ARLINGTON, Texas – Corey Kluber stopped for a moment before his first pitch of the ninth inning.
“I had to take a breath after the warmups and calm myself down a little bit,” said the pitcher nicknamed Klubot for his robot-like demeanor.
Kluber then finished the sixth no-hitter in the majors this season and second in two nights, leading the New York Yankees over the Texas Rangers 2-0 on Wednesday.
“It was a lot of fun, I think it was a special night,” Kluber said. “I’ve never been part of one, witnessed one, let alone thrown one.”
There have been four no-hitters in a 15-day span. The six total are the most this early in a season.
Kluber came within a four-pitch walk to Charlie Culberson in the third inning of throwing a perfect game.
“I don’t really do too much with what-ifs. Obviously I would’ve like to not walk a guy on four straight pitches,” Kluber said. “That being said, at that point in the game, it’s still 0-0, so my thoughts after that walk were try to get out of the inning without allowing a run.”
The 35-year-old right-hander pitched his gem a night after Detroit Tright-hander Spencer Turnbull threw one against Seattle, marking the first no-hitters on consecutive days since 1969, when Cincinnati’s Jim Maloney threw one on April 30 and Houston’s Don Wilson on May 1. There were two no-hitters on June 29, 1990, by the Los Angeles Dodgers' Fernando Valenzuela and Oakland's Dave Stewart.
Kluber (4-2) struck out nine. The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner threw 71 of 101 pitches for strikes in his ninth start for the Yankees, lowering his ERA to 2.86 and winning his fourth straight decision.
With his fastest pitch at 92.5 mph, he mixed 31 curveballs, 27 cutters, 23 sinkers, 18 changeups and two four-seam fastballs.
“I had butterflies in that ninth inning, I’m getting a little emotional now, even just getting to witness that was was really, really special,” manager Aaron Boone said. “And to see his teammates and the excitement of everyone for Corey and just the excitement for themselves being a part of such a thing. What a performance.”
Kluber was pitching on that same mound when he was hurt after one inning last season, tearing a muscle in his right shoulder on July 26 in his Texas debut. He insisted that he didn't even think about that until after that game when Robinson Chirinos, the former Rangers catcher now on the Yankees taxi squad, mentioned that it was better than his previous start in the $1.2 billion stadium.
That was the second straight shortened season for Kluber, whose 2019 season ended May 1 when he was hit on the forearm by a comebacker. He left the Rangers as a free agent to sign an $11 million, one-year deal with the Yankees.
“We expected some outings like that in our ballpark, unfortunately not against us,” Texas manager Chris Woodward said. “I can’t say enough good things about him. I’m not surprised by this guy’s success. I’ve watched this guy go through his routine and the work he puts in.”
Right fielder Tyler Wade made a running catch of pinch-hitter David Dahl’s flyball for the second out in the ninth inning before Willie Calhoun’s game-ending groundout to Gleyber Torres in the shortstop's first game back after being on the COVID-19 injured list. Wade entered in the third inning after Ryan LaMarre injured a hamstring.
Boone, whose dad Bob caught Angels pitcher Mike Witt's no-hitter at Texas in 1984, said he got nervous on the ball Dahl hit, thinking it was going to get down the line. Then he noticed what a good jump Wade had gotten on the ball.
“I knew I was going to catch it,” Wade said. “I didn't know if I was going to have to dive, or catch it like I did. But I knew I was going to catch it.”
Wade said he wasn't sure because he was unable to hear the bat off the ball with a screaming crowd of 31,689 — many of them Yankees fans.
Kluber said that was one of the few balls hit during the game that he thought might fall for a hit.
“His closing speed was pretty impressive,” Kluber said.
It was the 12th no-hitter in Yankees history, the 11th in the regular season and the first since David Cone’s perfect game against Montreal on July 18, 1999. It was New York's first on the road since Allie Reynolds at Cleveland on July 12, 1951.
This was the fifth no-hitter against the Rangers, who also were at home April 9 when San Diego native Joe Musgrove threw the first no-hitter in Padres history.
“It stinks. It’s baseball. No-hitters happen. There’s been a lot so far this year. Unfortunate for us that we’ve been a part of two of them,” Culberson said. “It just shows you how good these pitchers are, these teams are and what they’re doing.”
New York got its only runs in the sixth inning when Kyle Higashioka had a leadoff walk and scored on a triple by Wade. DJ LeMahieu followed with a sacrifice fly against Hyeon-Jong Yang (0-1).
That is about the time Kluber really starting thinking about a no-hitter.
“After that point, we had gotten a couple of runs ... makes it a little easier to kind of pound the strike zone and know you have that run support in your back pocket,” he said.
Before getting hurt in 2019, Kluber was a 20-game winner in 2018, and had thrown at least 203 innings with 222 strikeouts each season from 2014-18. He was the Cy Young winner in 2014 and 2017.
“Obviously wish this guy well,” Woodward said, ”but I didn’t wish him that well."
The four no-hitters in May are the most in a month since June 1990. It is also the first time three three teams have been no-hit twice in one season, with the Rangers joining Cleveland and Seattle.
Given the drama, even Amanda Kluber took a look.
“She doesn’t like to watch too much,” the pitcher said of his wife, “but she turned it on in the last inning to watch the end of it.”
Yankees: LaMarre grabbed at his right hamstring just before getting to first base when running out a groundball. ... OF Clint Frazier (neck issues) was out of the lineup for the second game in a row. “I don’t know if it’s stiffness or what, but we’re looking into all that and what it could mean,” Boone said. ... C Gary Sánchez, who left Tuesday night’s game with cramping in his left hamstring, was available to play. Boone said he had always anticipated Sánchez not playing Wednesday night before the day game for the series finale.
Rangers: 3B Brock Holt (right hamstring strain) played his second rehab game with Double-A Frisco. He has been out since May 3.
The Yankees are 6-3 going into the finale of their trip. Domingo Germán (3-2, 3.62 ERA) pitches for New York against Rangers right-hander Dane Dunning (2-3, 4.34) whose ninth start will be the most among AL rookies.
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