The San Diego Padres are a franchise still searching for that elusive first no-hitter.
Of course, fans know that the San Diego Padres remain the only team without a no-hitter.
Even more maddening, no other franchise has played as many games without a no-hitter The Padres have come close but never closed the deal. No single pitcher has achieved the feat. No combination of pitchers has either. In the meantime, a pitcher with a career ERA of 4.07 (Mike Fiers of the Oakland A’s) has pitched two no-hitters.
Perhaps the Padres’ first manager Preston Gomez cursed the team when he pinch hit for Clay Kirby on July 21, 1970. Through eight innings, Kirby had held the New York Mets hitless. Alas, San Diego ended up losing that game 3-0.
The franchise also went for years without a batter hitting for the cycle. On August 14, 2015, the team finally achieved the feat. Ironically, former Los Angeles Dodger Matt Kemp made it happen–surprise, surprise–at Coors Field.
Over the years, numerous pitchers have teased fans and history. Twice Chris Young flirted with the feat. Pitching a perfect game through seven innings with just 75 pitches, he gave up a home run to Milwaukee Brewer Gabe Kapler in September 2008. Two years earlier he had a no-hitter going into the ninth. Aside from Young, Sterling Hitchcock, Randy Jones, Jordan Lyles, Tyson Ross, Odrisamer Despaigne, among others, have come close.
Even more surprising, Padres pitchers have not achieved a combined no-hitter. On July 9, 2011, five Padres pitchers held the Dodgers hitless through 8 2/3 innings. Down to their last strike, LA’s Juan Uribe doubled. To add insult to injury, Uribe scored on a Dioner Navarro single.
When Chris Paddack swaggered into town last year, with his combination of stuff and attitude, he looked like the perfect candidate to beat the streak. On July 7, 2019, the former Marlin prospect had a perfect game through six innings, not allowing a hit until the eighth against Miami. In fact, Paddack, Dinelson Lamet, and Garret Richards have each gone into the seventh inning or later with no hits.
But the Paddack of this year does not resemble last year’s version. In 26 games in his rookie year, he had a 9-7 record with a 3.33 ERA, 0.981 WHIP, ERA+ of 127. This year he has struggled and compiled a 4.91 ERA, 1.169 WHIP, ERA+91.
True Paddack has only started five games, and in a normal year could look forward to building on those 26. But this MLB season does not come close to resembling a normal year. In his last outing on August 13, Paddack gave up six hits (three homers and a double) and six runs in three innings against the Dodgers.
However, Dinelson Lamet could definitely be considered a candidate to break the streak. His arsenal includes two fastballs that can reach 100 mph, plus a wicked slider. From the time he pitched his first game for the Padres in May of 2017, he demonstrated his fierce intensity. In his debut, he gave up four hits in seven innings against the Atlanta Braves.
But Lamet, like Paddack, lost valuable time to Tommy John surgery, missing all of the 2018 season and half of 2019. At 28, he has yet to reach 40 starts. Brimming with potential, he’s only begun to demonstrate his abilities.
In July 2019, in his first game back after surgery, he faced the Los Angeles Dodgers and ramped up to 98.9 mph on his fourth pitch. On August 6, 2019, Lamet had a no-hitter with one out in the sixth inning against the Seattle Mariners.
So far this year, Lamet has a 2-1 record, 1.59 ERA, 9.812 WHIP. He’s obviously become a more complete pitcher, not just a fireballer. He’s added command to his arsenal, enabling him to dispatch hitters with a minimum of fuss. This, in turn, keeps his pitch count relatively low.
A fierce competitor, Lamet’s goal is to get quick outs and to finish what he starts each time out. However, in a year without a normal Spring Training, which allows pitchers to gradually build up, will rookie manager Jayce Tingler risk Lamet’s prized but reconstructed right?
Teammates like Manny Machado have expressed confidence in Lamet being the guy to get over this elusive hurdle. And if Dinelson Lamet were to be the guy, his no-hitter would not need an asterisk like so many other milestones and awards in a pandemic-shortened season. Winning a batting title or a Most Valuable Player award in a 60-game season will always come with a qualifier. Pitching a no-hitter needs no qualifier.