Bruce Bochy and Dave Roberts manage rival teams in the NL West, but they can probably agree on one thing: A no-hitter is no easy spot for a manager.
Roberts caused quite a stir Saturday night when he pulled Los Angeles Dodgers starter Rich Hill after seven innings, even though the left-hander was working on a perfect game. Hill has been bothered by a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand. The Dodgers eventually allowed two hits after Hill’s departure.
Last month, Bochy was pacing around the dugout as San Francisco’s Matt Moore closed in on a no-hitter. Bochy let Moore — who missed most of the last two seasons after Tommy John surgery — stay in until he allowed his first hit with two outs in the ninth. Moore threw 133 pitches.
Now that managers are more sensitive to high pitch counts, a no-hitter in progress can become pretty stressful.
“They’re not used to throwing 120, 130 pitches. You have guys that sometimes have had injuries in their career that you’re concerned about,” New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Sometimes as a manager, you want to see it take place, you want to see a guy have a perfect game and you want to see a guy have a no-hitter. But there’s part of you that says you don’t want to be in that situation.”
Roberts had to take into account Hill’s health problems and the Dodgers’ playoff prospects, weighing all of that against Hill’s opportunity to accomplish something special. Managers around baseball understood the move — and so did Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber.
“It’s probably disappointing at that point in time, but they’re playing for more than just one game,” Kluber said. “They’re trying to get him lined up to be a big part of their team for the playoffs, I’d imagine. I think that ultimately when you look at it, that’s the reason, and it’s hard to argue with it.”
Detroit manager Brad Ausmus pulled lefty Daniel Norris after five perfect innings last year, but there was little controversy about that because Norris was on a pitch count following an oblique strain.
Ausmus said the score can also factor into the decision.
“If it’s a close game and it’s a guy that’s pitch count is climbing, I think ultimately you’ve got to make the decision if you think it’s the best way the team can win a game,” Ausmus said. “It’s about amassing wins, not amassing no-hitters.”
Hill had thrown 89 pitches when he was taken out.
Here are a few other developments from around baseball:
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Only five of the 15 teams in the American League are under .500, so there’s quite a race on for the postseason spots. The AL East is particularly wild, with Boston leading Toronto and Baltimore by two games. The New York Yankees are another two games back.
The Blue Jays and Orioles currently occupy the wild cards, but Detroit is a couple games behind, tied with the Yankees. Seattle and Houston are 1 1/2 games further behind, and it’s another half-game back to Kansas City.
So that’s 10 teams either occupying a postseason spot or within four games of one.
The Chicago Cubs have a chance to wrap up the NL Central in St. Louis at the home of the rival Cardinals. Chicago’s magic number is five heading into a three-game series at St. Louis that starts Monday.
Fantasy owners probably didn’t mind that much when Hill was pulled from his perfect game bid. It was only his third start since the beginning of August — and the first time he’d thrown seven innings since May 23. A step in the right direction, to say the least.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Hill is the pick here, although Colorado’s Chad Bettis earns an honorable mention for his two-hitter against San Francisco on Monday.
AP Baseball Writer Mike Fitzpatrick in New York and AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.