The Closer: Oh so close

We came so close to history on Sunday Night Baseball, with Ted Lilly and Gavin Floyd bringing back memories of a Cubs-Reds game from 1917 in which both pitchers carried no-hitters through nine frames.

No-Hitters at Wrigley Field


Alas, that game ended poorly for the Cubs, with a loss to the Reds in which Fred Toney pitched a no-hitter. But this one ended well, with Ted Lilly and Carlos Marmol combining on a one-hitter after Lilly's bid for a no-no ended with a line drive hit by Juan Pierre.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that on this day, there were more home runs hit (41) than on any other day this season. But pitching was still a big story. You've probably already read about the fine work of Stephen Strasburg, but it was still a good day to be a pitcher. You didn't need to be Ted Lilly to know that.

You could have been any of these moundsmen:

You could have been Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels, both of whom were waiting for performances like these for quite some time.

Greinke's slider was quite nasty against a Reds team that swings the bats pretty well. He only threw the pitch 19 times, via our Inside Edge video scouting data, but he got 11 outs with those 19 pitches, including seven strikeouts. That's efficiency.

Hamels pounded the strike zone against a Red Sox team that had pounded the Phillies the previous two days. He threw 71 percent strikes, his best percentage of the season in winning at Fenway Park. Like Greinke, he was efficient. Seven of his his strikeouts required four pitchers or fewer, an effort well better than the league average.

Armando Galarraga wasn't perfect for the Tigers, but he was still pretty sharp. Opponents are hitting just .171 against Galarraga's fastball this season and the Pirates were no better against it Sunday. They didn't strike out, but of the 13 times they put the fastball into play, they mustered only two hits.

Galarraga also threw 40 offspeed pitches, and 70 percent of them were for strikes. That's a tough combination to beat.

By the time you're reading this, it's likely June 14, and that marks a significant, one-year anniversary for Phil Hughes. The Yankees starter, who improved to 9-1 with a win yesterday, had been demoted to the bullpen a year ago after an unimpressive start to the season.

Phil Hughes

Within Last Calendar Year

On June 14, 2009, Hughes pitched a scoreless inning in a 15-0 win over the Mets, but it was a performance of significance. It marked the first of 16 straight scoreless outings, spanning 21 innings. In that span, he allowed no runs, 11 hits, and four walks, while striking out 25.

Neither Hughes nor Mike Pelfrey were particularly impressive, but both did improve to 9-1 with the win. According to Elias, it marked the first time that both the Mets and Yankees had pitchers start the same season with nine wins in their first 10 decisions.