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Great Moments in Baseball History: Jered Weaver’s First “No-Hitter”

jered weaver no hitter

This should go without saying, but no-hitters are special events in Major League Baseball. The history of MLB spans almost 150 years and around 220,000 games (give or take), and only 305 of those games have featured an officially recognized no-hitter. No-hitters are weird baseball; even in a game that demands inordinate amounts of luck and skill from its players, no-hitters require enormous helpings of each. No fortunately placed dribblers behind the pitcher’s mound, no broken-bat flares, no miscommunications in the outfield; everyone participating in a no-hitter must be on their A-game.

Sometimes, a pitcher can be simultaneously extraordinarily lucky and extraordinarily unlucky during a no-hit effort. The story of Harvey Haddix, the Pirates hurler who, in 1959, threw twelve perfect innings and lost the game on an error and a hit in the thirteenth inning, is a fairly well-known chunk of weird baseball lore. More recently, in 2017, ex-Dodgers starter Rich Hill took a perfect game into the ninth inning and a no-hitter into the tenth, but took home a loss after giving up a Josh Harrison walk-off home run.

These games are uniquely, poetically tragic; a pitcher does everything they’re asked to do and more, and yet their teammates still can’t scratch a single run across. The 2017 Dodgers were a juggernaut; their record coming into that contest against Pittsburgh was a completely ludicrous 89-36. They were facing Trevor Williams, a right-handed pitcher with some gnarly command issues. The Dodger offense should have eaten the Pirates alive that day. For whatever reason, the Dodgers just couldn’t string anything together. It’s not like they were short on baserunners; Williams walked four L.A. batters, and the Pittsburgh staff gave up eight hits altogether. They just couldn’t score though, and it cost Rich Hill a spot in the baseball pantheon.

Thematically and structurally, games like these have a close relative. It’s only happened five times throughout MLB history, but there have been instances of a pitcher (or pitchers) losing a game without giving up a single hit. The first time this happened was in 1967, when Baltimore’s Steve Barber (of diathermy machine fame) went into the top of the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers with a 1-0 lead (despite seven walks and two HBPs). Two walks, a bunt, and a wild pitch later, Barber was in the showers, the game was tied, and Stu Miller was on the mound to keep the game tied. Unfortunately, a groundout to short scored the go-ahead run, and the Orioles couldn’t scrape together another run against Fred Gladding to save the game.

The Setup

jered weaver matt kemp
Image courtesy of Jeff Gross and Getty Images.

Forty-one years after Barber’s game, on June 28, 2008, the Anaheim Angels suited up to square off against their blue-clad rivals to the north in the second game of their annual Freeway Series. On the mound for the Angels was 25-year-old Jered Weaver, already in the thick of his third big league season. Anaheim selected the former Golden Spikes Award winner twelfth overall in the 2004 Draft. 361 days after Weaver signed with Anaheim, Weaver made his big-league debut and dominated right out of the gate—his 177 ERA+ over 123 innings with Anaheim earned him a fifth-place finish in 2006’s Rookie of the Year voting (in a spectacular coincidence, he made it into the majors to stay after being recalled from the minors to take his brother Jeff Weaver’s spot once the latter was DFA’d).

To this point in the 2008 season, Weaver’s had it kind of tough. His ERA going into the contest was an almost perfectly mediocre 4.30, and he’s had a full workload in his past two-plus seasons at the big-league level. He’s facing an exceptionally forgettable 38-42 Manny Ramirez-less (for now) Dodger squad. The ’08 Dodgers were a pretty poor offensive squad; their team OPS+ by the end of 2008 was 93, or seven percent below league average. Again, this is a Dodger team without Manny Ramirez, who’s still raking in Boston at the moment. Only two L.A. regulars—catcher Russell Martin and first sacker James Loney—are sitting on OPS marks above .800.

This is Weaver’s assignment. Here is what he does with it.

Enter the Reliever

Thanks to a walk, a throwing error, and a Matt Kemp sacrifice fly, the Dodgers are leading the Angels 1-0 in the top of the seventh, and Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia has an uncomfortable decision to make. Jered Weaver hasn’t allowed a hit, but he’s walked three batters and he’s already thrown 97 pitches tonight. Admirably, Scioscia makes the smart decision here and replaces Weaver with rookie reliever José Arredondo.

Finding video of José Arredondo working at the MLB level requires some digging through the MLBglobal backwaters. The second YouTube search result for “jose arredondo baseball” is a series of low-quality José Arredondo JPGs. The background music is Linkin Park’s “Crawling.” Suffice to say, it could be the most perfectly 2008 YouTube video ever created.

José Arredondo is a converted shortstop prospect out of the Dominican Republic. He’s a 24-year-old rookie, and he’s been pitching excellently; his ERA at this point is a miniscule 1.40 (small sample size warning etc. etc., but he finished the season with a 1.62 mark over 61 innings). His scouting report on Brooks Baseball calls him a fastball-splitter pitcher with middling velocity (a statement somewhat at odds with a snippet from his Bullpen Wiki page, which claims that Baseball America once called his fastball “the best in the California League”). Blazing heater or no, Arredondo has been mowing down hitters in 2008, and it’ll be his job to continue to hold this punchless Dodger lineup hitless.

chad billingsley angels
Image courtesy of the L.A. Times.

Speaking of punchless lineups, the Angels’ bats have somehow helped their starter out even less than the Dodgers’ have. L.A.’s starter this evening is yet another young gun in Chad Billingsley. Like his opposite number, Billingsley debuted in 2006 (albeit as a 21-year-old, two years younger than Weaver when he made his debut). Billingsley has arguably been even better than Weaver tonight; he’s notched one more strikeout, he’s induced twice as many grounders as Weaver has, and his outing will ultimately last one inning longer than Weaver’s. Luckily for him, he’s facing an Angels squad whose only really good hitter is Vlad Guerrero, who’s sporting an .830 OPS on the season so far. While Mike Scioscia has some solid batters surrounding Guerrero, including Torii Hunter, Howie Kendrick, and Casey Kotchman, the rest of the lineup is something of a white flag. When your starting lineup features Maicer Izturis and 36-year-old Garrett Anderson alongside Jeff Mathis, the patron saint of glove-first catchers, your pitchers will probably have to work extra hard to pull out a W.

Arredondo tosses two shutout innings, complete with three strikeouts. Unfortunately, since the Angels are playing at Dodger Stadium instead of their home ballpark, Arredondo can’t pitch the bottom of the ninth inning. Since both pitchers only combined for eight innings, their effort can’t go in the books as an official no-hitter. However, on that beautiful June evening in 2008, Jered Weaver and José Arredondo combined their powers and created a moment that will live forever in Weird Baseball History. Even though they lost the game, they’ve made an indelible mark on baseball trivia, and thousands of bespectacled, baseball-loving dorks thank them for their sacrifice.

Other Thoughts

The Angels flipped the script on L.A. the following night by beating them in another 1-0 squeaker. Despite the best efforts of L.A. starter Derek Lowe, the Dodgers could only muster three hits against John Lackey and Francisco Rodriguez.

Jered Weaver eventually blossomed into an ace for the Angels during the early 2010s, topping out with three consecutive top-five finishes in the American League Cy Young voting from 2010-12. On May 2, right in the middle of Weaver’s peak, he threw an official nine-inning no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins.

Unfortunately, José Arredondo’s major league career didn’t have the legs that Weaver’s did. Arredondo’s control problems (4.6 BB/9 in 2009, 4.5 BB/9 over his career) contributed to a terrible 6.00 ERA campaign in 2009 (although his 4.27 FIP provided a much more positive opinion of his performance). That bumpy 2009 season, coupled with reconstructive elbow surgery that forced Arredondo to sit out the entire 2010 season, led to Anaheim’s decision to let him walk prior to the start of the 2011 campaign. The Cincinnati Reds picked him off the scrap heap, and Arredondo rewarded them with 114 innings of 132 ERA+ pitching from 2011-2012. Unfortunately, forearm pain consigned him to the IL for parts of 2011, and he spent the next several years pitching in leagues around North America. He appears to have retired following a rough spell with the Atlantic League’s York Revolution in 2017.

 

Unfortunately, MLB only started uploading full games to YouTube in 2009. Twenty minutes of searching around the internet for the full game didn’t turn up any results. In light of that unfortunate fact, MLB should consider this article a plea to upload the game footage in its entirety.

To see Baseball Reference’s game log for June 28, 2008, click here.

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