In baseball, at just about any level of the game, pitching a no-hitter usually means the team accomplishing the feat wins the ballgame.
But there’s more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak, and a minor league team won a game 1-0 thanks to a combination of wild pitching and an extra-innings rule designed to prevent the eternal slogs that occasionally afflict the majors into the wee hours of the morning.
Through nine innings, Arkansas had no runs on no hits, but they had likewise shut out the Drillers and blanked them once again in the tenth to bring up the game-winning situation.
In minor-league ball, extra innings start with a runner already on second base, a spiritual cousin of sorts to the NHL’s three-on-three overtimes and college football‘s alternating possessions from 25 yards out designed to ensure a score happens more quickly.
Tulsa pitcher Louis Head got the first two outs of the inning just fine and looked poised to continue the no-no into the 11th.
Then everything went completely off the rails.
A walk, a hit batsman, and another walk later, and the runner on second scored and the game was over, still without a hit recorded by the winning team.
And while the Travelers had the benefit of a ghost double to start the inning, no-hitter losses do happen at the major league level as well.
In 2008, Jered Weaver and Jeff Mathis of the Mets committed a pair of errors that gave the Dodgers a 1-0 win over the Mets.
And as CBS Sports points out, just last year, the Clearwater Threshers, the Phillies’ High-A affiliate in Florida, got the win in what would otherwise have been a perfect game, except for the fact that the pitcher’s defense failed him as an error by the shortstop moved the runner to third and a fielder’s choice plated the winning run in eight innings of a scheduled seven-inning game.
The game had been seven innings because minor-league doubleheaders are scheduled for that distance rather than the full nine.
Considering the runner on second, a minor-league team could in theory pitch an actual perfect game and still lose; there are plenty of ways for a runner already on second to advance two bases in two outs or less, from stolen bases to sacrifice bunts to long fly balls to just about anything else you can imagine happening in a baseball game that isn’t a hit or an error.
Baseball purists may scoff at the idea of rule changes that can lead to this sort of tomfoolery, but it’s not as though playing until somebody scores is a set-in-stone rule.
In fact, the official MLB rulebook speficially outlines several instances where a tie can occur in baseball. It actually happened not that long ago when the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago played a tie game in 2016.
Tonight’s game has been officially suspended & will not be made up.
MLB has deemed it a tied game. All stats from tonight will count. pic.twitter.com/YmIOsnyaxW
— Pirates (@Pirates) September 30, 2016
Because the rained out game between the Pirates and Cubs was the last scheduled game between the two and because the outcome of the game had no impact on playoff standings, the game was ruled a tie.
At least with the minor-league rules, every game is more likely to produce a winner and a loser.
It just does so in weird ways sometimes.
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