Reid Detmers’ No-Hitter Was the Second-Coolest Moment of the Game

Reid Detmers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As offense dips down, it was bound to happen. Reid Detmers of the Angels threw the first solo no-hitter of the year last night, facing only 28 batters as he beguiled the Rays’ lineup for nine innings. But this no-hitter wasn’t filled with drama, or even short on offense. The Angels put up 12 runs, powered by a two-homer game from Mike Trout. One of baseball’s unique charms is that the two halves of the game are disconnected; you can have a tense chase of a no-hitter on one side and silly season on the other. Silly season? Well, let’s get right to it.

Top of the Early Innings

Detmers didn’t exactly roll out of bed dealing. After a first-pitch ball, he laid one in there, and Yandy Díaz tagged it for the hardest-hit ball that anyone on either team managed all game. Luckily, it was into the ground and straight at shortstop Andrew Velazquez. Wander Franco followed with another hard-hit grounder, and Harold Ramirez ended the inning with a sinking liner right at left fielder Brandon Marsh.

That felt like the prelude to some hits landing, but Detmers improved in the second. He got Randy Arozarena on a popup, Brandon Lowe on a lazy fly ball, and Mike Zunino on a soft line drive that hung up forever in the Anaheim air. By the third, he was getting into a groove. After a soft grounder and his first strikeout of the game, he completed a perfect first trip through the lineup by about nine feet:

Bottom of the Early Innings

While Detmers was allowing hard contact for outs, Corey Kluber was dinking and dunking his way to disaster. Trout singled on a check swing, keying a two-run inning. It hardly felt like an insurmountable lead — not with the way the first inning had gone — but it was a nice tailwind for Detmers to work with.

Unsatisfied with allowing his runs via soft contact, Kluber decided to allow a pile of hard contact in the next inning instead, with each of the first five Angels to bat clobbering the ball over 100 mph. After being the king of soft contact the previous inning, Trout capped the hard-hit parade with a majestic home run, 425 feet into the rock pile in center, showing his center field counterpart Kevin Kiermaier how far a ball needs to go to be a home run:

Now Detmers had a lead he could work with, but the Angels weren’t done. After two seeing-eye singles, Chad Wallach blasted a three-run shot with one out in the third inning. They didn’t stop there, either, putting two more runners aboard before Trout, batting for the third time in three innings, crushed a grounder, his hardest-hit ball of the night, that Franco corralled to end the inning. That was all for Kluber: three innings, eight runs, eleven hits, two homers. He did manage two strikeouts, though, in between all that damage.

Top of the Middle Innings

Staked to an 8–0 lead, Detmers probably wasn’t thinking no-hitter. He’d never thrown more than six innings as a pro and never even went a full nine in college. He came into the game with a career ERA above six. This was a clear-cut situation to throw some strikes, reach five innings, and collect a win. That’s absolutely what he did; showing a healthy respect for Franco, he started to throw his fastball/changeup pairing, both in the strike zone, with great regularity.

The plan worked to perfection. He needed only 19 pitches to complete the fourth and fifth innings, picking up his second strikeout of the game in the bargain. Did Marsh have to make a nice running catch in left? Sure, but he was easily up to the task. And even if that ball had landed, so what? Bearing down and getting outs and length was exactly what the situation called for.

When the sixth rolled around, it was time to change plans. Detmers had only thrown 49 pitches through five innings. That’s complete game territory — perfect game territory in this case. Forget the big lead; that’s an achievement you can hang your hat on for years to come. It was time to get fine, and like clockwork, he walked the first batter of the inning on a full-count curveball.

A lineout and a double play later, the damage was erased and Detmers had still faced the minimum, but you could tell he was after big game now. He was flipping in first-pitch changeups, going to secondary pitches when behind in the count, and generally hunting strikeouts. With two-thirds of a no-hitter down and only 64 pitches thrown, he had some spare pitches to use, and he wasn’t about to leave the mound with those in his pocket.

Bottom of the Middle Innings

Oh, right. The Rays have a great bullpen. Normally, knocking the opposing team’s starter out early is a good thing. But Jason Adam, Colin Poche, and Ryan Thompson made short work of the Halos in three innings of two-hit, four-strikeout relief.

It’s funny to strip a series of innings of their context. If you ignore the 8–0 scoreline, this is how the Rays win games. They get a ton of innings from their bullpen — more than any other team in baseball. They’re high-quality innings, too; their 3.47 ERA this year is actually worse than last year’s 3.24 mark, and they haven’t posted a bullpen ERA above 4 since 2016. If the Rays are even in the late innings, they’re leading. They were decidedly not even last night.

Top of the Late Innings

They say the truest measure of a player’s character is what he does when all the chips are down. Or at least, they did in a ton of hackneyed sportswriting I read when I was a kid. Detmers’ character appears to be throwing first-pitch curveballs. He did so to three of the four batters he faced in the seventh and, just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, came back with a second-pitch hook to the one batter he started with a fastball.

That batter was Brett Phillips, a key player in the night’s drama. Phillips started the night on the bench, but when the game got out of hand, Kevin Cash gave Franco the night off, inserted Phillips, and shifted the defense around in true Rays fashion, moving right fielder Vidal Bruján to third base in the process. Delightful!

On a 3–2 count to Phillips, Detmers threw a get-me-over curveball, the kind he was trying to steal strikes with. Phillips put it in play — the way the Rays did all night — and something good happened:

Devastating! It was all over.

But it wasn’t all over. That was an error, not a hit; there was a slight delay in the official scorer’s ruling, but it looks like a clear error in my eyes. Would it have been a close play at first? Surely. But Detmers matched Phillips to the bag even though he slowed down after seeing Walsh flub the transfer. A good throw — and it’s an easy throw from that distance — almost always results in an out. The no-hit bid was still on! And it kept going through seven after Detmers buckled down for the last two outs of the inning, including a warning track blast from Ramirez, his third well-struck ball of the game.

The seventh had been a slog — 29 pitches and three three-ball counts — but Detmers’ early efficiency left him plenty of gas in the tank to set his sights on a complete game. His fastball hadn’t lost any zip, and the eighth was perhaps the lowest-stress inning of the night. The Rays simply couldn’t square him up; Lowe and Zunino lofted lazy fly balls to right, and Taylor Walls couldn’t even leave the infield on his followup fly out.

That set the stage for a dramatic ninth, but to be honest, there wasn’t much drama. The Rays didn’t seem to have much fight in them, the Angels’ defense was keyed up, and Detmers took advantage of Tampa Bay’s aggression. He got Bruján to pop up on a fastball above the zone, got Kiermaier lunging on a slider low and away, and coaxed a grounder out of Díaz on a curveball that grazed the bottom of the strike zone. They were all gimmes, and the defense held. No-hitter!

It was a strange no-hitter, too. Detmers wasn’t particularly efficient; despite only a single walk and two strikeouts, he eclipsed 100 pitches. He didn’t miss many bats; his career swinging-strike rate actually declined. But the ball wasn’t jumping last night, the Angels played solid defense, and sometimes that’s enough.

Detmers did a good job of flummoxing the Rays by mixing his pitches. I think he’d probably tell you he didn’t have his best stuff last night. Tampa hitters swung at eight sliders and didn’t miss a single one. They swung at 19 fastballs and only missed one. It’s really hard to avoid hits altogether when that’s the case; slightly harder hard contact, or slightly softer soft contact, could have produced a different outcome. But it didn’t, and Detmers was adept at getting swings in poor locations. It all led to the fewest strikeouts in a no-hitter since 2011, a staggering feat for the rookie.

Bottom of the Late Innings

But wait, there’s more! The Rays’ reliever parade couldn’t carry on forever, and after another scoreless inning (from J.P. Feyereisen), Phillips took the mound to save the real pitchers on the team from overuse. It was 8–0 with only three outs left, after all — no reason to tax arms who might be used in a competitive game today when there’s nothing to save.

The Angels took quick advantage of Tampa Bay’s largesse. Trout clobbered a homer to center to make it 10–0. Shohei Ohtani, shut out of the early-inning fun, followed with a screaming line drive off the right field wall. And then the fun got started.

Anthony Rendon is a great right-handed hitter. He’s also a great athlete, blessed with some of the best hand/eye coordination in the big leagues. It’s hardly a surprise that he can credibly swing a bat left-handed. Up 10–0 and facing sub-standard competition, he went up to the plate left-handed for the first time in his long major league career. It worked pretty well:

What can you do but laugh (or, in Rendon’s case, display no emotion as you circle the bases)? That’s what players do when they’re goofing around in the batting cage. These guys are strong and whip-quick. The muscles you use to hit are mostly the same from both sides; it’s not like Rendon hits the gym and does one-handed lifts to practice his top hand dominance or anything. But uh… he’d batted 4,528 times in the majors without so much as a single lefty plate appearance. His first swing as a lefty went 411 feet.

This game had everything. It had drama, with the stadium on its feet for the last six outs of the no-hitter. It had offense, and not just via home runs — the Angels scored every way possible in the early innings. It had star power; Trout put up two homers. And oh yeah, it had an Anthony Rendon lefty home run. A 12–0 no-hitter might feel strange, like an event with all the drama of a close game stripped away, but the bifurcated outcomes allowed for both fun offense and historic pitching. I thoroughly enjoyed myself — not as much as Rendon or Detmers, perhaps, but quite a bit nonetheless. It might be the year of low batting average, and no hitters might grow tiresome as the year wears on, but they certainly haven’t lost their appeal yet.

Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

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1 year ago

I wonder when was the last time a player who exclusively bats from one side managed a homer from the other side. And I dont mean a guy who stops switch hitting.

Really impressed me to see Rendon do it because I cant recall a player deciding to randomly hit from the other side outside of like Larry Walker switching sides against Randy Johnson in the all-star game.

1 year ago
Reply to  SirCharlesK

Ji-Man Choi hit a home run in 2020 in the first game where he tried hitting right-handed, although I believe the home run came in his second at bat.

1 year ago
Reply to  SirCharlesK

funnily enough i think a part of the impetus was just anthony wanting to get the inning over so detmers could finish the job without a huge delay

1 year ago
Reply to  SirCharlesK

I think I remember Javy Baez doing it a season or two ago as well.

1 year ago
Reply to  SirCharlesK

Didn’t even bother to move his shin guard from his now back leg.

1 year ago
Reply to  SirCharlesK

My first reaction when I saw the replay was this man has batted lefty many times. Maybe not in a game, but he either once was a switch hitter or practices swinging the bat as a lefty. It does seem that Rendon over the years has practiced batting left handed during batting practice, at least according to his former manager with the Nationals. Don’t know if he’s continued that with the Angels, although I suspect he has. Ben says It’s hardly a surprise that he (Rendon) can credibly swing a bat from the other side, but I would absolutely say it’s a surprise for any MLB player who hadn’t at least practiced hitting from his opposite side. Still, an impressive moment in a fun game.

Shirtless George Brett
1 year ago
Reply to  MikeD

I’m certainly not on Anthony Rendon’s level but I taught myself to credibly do alot of things with my left hand (including hit) just out of curiosity/boredom. I can actually throw a football better left handed now than with my natural hand.

I would be fairly confident that most MLB level hitters are talented enough that they could pretty easily hit from their opposite side against Brett Phillips. Even without much/any practice (I would also be equally confident that all MLB players have practiced hitting from the other side at some point, even just for fun).

Athletically, these guys are mutants. And I mean that in the nicest possible way lol.

Last edited 1 year ago by Shirtless George Brett
1 year ago
Reply to  MikeD

Joe Maddon said after the game that Rendon apparently still hits lefty home runs in batting practice regularly. He then listed Rendon as a switch hitter on the lineup card the game afterwards.

Shirtless George Brett
1 year ago
Reply to  jimz

I pretty sure Maddon was just joking around with people. You dont label the starting lineup by batting handedness. Its just name and position.

If Rendon had not been in the starting lineup that day he could have been put in the “Switch hitter” column they use for bench players but he did start that game so obviously that wasnt the case.

Smiling Politely
1 year ago
Reply to  SirCharlesK

Exhibit 213471223781 in how exponentially more talented professional hitters are than any amateur. My goodness!

Shout out to MLB; yeah, your commissioner is a disgrace to his species, but it’s still the only sport where players aren’t penalized for having fun on the field