Alec Mills went the distance Sunday afternoon, allowing only three baserunners via walk as he logged the 16th no-hitter in Chicago Cubs franchise history. He got plenty of run support from his offense and was able to cruise with a big lead, retiring the final seven batters he faced. This was the second no-no by a Cubs pitcher in Miller Park since 2008, two more than the Brewers have ever pitched there.
Though Mills only recorded five strikeouts, he was aggressive with his fastball and sinker to get early strike calls. He also dialed up his curveball usage from both his last start against the Brewers back on August 14 and his most recent outing against the Reds. He got no whiffs on 23 of those slow loopers, but earned nine called strikes (39%). Then he got nine more on the fastball, six on the sinker, and two on the slider.
The key in this one, and to Mills’ success in general, was getting outs via contact. The Brewers fouled off as many pitches (21) as they put in play and almost every out was easy for the Cubs defense. Other than a deep liner by Jedd Gyorko that required Ian Happ to make a reaching grab on the run, it was all about as routine as you can get.
Well, there was also the Orlando Arcia grounder in the hole that required El Mago to put a little mustard on his throw. Arcia then came on to pitch the top of the 9th for the Brewers, unleashing a bevy of eephus pitches that floated up in the 47-51 mph range. Home plate umpire Chris Segal hurried the farce along with some generous calls, then predictably made Mills earn his no-no.
And earn it he did, needing just 11 of his 114 low-stress pitches to retire the Brewers in order and trigger a mob on the mound at Miller. Mills is probably the last Cubs pitcher anyone would have predicted to achieve this, largely because he’s not a guy who misses bats. Then there’s the fact that he came into this start with only one complete game and no shutouts in his entire professional career.
But the man who won his high school’s Athlete of the Year award four times as a multisport star before deciding to walk on at Tennessee-Martin is used to being underestimated. He rarely breaks 90 mph and lands with his front foot so closed you wonder how he’s able to throw as well as he does. Seriously, it’s wild. If you’ve never looked for it, check out his front foot the next time he pitches.
The win was all the more special coming off of Saturday’s come-from-behind shocker in which the Cubs ambushed Josh Hader with two homers. Things had been looking very bleak after Friday’s shutout loss, so going through eight scoreless innings and facing possibly the best reliever in the game didn’t bode well. Less than 18 hours later, the Cubs are riding high and have a day off to further rest a bullpen that didn’t need to work Sunday.
With the playoffs just around the corner and the Cubs searching for a third starter to follow Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks, this effort from Mills should put the team at ease. Combined with Jon Lester‘s gem in Friday’s loss, it’s almost enough to make you take back all those pessimistic social media posts. Almost.
We can worry about the postseason in a couple weeks, though. For now, let’s just revel in this great accomplishment for Mills and start pulling for the Reds to keep beating the Cardinals.