Move over, Bobo.
Until Saturday night, Bobo Holloman was the only pitcher of baseball’s modern era (since 1901) to pitch a hitless game in his first start. Now Tyler Gilbert has joined him.
Like Holloman, who pitched his for the St. Louis Browns on May 6, 1953, Gilbert had pitched a few times in relief on a club destined for finish last. Neither faced any pressure.
Even after Gilbert muzzled the San Diego Padres, 7-0, his Arizona Diamondbacks sat in the cellar of the National League West with a worst-in-baseball 38-80 record that left them 37½ games behind the front-running San Francisco Giants.
But there was still much to celebrate – a least for the rookie left-hander.
In pitching the first complete game of his professional career, Gilbert became the first man to work nine hitless innings in Chase Field, the domed downtown Phoenix ballpark that opened in 1998. The losing pitcher for San Diego was Joe Musgrove, author of the first no-hitter of 2021.
Gilbert joined Hall of Famer Randy Johnson and the well-traveled Edwin Jackson as Arizona pitchers who authored no-hitters, though both of the others came on the road.
It was not only the eighth no-hitter of the season – tying a modern-era mark – but the first since June 24, when four Cubs blanked the Dodgers in Los Angeles three days after umpires began inspecting pitchers suspected of applying slippery substances to accelerate spin rate.
The Gilbert gem also the first against the Padres since four Dodgers pitchers held them hitless in 2018.
The big question now is what the future holds for Tyler Gilbert.
He definitely doesn’t want to become another Bobo Holloman, whose career consisted of a 3-7 record, 5.23 earned run average, and one complete game – the no-hitter – out of 10 starts. Two years after Holloman made history, both he and the two teams involved – the St. Louis Browns and Philadelphia Athletics – had disappeared into the dustbin of baseball footnotes.
Holloman pitched only that single season in the majors, while the Browns became the Baltimore Orioles in 1954 and A’s moved to Kansas City a year later.
Like Bill Veeck’s Browns nearly 70 years earlier, the D’backs need to build from the bottom up. They shaved $5.5 million off their payroll before the trade deadline, moving veterans Stephen Vogt, Tim Locastro, Joakim Soria, and Eduardo Escobar to contenders, but still carry a payroll of $89,089,346, ranked 21st in the majors according to Spotrac.
With contracts expiring for five players and manager Torey Lovullo after this season, the club could save more.
At the moment, veteran starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner is the highest-paid player at $19 million, with outfielder Kole Calhoun second at $9 million. Bumgarner himself pitched a “no-hitter” in Atlanta earlier this season but did not get credit for it because it occurred in the second game of a doubleheader and went seven innings rather than nine.
Even without Bumgarner’s game, which would have been the first no-hitter of his career, MLB has tied the Modern Era single-season mark of eight, last accomplished in 1991.
There is some discrepancy over the all-time record, however, with Baseball-Reference.com listing 12 in 1884 but other sources saying only eight occurred that year. Various pitching rules changes introduced that season are the probable reasons for the statistical disagreement.
Gilbert, a 27-year-old California native, spent most of his six-year career as a relief pitcher in the minor leagues, first in the farm system of the Philadelphia Phillies and later with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He came to Arizona as a Rule 5 draft pick.
Since Arizona has nothing to lose by looking at new players over the last six weeks, Gilbert is virtually certain to remain in the rotation. Although he was hit hard during the no-hitter, he made a strong impression by throwing strikes. He wound up with five strikeouts and three walks.