COMMENTARY | Pitch No. 128 was upcoming for the 22-year-old left-handed hurler from Puerto Rico. The game was far from in doubt as the Milwaukee Brewers led the Baltimore Orioles 7-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning, yet no one in attendance at Memorial Stadium had left the ballpark.
That's because Juan Nieves, in just his second season as a big leaguer, was working on a no-hitter. A 1987 Orioles lineup that featured Fred Lynn, Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray had failed to muster a single hit against the youngster, but it was Murray at the plate with two outs as Nieves reared back for the final pitch of the game.
Murray smashed a hard-sinking line drive into the right-center field gap, but the greatest Brewer of all time, Robin Yount, got there in the nick of time to make a diving stab just before the warning track and preserve the lone no-no in franchise history.
It was the ninth of 13 victories Milwaukee would reel off to begin the 1987 season, a run of wins that led people to pin the Brewers with the nickname "Team Streak" that year. Nieves, who went 19-1 with a 1.05 ERA in his senior season of high school, wound up winning 14 games on the year despite having a 4.88 ERA.
But Nieves would only pitch one more season before an arm injury forced him to call it quits in 1988. He was only 23 years of age and one of the most promising pitchers to ever come through the Brewers' system.
Unfortunately, for Milwaukee, Nieves isn't the only notable Brewers pitcher that has dealt with arm injuries. Ben Sheets, Jeff D'Amico and Rollie Fingers are just a few of the prominent names that were riddled with the injury bug during their time in Milwaukee.
It's not just because the Brewers have had a better eye for talent on the offensive side of the ball that they have been a franchise known for hitting home runs and lighting up the scoreboard for the better part of 44 years. Sure, scouts have rarely hit on the pitching aspect but it's also been injuries, like the one to Juan Nieves, that have derailed the careers of auspicious young hurlers.
He made his major-league debut at 21 and his final appearance at the age of 23. Today, Nieves is in his first season as the pitching coach for the Boston Red Sox, and it's no coincidence that pitchers like Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have turned around their careers in 2013.
And Nieves still has one thing to hang is hat on 26 years later -- despite pitching for just three seasons in the big leagues, he owns the only no-hitter in Milwaukee Brewers franchise history.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who contains an unhealthy amount of knowledge about Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline and as a featured columnist among other sites and publications.
You can follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.
- Sports & Recreation
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Juan Nieves
- Baltimore Orioles
- Eddie Murray