Lamenting the near misses in the Yankees' 14-year no-hit drought

USA TODAY Sports

Tomorrow, it will have been exactly 14 years since Coney was perfect. Since then, who has come the closest to joining the Yankees' no-hit roll call?

The Yankees have had no shortage of terrific performances on the mound in their long history. They are fortunate to have 11 no-hitters on the record, including three perfect games. Four of the eleven no-nos occurred during the 1990s, an unusual period of consistent no-hit success. It took the New York Mets 50 years to get one no-hitter, and two Yankees threw perfect games 15 months apart. It was a combination of tremendous pitching and even better luck.

Tomorrow is the 14th anniversary of the last no-hitter, David Cone's perfecto against the Montreal Expos on "Yogi Berra Day" at Yankee Stadium. Only 11 teams in baseball have gone longer without a no-hitter than the Yankees, who are in the midst of their third-longest no-hit drought in their history. Second-longest is the 15-year stretch between Sad Sam Jones's no-strikeout no-no against the A's on September 4, 1923 and the first Yankee Stadium no-hitter, by Monte Pearson on August 27, 1938 against the Indians. It will be sad if the Yankees even approach their longest drought, a nigh-27-year wait between Don Larsen's World Series perfecto against the Dodgers on October 8, 1956 and Dave Righetti's July 4th no-hitter against the Red Sox in '83.

There have been 17 decent no-hit attempts for the Yankees of at least six innings since Cone's perfect game, some more memorable than others:

Date Pitcher No-hit IP vs. First Hit K BB HBP GSc
9/2/2001 Mike Mussina 8 2/3 BOS Carl Everett 1B 13 0 0 98
4/10/2010 CC Sabathia 7 2/3 TBR Kelly Shoppach 1B 5 2 0 80
4/27/2002 Ted Lilly 7 1/3 SEA Desi Relaford 1B 8 1 2 83
6/18/2003 Roger Clemens 7 1/3 TBR Marlon Anderson 1B 1 2 0 87
5/5/2007 Chien-Ming Wang 7 1/3 SEA Ben Broussard HR 4 0 0 78
4/21/2010 Phil Hughes 7 OAK Eric Chavez 1B 10 2 0 80
9/18/2004 Jon Lieber 6 2/3 BOS David Ortiz HR 7 1 0 69
8/31/2009 Andy Pettitte 6 2/3 BAL Nick Markakis 1B 8 0 0 82
9/26/2003 (2) Jorge De Paula 6 1/3 BAL Larry Bigbie 1B 6 1 0 76
10/12/2004 Mike Mussina 6 1/3 BOS Mark Bellhorn 2B 8 0 0 58
5/1/2007 Phil Hughes 6 1/3 TEX N/A 6 3 0 76
7/26/2011 CC Sabathia 6 1/3 SEA Brendan Ryan 1B 14 3 0 82
10/14/2000 Roger Clemens 6 SEA Al Martin 2B 15 0 0 98
8/9/2006 Randy Johnson 6 CWS Tadahito Iguchi 1B 5 2 0 61
9/6/2006 Randy Johnson 6 KCR David DeJesus 3B 8 2 0 81
8/30/2007 Chien-Ming Wang 6 BOS Mike Lowell 1B 5 4 0 76
4/14/2009 A.J. Burnett 6 TBR Carl Crawford 1B 9 1 0 76

Mike Mussina is the only Yankee since Cone to take a no-hitter into the ninth inning, and he was nearly perfect that day. I've written at length about that game before since it remains an indelible memory to me. Mussina's Game Score of 98 was actually better than any perfect game in Yankees history since he notched 13 strikeouts that night at Fenway Park. In a strange twist of fate, he faced off against Cone in a Red Sox uniform that day, who shut the Yankees out through eight innings. The Yanks scratched out an unearned run on an Enrique Wilson RBI double against Cone with one out in the ninth. Mussina took his perfect game into the ninth, inducing a groundout from Troy O'Leary, fanning Lou Merloni, and getting ahead of Carl Everett, 1-2. He was one strike away, as close to a perfect game as possible, even closer than Yu Darvish was on April 2nd of this year. Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be. Everett lined Mussina's 108th pitch to left for a base hit that Chuck Knoblauch had no hope of catching, even in the short Fenway Park left field.. "Moose" wore a wry smile, having lost the second perfect game of his career in the ninth inning. It hurt.

Three years ago, ace CC Sabathia offered the second-longest no-bit since Cone's gem. It was just his second start of the season in defense of the 2009 World Series championship, and coaches became nervous about Sabathia's pitch count as it rose while CC continued his no-hitter. The game was not in question; the Yankees held an 8-0 lead when CC took the mound in the eighth inning at Tropicana Field. Two walks were his only two baserunners allowed. Willy Aybar grounded out to begin the eighth, and Pat Burrell lifted a routine fly to center, bringing Sabathia's old Indians battery mate Kelly Shoppach to the plate. He took a strike, then lined a clean base hit to left in front of Brett Gardner. The no-hitter was gone, and manager Joe Girardi quickly lifted CC from the game. Girardi later said that due to pitch count concerns, he would probably have pulled Sabathia after facing Shoppach anyway, but I would have to see that to believe it. Regardless, it was another splendid pitching performance without a no-hitter.

Ted Lilly was a fine young lefty, but no one expected him to take a no-hitter into the eighth inning on April 27, 2002 against the team that set the American League record for victories in the previous season. Even without iconic DH Edgar Martinez that day, the Mariners boasted All-Stars Mike Cameron, John Olerud, and Bret Boone in the lineup. Yet Lilly retired them almost effortlessly, with a pair of hit by pitches and a walk the only miscues on the day with one out in the eighth inning. Lilly faced Mussina's problem though--the Yankees simply could not give him any run support. Freddy Garcia was in his prime, and he shut them out on four hits and a walk through eight innings. Lilly took the Safeco Field mound and struck out Carlos Guillen on three pitches to begin the eighth. With five outs to go, he walked catcher Dan Wilson and uncorked a wild pitch, allowing pinch-runner Luis Ugueto to reach second base. Infielder Desi Relaford lined a single to right field, ending Lilly's no-hitter and worse, giving the Mariners a 1-0 lead. Lilly completed the eighth and had a complete game one-hitter, but it went for naught. Kaz Sasaki closed the Yankees out in the ninth, and Lilly was tagged with an incredibly tough loss.

A year later, Roger Clemens faced the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Yankee Stadium on June 18th in his first start since his 300th win and 4,000th strikeout. It had taken Clemens a few starts to reach that plateau, but with the pressure now off, he dominated the cellar-dwelling Devil Rays, no-hitting them through seven innings. But yet AGAIN, the Yankees offense did not provide any support for the man on the mound tossing a gem. It was Victor Zambrano at his peak--a man who could walk five but also only allow a pair of hits. Thus, the Yankees were also scoreless through seven. Clemens got Travis Lee to bounce out to second base, but Marlon Anderson singled to left field, and the no-hitter was gone. Clemens stranded the runner, and the game remained scoreless through 11 and a half innings until Alfonso Soriano delivered a walk-off RBI single against Lance Carter.

Some more notes on some of the other missed no-hitters:

  • Chien-Ming Wang retired 22 Mariners in a row, carrying a perfect game into the eighth inning until Ben Broussard spoiled the party with a solo homer.
  • Phil Hughes has had some tough luck with no-hit bids. In his second career start, he no-hit the Rangers through 6 1/3 innings, only to be forced from the game due to a hamstring injury. Mike Myers finished the seventh inning with no hits, but lost it on a Hank Blalock double to lead off the eighth. Three years later, Hughes no-hit the A's through seven, but future teammate Eric Chavez hit a hard comebacker that Hughes couldn't handle and briefly lost. It was a long enough pause for Chavez to reach first base.
  • Andy Pettitte's 6 2/3 no-hit innings on August 31, 2009 was the longest no-hit bid of his career.
  • Before there was Rafael De Paula, there was Jorge De Paula, who made his first MLB start (fourth career game) in the second game of a September doubleheader against the Orioles in '03. The 24-year-old retired 16 O's in a row to begin the game and struck out Luis Matos to lead off the seventh. Eight outs from becoming the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his first start since the Browns' Bobo Hollman in 1953, Larry Bigbie singled to center to break it up. Joe Torre removed him from the game with a 2-0 lead, but De Paula didn't even get his first career win since Gabe White and Jeff Nelson blew it the next inning.
  • Mussina gave the perfecto another try in the first game of the 2004 ALCS, retiring 19 Red Sox in a row before Mark Bellhorn broke it up. The Yankees led 8-0 at the time, but both Mussina and the bullpen faltered. The Red Sox brought it to a one-run game with seven runs in the next two innings, though the Yankees won anyway 10-7.
  • Four years prior, Clemens pitched one of the most dominant games in MLB history, striking out 15 Mariners in a one-hit shutout in ALCS Game 4. The one hit he allowed was kind of a fluky double by Al Martin that ticked off Tino Martinez's glove.
The Yankees don't have a very long no-hit drought, but it would sure be nice to see someone erase these memories of near misses with an unforgettable performance in the second half.

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