Sid Fernandez took a no-hitter 7 1/3 innings in game #159 of the season, before losing the no-no, the shutout, the game, and ultimately, the chance at a division title for the 1985 Mets in my Strat-O-Matic replay.
Fernandez entered the 9th inning having allowed just the one hit to Webster, and poised to face the top of the Expos lineup. El Sid is a lefty, of course, and if you include the switch-hitters Tim Raines and Mitch Webster, all 8 Expos position players in the lineup were right-handed batters. I considered bringing in Terry Leach to relieve, as he was the only decent fresh right-hander in the Mets bullpen, but figured Fernandez deserved the shot to close it out.
Raines tripled to lead off the 9th. Still holding a 4-0 lead, the Mets elected to play the infield back – willing to trade a run for an out on a hard-hit grounder. Vance Law immediately hit a gb(2b)A++, validating the decision. If you’re unfamiliar with Strat-O-Matic’s vernacular, the ‘++’ at the end of the result means that it’s a hard-hit groundball that would get through a drawn-in infield, but is gloved for an out in other situations.
Raines scored on the play so the new score was 4-1 in favor of the Mets. With one out, Andre Dawson strode to the plate and hit a home run. 4-2.
According to the rules of Strat-O-Matic’s advanced game, Sid Fernandez still needed to give up one more baserunner by hit or walk before he’d reach his “Point-Of-Weakness”. I have a personal rule that I always relieve starters at POW, but it’s at my discretion to do so before that moment.
I used Strat’s “Compare” feature to review Fernandez’s chances versus the chances of Terry Leach.
Strat’s “Compare” feature helped me decide to bring in Terry Leach to face the next couple right-handed batters.
Clearly, the call to the bullpen needed to be made. Leach allowed a double to the first batter he faced, Hubie Brooks, and then a ground ball out to Tim Wallach that sent Brooks to third. With two outs, a runner on third base and losing by the score of 4-2, rookie first baseman Andres Galarraga (who hit .187/.228.280 in real life 1985) was told to sit down and the Expos sent left-handed hitter Terry Francona (.267/.299/.349) to bat in his place.
Since the Mets only needed one more out and a left was coming to the plate, bringing in who was maybe the greatest LOOGY (Lefthanded-One-Out-Guy) in baseball history, Jesse Orosco to pitch.
Francona singled, Brooks scored. It was 4-3. Next up, Mitch Webster (aka Mr. No-Hit Ruiner) drew a walk. That’s when Sal Butera – who, in real life, hit just 8 homers in 911 career plate appearances – hit his 7th of this Strat season replay, a three-run home run that dashed the Mets division-title hopes.
With the Mets’ loss, the St. Louis Cardinals are the NL East division champions and will face the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS.
An interesting note on the likelihood of a Sid Fernandez no-hitter:
In real life 1985, 22-year-old Sid Fernandez threw 170 1/3 innings and allowed the fewest hits-per-9-innings (5.7) of any pitcher in baseball. It was an historic performance. In the 32 years since, only Nolan Ryan in 1991 (5.3 H9) and Pedro Martinez in 2000 (also 5.3 H/9) have posted a better figure over a full season (Max Scherzer is at 5.4 so far in 2017, but the year isn’t over yet).
Turns out, Fernandez was incredibly good at not giving up hits. His career record of 6.8513 H/9 is 4th lowest of all time, behind only Nolan Ryan, Clayton Kershaw, and Sandy Koufax. According to this Bill James study on “Expected No-Hitters” (included in the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers) Sid Fernandez ranks 5th all-time on the list of guys who, based on statistical likelihood, SHOULD have thrown a no-hitter in their career but didn’t.
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