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Edinson Volquez’s No-Hitter Was a Surprising — and Moving — Baseball Gem

The Marlins starter dedicated the game to the late Yordano Ventura and José Fernández

(AP Images)
(AP Images)

Edinson Volquez almost didn’t make it past the first plate appearance of Saturday’s start against the Diamondbacks. Arizona’s first batter, outfielder Rey Fuentes, collided with the Marlins pitcher at the first-base bag on a 3–1 groundout, leaving a shaken Volquez limping and stepping gingerly for the rest of the afternoon.

After taking a few precautionary warm-up pitches to prove his health, Volquez stayed in the game. And after throwing 95 more game-speed pitches, Volquez had secured a no-hitter, the sixth in Marlins team history and the first for any MLB pitcher since the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta in April 2016. Volquez struck out 10 — including all three Diamondbacks in the ninth inning — and walked two in a 3–0 Miami victory, erasing both of those baserunners with double plays to become only the ninth pitcher in history to face the minimum 27 batters in a non-perfect no-hitter.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Volquez’s career as a well-traveled journeyman — Miami is the seventh MLB city he’s called home — has featured highs before, from his one-hit shutout for the Padres in 2012 to his quality start for the Royals in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, which Kansas City won in extra innings to clinch the title. While Volquez tossing a no-hitter registers as a surprise given the difficulty any pitcher faces in amassing 27 outs of MLB batters without allowing a hit (let alone a starter with Volquez’s inconsistent record), he’s no Bud Smith or Philip Humber and won’t rank as one of the worst pitchers ever to accomplish the feat.

But Saturday’s start was still atypical for the veteran in terms of both effectiveness and length. Entering the day, Volquez had allowed 52 hits in 52.2 innings for the Marlins, along with a league-worst walk rate, and he hadn’t pitched past the seventh inning of any game in more than a year. By keeping his pitch count low on Saturday, though, he carved his way through a potent Diamondbacks lineup and became just the 14th pitcher to achieve the dual triumphs of a no-hitter and a “Maddux” — a shutout in fewer than 100 pitches — since pitch counts have been recorded. The Marlins franchise, which came into existence in 1993, now has as many no-hitters as the Pirates and more than the modern (post-1953) Orioles; Volquez has more individual no-hitters than Greg Maddux, Pedro Martínez, and Roger Clemens.

Beyond pitching to the last 26 batters on a hobbling ankle, Volquez took the mound on Saturday with a heavy heart. June 3 would have been the 26th birthday of Volquez’s fellow Dominican pitcher and former Royals teammate Yordano Ventura, the right-hander who died in a car crash in January. In Volquez’s postgame on-field interview, he mentioned both the late José Fernández, who pitched in Miami during his joyous and far-too-brief MLB career, and Ventura, noting that the latter “was one of my best friends … I’m pretty sure he’s in the right place right now enjoying this moment.”

The postgame scene captured the range of Volquez’s emotions, from his reflections on Fernández and Ventura to his arm-pumping celebration upon notching the final strikeout in the greatest game he is likely to ever pitch. The 23–31 Marlins won’t reach the postseason this year, and Volquez won’t make the All-Star team or become a prized trade target at the deadline. But for three hours in an unusually vibrant Marlins Park on Saturday, a player tied for the MLB lead in losses was the best pitcher in the sport.

An earlier version of this piece stated that Volquez became the ninth pitcher to face the minimum 27 batters in a non-perfect game; he is the ninth pitcher to face the minimum 27 batters in a non-perfect no-hitter.