CLEVELAND — In a sometimes sticky season, Corbin Burnes got a grip on history.
Milwaukee's ace combined with reliever Josh Hader to pitch baseball's record ninth no-hitter this season, breaking a mark set when pitchers began throwing overhand in 1884 as the Brewers beat the Cleveland Indians 3-0 on Saturday night.
Months after Major League Baseball clamped down on pitchers' use of illicit foreign substances following a rash of early no-hitters, Burnes cemented 2021 as the Season of the No-No with just the second no-hitter in Brewers history.
"It was a masterpiece," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said.
Burnes (10-4) struck out 14 with a career-high 115 pitches over eight innings, taking a perfect game into the seventh while overpowering the Indians, who were no-hit for a record third time in 2021. All of those came with starter Zach Plesac on the mound.
This time, Cleveland was stymied by Burnes — who has become a Cy Young contender as the Brewers run away with the NL Central — and Hader, one of the game's top closers.
"Anyone would want to keep pitching in that situation, but if there was anyone I would want out there for the ninth, it would be Josh Hader," Burnes said. "There were no nerves with him. It was more like a done deal when he came in."
The right-handed Burnes was in control from the start, striking out 11 of his first 14 hitters and retiring the first 18 in order. After walking Myles Straw to start the seventh, the 26-year-old got through the eighth thanks to a diving catch by center fielder Lorenzo Cain on Owen Miller's liner.
"I was definitely on my horse, ready to go get that one," Cain said. "You need a little bit of everything to go right in a no-hitter."
The Progressive Field crowd booed as Hader came on in the ninth. He overpowered Oscar Mercado, striking him out to start the inning. Then, first baseman Jace Peterson went into foul territory to making a lunging catch for the second out.
Hader ended the no-hitter by getting Straw to flail at a pitch in the dirt for his 31st save. The Brewers stormed the field to share hugs and high-fives with a signature victory in their runaway season.
"I had to fight pretty hard (with Counsell) for the eighth to come back out, so I knew I had no shot for the ninth," Burnes said.
Juan Nieves pitched the Brewers' previous no-hitter on April 15, 1987, at Baltimore.
Burnes dropped his ERA to 2.25 and has more than doubled his career high for strikeouts with 210 in 152 innings. He's been vying with Philadelphia's Zack Wheeler and the Dodgers' Max Scherzer for the NL Cy Young Award. This gem, no doubt, will have some sway with voters.
"Corbin felt good after the eighth, but knowing you're putting in Josh Hader to finish it played a part in the decision," Counsell said.
The Brewers improved to a franchise-record 33 games over .500 while slimming their magic number to clinch the division to eight.
Arizona rookie Tyler Gilbert had thrown the majors’ most recent no-hitter on Aug. 14, and the Chicago Cubs threw the only previous combined effort on June 24. The other no-hitters this season were thrown by San Diego’s Joe Musgrove (April 9), Carlos Rodón of the Chicago White Sox (April 14), Cincinnati’s Wade Miley (May 7), Detroit’s Spencer Turnbull (May 18) and the Yankees’ Corey Kluber (May 19).
Most of those gems were thrown before MLB cracked down on the use of sticky foreign substances by pitchers in late June.
"I don't think anyone's going to be upset about putting a no-hitter in the books," Burnes said.
The no-hitters by Miley and Rodón both came against the Indians, as did a seven-inning no-hitter by Tampa Bay on July 7 that didn't officially count in the Major League Baseball record book. Arizona’s Madison Bumgarner also had a seven-inning no-hitter in the second game of a doubleheader at Atlanta on April 25.
The Brewers completed this bit of history three days after Minnesota rookie Joe Ryan retired the first 19 Indians batters in a 3-0 win at Progressive Field.
Plesac couldn’t get his head around being on the wrong side of three no-hitters. Prior to Saturday, Jim Perry was the only starter in baseball history to have his opponent throw a no-hitter three times in a career prior.
“I don’t even know if that makes sense to me,” Plesac said. “That’s insane. I don’t know if it’s me or what.”
Plesac allowed three runs, two earned, over six innings.
Indians acting manager DeMarlo Hale didn't offer any excuses.
"You deal with it, you get up and play tomorrow," he said. "The good thing about no-hitters, it's only one loss. I know it's been three times, but you deal with it, you move on, you understand the level of competition you're playing against and you move on. I don't have an answer for that."
Straw had faced Burnes in the minor leagues but admitted he had little chance against him on this late summer evening.
"He dominated," Straw said. "He's going to get some Cy Young votes this year, I'm sure of it. You just have to tip your cap, come back tomorrow and compete again."
The Brewers scored twice in the first inning on an RBI double by Christian Yelich and a sacrifice fly from Omar Narváez. Milwaukee made it 3-0 in the second when Rowdy Tellez doubled home Daniel Vogelbach.
Tellez experienced right knee pain while running the bases and left the game.
Peterson returned to action after being struck by a foul ball on his left arm Wednesday in the home dugout against Philadelphia. Manager Craig Counsell said Peterson was hit squarely by a line drive off the bat of a Phillies player, but the ball narrowly missed hitting his elbow.
Brewers: RHP Brandon Woodruff (flu-like symptoms) will not make his scheduled start Sunday after becoming ill in the team hotel. Counsell said Woodruff “has lost some weight from the bug,” pushing his next outing to Wednesday at Detroit.
Indians: RHP Shane Bieber (right shoulder strain) threw a bullpen session before the game and will be evaluated Sunday. Acting manager DeMarlo Hale said the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner could begin a rehab assignment as early as Tuesday.
Brewers: LHP Eric Lauer (5-5, 3.18 ERA) will start on regular rest in the three-game series finale, moving up one spot in the rotation to replace Woodruff. The Northeast Ohio native and Kent State product has never pitched against the Indians.
Indians: RHP Aaron Civale (10-3, 3.25 ERA) makes his second start since spending 77 days on the injured list with a sprained third finger on his right hand. Civale allowed one run in 4 2/3 innings in his return, losing to the Twins on Sept. 7.
Walk-off ways: Daniel Vogelbach's grand slam was just the Brewers' latest dramatic game-winning play
April 1: Brewers 6, Twins 5 (10 innings)
Travis Shaw tied the game with a two-run double in the ninth and after Josh Hader hit 100 MPH on the radar gun in the 10th, Orlando Arcia got the season started on a high-note with a single up the middle that sent Lorenzo Cain home with the game-winning run.
The late heroics sent the Opening Day crowd of 11,740 fans, who had waited more than a year to watch a baseball game in person thanks to the coronavirus pandemic which led to the 2020 season being played in empty stadiums, into a tizzy.
“There’s no doubt the fans were part of this today,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “On a day like today, a home crowd is what kind of keeps you going when you’re down and they’re still giving you energy. You get that one little crack like we did in the ninth, and the crowd’s right there with you, and you felt it.”
May 1: Brewers 6, Dodgers 5 (11 innings)
After taking the first two games of a four-game set with the defending World Series champion Dodgers, the Brewers climbed back from deficits four times including twice in extra innings, before Travis Shaw drove in Mario Feliciano with a single in the bottom of the 10th to cap a three-run rally as Milwaukee took its third straight from Los Angeles.
“It’s the team you have to go through to get to the World Series,” Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff said. “Any time you play the Dodgers it feels like a playoff-type game, and we’re only in May. That was a big-time win, a big-time series win. I was just happy to be a part of it.”
May 27: Brewers 6, Padres 5 (10 innings)
It's been a rough season for Jackie Bradley Jr. The outfielder, who signed a two-year, $24 million contract in spring training, has been mired in a funk all year and carries a .168 average into Friday's series opener against Cleveland.
Most of Bradley's highlight-reel moments have come in the outfield but he helped the Brewers earn a series split with the Padres, owners of the best record in baseball at the time, with a two-out single in the 10th inning at American Family Field.
"They like to use the saying ‘It all evens out.' Well, I’m here to tell you that does not," Bradley said. "I’ll just tell you the truth, it does not even out. But it was good to get this one today."
May 31: Brewers 3, Tigers 2 (10 innings)
After Trevor Richards cost Corbin Burnes a victory with a seventh-inning hiccup, Brent Suter and Josh Hader kept the game tied into the 10th and Luis Urías ended it with a ground-rule double to right for his first career walk-off hit, extending Milwaukee's winning streak to five games.
“(Urias) told me before the inning when we were going to the dugout,” Brewers shortstop Willy Adames said. “He said, 'I’m going to walk it off.′ I said, ‘I know you got it.’ It was amazing to watch it. It was even more because he told me that he was going to do it, so he had that confidence in himself.”
June 25: Brewers 5, Rockies 4 (11 innings)
Dubbed "Re-Opening Day" as American Family Field returned to full capacity for the first time since September 2019, the Brewers recreated their original Opening Day comeback. This time, it was Willy Adames hitting the game-tying home run in the ninth and Keston Hiura winning it with a sacrifice fly in the 10th.
“My thing was just to drive a ball to the outfield, and worst case, get a tag on a ball if it happens to go to one of them,” Hiura said. “At first, I thought it was a base hit, then I realized [Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia] was playing right there, and obviously, he was playing shallow because he had a runner at third. As soon as he caught it, I was like, ‘Oh no, please, go… go… go.’”
Aug. 6: Brewers 2, Giants 1 (10 innings)
Two days after his three-run, pinch-hit home run provided the difference in a victory over the Pirates, Rowdy Tellez stepped to the plate with a chance to be a hero again as the Brewers looked to knock off the NL-leading Giants.
With a crowd of 33,250 chanting his name, Tellez delivered, slapping a single down the third-base line to score Avisail Garcia and give Counsell his 500th victory as Brewers manager.
"That was pretty cool," Tellez said.
Sept. 5: Brewers 6, Cardinals 5
Down four heading into the ninth, the Brewers started their rally with a double by Jackie Bradley Jr., who scored on a single by backup catcher Luke Maile. Jace Peterson kept the inning going with a double and Eduardo Escobar loaded the bases with a one-out walk against Giovanny Gallegos.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt had seen enough and summoned all-star closer Alex Reyes, who left a fastball over the middle that Daniel Vogelbach crushed for the game-winning grand slam.
“I enjoy being in those situations, whether I fail or whether I succeed,” Vogelbach said. “As a competitor, you always want to be in those situations and be the guy that steps up to the plate in that situation. I'm just happy that I was able to come through for the guys who grinded all game. It seemed like we were playing from behind the whole time.”