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Yankees History: A wild no-hitter evasion from 1990

In general, it’s a good thing for the Yankees to avoid getting no-hit, but poor Tom Candiotti...

Cleveland Indians v New York Yankees Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The Yankees been on both the positive and negative ends of some no-hitters in recent years. On the positive side, Corey Kluber threw one in 2021, and there was also Domingo Germán’s perfect game this past season. On the negative end, they suffered a combined no-hitter against the Astros in Yankee Stadium in 2022.

While that combined no-no against Houston was the only one they’ve suffered in recent years, there have been some other close calls. The very next day after that one in 2022, the Astros held the Yankees hitless through 6.1 innings, only for the Yankees to eventually get one and rally to win. This past season, there was the very odd game against the Brewers where the Yankees didn’t get a hit in 10 innings, but managed to keep Milwaukee off the board for as long, and eventually won on a wild 13-inning walk-off.

It’s the latter type of game that we’re going to be looking at today, as we travel back to 1990 and look at a time where the Yankees got quite a lot of help to come away with a win.

On August 3, 1990, the Yankees were hosting Cleveland in the opener of a series in the Bronx. The Yankees were anchored to the bottom of the AL East standings at 41-63, while Cleveland wasn’t too far ahead of them. In the top of the first inning, Yankee starter Chuck Cary gave up a run, with Cleveland’s Jerry Browne plating a run with an RBI double. The Yankees then stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first, beginning what would be a very odd night.

On the hill for Cleveland that night was knuckleballer Tom Candiotti. He did what knuckleballers can sometimes do: baffle both hitters and catchers. He would not have your ordinary no-hitter bid, as he gave up a couple runs in the very first inning. A hit by pitch and a wild pitch, combined with an error from Browne at second base allowed the Yankees to plate two runs in the bottom of the first, taking the lead without recording a hit.

After that inning, Candiotti locked in and cruised through the next several innings. He retired 20 of the next 21 hitters he faced, with the lone blemish coming on an error, albeit one by Candiotti himself. Not only was that enough to get the 33-year-old in milestone territory, but it also allowed his offense to take control of the game.

After missing out on a couple chances to even things up or take the lead, Cleveland eventually tied the game in the sixth. A Brook Jacoby RBI single in sixth evened the score and also knocked Cary out of the game after 5.2 pretty solid innings. An inning later, they took the lead against the Yankees’ bullpen. Lee Guetterman allowed three total hits in the seventh, two of which allowed runs as Cleveland went up 4-2.

Candiotti continued cruising with a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh, and then came back out for the eighth. He got that inning off to a perfect start as well, retiring Roberto Kelly and Steve Balboni. Four outs away from a no-hitter, Candiotti couldn’t quite cruise through the eighth, as he walked Steve Sax to keep the inning alive.

After that, the error bug came back for Cleveland. Félix Fermín couldn’t quite handle a Jim Leyritz grounder, allowing everyone to be safe. In the next at-bat, the Yankees finally ended their no-hit woes. Left fielder Óscar Azocar punched through a single, scoring Sax. Not only were the Yankees in the hit column, but they were also back with a run.

That would be it for Candiotti, finishing his day with one hit and two walks allowed, mixed in with three errors from him and his defense. Still four outs away from a win, Cleveland manager John McNamara opted to bring in closer Doug Jones for a potential four-out save. However, their hopes off that also quickly went up in flames. Mel Hall homered on the very first pitch that Jones threw, hitting a grand slam to give the Yankees a 6-4 lead.

The Yankees still had Guetterman in, and stuck with him for what was now a chance at a win in the ninth. He allowed a two-out hit to Tom Brookens, but got Chris James to ground out after that, sealing a wild 6-4 win.

Of the six runs the Yankees scored on the day, only one counted as an earned run: Hall himself scoring on his homer. Other than that, all five of the others came in part thanks to Cleveland miscues, as they finished the day with three errors, two wild pitches, a hit by pitch, and three walks, going along with just three hits, all of which came with two outs in the eighth inning.

There are other games over the years where you can find the Yankees coming back after similar no-hit conundrums. In few others did they get quite that much help, though.