As he is not some magical wizard who could keep an 0.00 ERA forever, Luis Gil’s scoreless streak to start his major league career ended Wednesday against the Blue Jays. Funnily enough, despite walking seven batters, he hadn’t allowed any runs when he was pulled in the fourth inning, but the three runners he left on base scored after he left. However, he officially pitched 19 innings before allowing a run, setting a record for a pitcher at the start of their Yankee career.
While Gil will not end his Yankee career scoreless, there are 30 pitchers who have done that. As you might expect, none of them had particularly long pitching careers with the team, and most of them threw less than three innings, some of them even position players. Still, let’s go to the top of the leaderboard and look at the guys who actually finished several innings with a Yankee ERA of 0.00
A fourth round pick in the 2000 MLB Draft, Matt Smith made the transition from starter to reliever in 2005. Elbow operations left his arm in a way that he literally could not straighten it. Despite that and a long MiLB tenure, impressive numbers in Triple-A Columbus the next season eventually saw him get the call to the majors. He made his debut on April 14, retiring Joe Mauer in a 5-1 Yankees’ loss. He appeared three times that month, not allowing a runner of any sort, before presumably getting sent down.
Smith reappeared in June, and while he did allow his first career runner in his first game back, he kept putting up zeroes on the scoreboard. He made another nine appearances through July 3rd, throwing 12 scoreless innings in total. Later that July, he was included in the trade that brought Bobby Abreu to the Yankees. He ended his Yankee career with no runs allowed earned or unearned on seven hits and 12 walks. Those 12 scoreless innings are the most of any Yankee pitcher to have never allowed a run with the team.
Smith ended up appearing in another 8.2 innings with the Phillies in 2006, but his streak did end, although not for another 11 games. In 2007, Smith gave up five runs in four innings and never played in the majors again.
In second is actually a Hall of Famer in Lee Smith (no relation, presumably). The Yankees acquired him on August 31st for the stretch run in 1993 with the team just 1.5 games back of the Blue Jays. He was excellent, striking out 11 batters in eight scoreless innings. The rest of the team was not excellent, and they went 13-16 from September 1 on, ending the season seven games out of first. Smith was a free agent after the season and left, ending his Yankee career after just eight innings.
After that, there’s a bit of a drop off to 4.2 scoreless innings by Lee Grissom in 1940. However, there’s still some notable names on the list. There’s the scoreless position players appearances by Nick Swisher, Wade Boggs, and others. One of those outings belongs to Rocky Colavito, who was the rare position player pitcher to get a win. There’s a ghost of Yankees’ prospects past in there in the likes of Andrew Brackman and his 2.1 scoreless frames.
It’s hard to imagine anyone topping 12 career scoreless innings as a Yankees, barring another scenario just like the Matt Smith one where there’s a trade that ends the player’s brief tenure. I’d certainly be good with a Yankee pitcher finding some way to break that record.