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The Non-Shutout No-Hitter

Anibal Sanchez came close to throwing his second career no-hitter Friday night against the Rockies. He would have become just the 29th pitcher to hold a team hitless on multiple occasions. Before Dexter Fowler led off the top of the ninth inning with a single to right — slightly out of second baseman Omar Infante’s reach — Sanchez had walked three batters and allowed a run without surrendering a hit.  After a double play wiped Fowler away and Carlos Gonzalez grounded out, Sanchez had pitched a one-hit, one-run game with an 89 game score.

The concept of throwing a no-hitter while allowing a run piqued my interest as it feels counterintuitive. I immediately correlate no-hitters with shutouts, fair or not, and anything against that grain feels strange. A no-hitter is certainly a remarkable feat, but the wiggle room allowed for walks and runs can strip away some of its luster. Would you rather have a one-hit shutout or a one-run no-hitter? Or how about a one-hit shutout with no walks issued or a no-hitter with seven walks?

These are the types of inane questions I ask myself during games, but given Sanchez’s almost-accomplishment, I questioned how many of the no-hitters thrown in baseball history involved the hitless team scoring one or more runs.

Not counting playoff games or combined no-hitters, there have been 258 no-hitters thrown by individual pitchers since 1875. Of that total, 138 no-hitters have been thrown since 1950. And of that total, there have only been seven no-hitters in which the team held hitless managed to score a run, the last of which was thrown in 1993 by the late Darryl Kile.

Let’s take a look back at these games, shall we?

Bob Feller: July 1, 1951
The Indians beat the Tigers, 2-1, behind the no-hit performance of Cleveland’s greatest pitcher. Feller walked three, struck out five, and allowed the one unearned run in the top of the fourth inning. Johnny Lipon reached on an error by shortstop Ray Boone. He then stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw, scoring on a sacrifice fly off the bat of George Kell. Feller finished with an 87 game score for his efforts.

Don Nottebart: May 17, 1963
The Houston Colt .45s beat the Phillies and starter Jack Hamilton, 4-1. Nottebart was an unremarkable pitcher, but on this day he managed a 90 game score, keeping the Phils sans hits while walking three batters. The lone run scored in the top of the fifth, when Don Demeter reached on an error by shortstop J.C. Hartman, and advanced to second base on the throw. Clay Dalrymple sacrificed Demeter to third, and a sac fly from Don Hoak brought him in.

Ken Johnson: April 23, 1964
Johnson’s game is the noteworthiest of the bunch, because his Colt .45s actually lost the game! Johnson allowed an unearned run on two walks, striking out nine en route to a gaudy 92 game score. His opposition, Joe Nuxhall, scattered five hits and a walk over nine shutout frames, producing an 82 game score. A mighty impressive game all around, which remains the only time in baseball history that a pitcher threw a complete game, no-hitter, and lost.

Dean Chance: August 25, 1967
Chance and the Twins beat the Indians, 2-1, in the second game of a doubleheader. Chance walked five and struck out eight batters, but the run he allowed was earned, unlike the three pitchers mentioned above. Chance then had the dubious distinctions of walking a ton of batters in a no-no, and allowing an earned run. The run scored in the bottom of the first, as an error following two walks loaded the bases, and a wild pitch allowed Lee Maye to score.

George Culver: July 29, 1968
If Chance’s non-shutout no-no was rendered a bit less impressive because he walked a ton and surrendered an earned run, Culver’s isn’t too far behind since he walked more batters than he whiffed. Culver’s Reds defeated Chris Short and the Phillies, 6-1, and though his run was unearned, he walked five batters against just four strikeouts. The run scored in the bottom of the second, as Dick Allen reached on an error, advanced to second on the errant throw, and later scored on a Cookie Rojas sacrifice fly.

Joe Cowley: September 19, 1986
Cowley joins Chance as being the only pitchers in this group to allow an earned run in a no-hitter. Cowley might also be one of the least accomplished pitchers to throw a no-no. He made just 95 appearances in five seasons and was out of the game by his 28th birthday. On this day, he walked seven batters. No-hitters are cool, but in my view the impressive nature of the feat is vastly diminished when the walks tally exceeds five.

Darryl Kile: September 8, 1993
In the best non-shutout no-hitter of the bunch, Kile walked just one batter and allowed an unearned run, finishing with a 93 game score. Kile walked Jeff McKnight in the top of the fourth, and allowed him to score on a wild pitch later in the inning. He struck out nine Mets batters in a 7-1 Astros win.

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It’s a shame Anibal couldn’t finish off his no-hitter, as he would have then joined three groups with limited membership: the 30th member of the multiple no-hitter club, the 8th member of the non-shutout no-hitter crew, and the third member of the earned runs in a no-no troupe.