We can officially call this the new norm.
For the third time in the last week, a team has pulled its starting pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter. It first happened to Sean Manaea in Oakland on Saturday, then Dan Straily exited his start without giving up a hit on Sunday, and now Wei-Yin Chen can add his name to the list.
The latest entry came the closest to having his bid completed. The Miami Marlins were only two outs away from a combined no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners when Mitch Haniger doubled off Kyle Barraclough. The Marlins won, 5-0, regardless.
The larger picture here seems more important than the outcome. Teams are making sure not to overwork their starters early in the year. That could mean no-hitters become more rare in April and May, or combined no-hitters become more common in those months.
Either way, teams are certainly more cognizant of their pitchers’ limits as the season begins.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly had no problem taking Straily out of the game after 5.1 innings against the Mets over the weekend. Mattingly didn’t even give Chen a chance to start the eighth inning in Seattle.
Chen was mostly pitching for contact all night. He had two strikeouts and two walks while getting his defense heavily involved in the action. After 100 pitches, Chen was spent.
That’s not a knock on him. Nor was it a knock on Straily when he was pulled after 93 pitches. The same goes Manaea, who was pulled after throwing nearly the same amount.
This isn’t exactly new territory for baseball, either. The Marlins pulled Adam Conley from his start last April after no-hitting the Milwaukee Brewers through 7.2 innings. Trevor Bauer was pulled from an April no-hitter after six innings with the Indians in 2015. And Dodgers rookie Ross Stripling was lifted after 7.1 innings in his Major League debut last year.
Individually, those instances aren’t all exactly similar. Together, they paint a picture that shows why it shouldn’t be surprising that Mattingly pulled Chen on Tuesday night.
Brad Ziegler came on in relief in the eighth inning after Chen began having trouble locating late in the seventh. Ziegler induced three quick groundouts, turned the ball over to Barraclough in the ninth and watched as Haniger gave up the only hit of the night.
Few things come easy in baseball. A no-hitter is not one of them. An early season no-hitter might be even tougher now.
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