 66.8 mph exit velocity but an .880 expected batted average given it's location. It was well-placed, not well-struck.
With all due respect to Maeda, the Brewers are hardly an offensive powerhouse this season. They went into Tuesday ranked bottom five in MLB in batting average (.221), on-base percentage (.298), and slugging percentage (.368). If you were going to pick a club likely to be no-hit for eight innings on any given night, this year's Brewers would be as good a bet as anyone.
Rogers has struggled quite a bit this year. He went into Tuesday's game having allowed four runs on 10 hits in 8 1/3 innings. Last season he saved 30 games with a 2.61 ERA in 69 innings. Following Tuesday's blown save, Rogers is sitting on a 4.83 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP this year. Sergio Romo closed out a game recently and could see more save opportunities going forward.
The 115 pitches are a career high for Maeda, who threw 80-85 pitches in each of his first four starts this year. His previous career high was 107 pitches done twice, both in 2016. Only 18 times in 108 career starts has he thrown as many 100 pitches. During his time with the Dodgers, Maeda was not often allowed to go through the lineup a third time, limiting how deep he pitched into games.
The Twins acquired Maeda from Los Angeles in the three-team Mookie Betts trade in February. Minnesota sent hard-throwing pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol as the main piece to the Dodgers. Maeda went 47-35 with a 3.87 ERA in four seasons with Los Angeles. He often pitched out of the bullpen late in the season and in the postseason.
Prior to signing with the Dodgers in 2016, Maeda spent eight seasons with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, where he went 100-68 with a 2.42 ERA. Los Angeles signed Maeda to an incentive heavy eight-year contract worth only $25 million guaranteed. From 2016-19, bonuses tied to games and innings pushed his earnings to $34.35 million.
The Twins have five no-hitters in their history, most recently Francisco Liriano against the White Sox in May 2011. The Washington Senators threw two no-hitters before moving to Minnesota and becoming the Twins in 1961. The Brewers have been no-hit four times, mostly recently by Justin Verlander and the Tigers in June 2007.
According to Baseball Reference, the lowest attendance on record for a no-hitter is 1,000 fans on Aug. 6, 1908. Johnny Lush of the St. Louis Cardinals no-hit the Brooklyn Superbas in a six-inning game that day. Tuesday's game at Target Field would have been the first spectator-less no-hitter in baseball history because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.