On an eerie, wintry night when temperatures dipped into the 40s and a light rain fell throughout much of the game, a couple of magical performers did a methodical waltz across the stage at Memorial Stadium.
One was 22-year-old Juan Nieves, who threw baseball's first no-hitter of the 1987 season, beating the Baltimore Orioles, 7-0, before a crowd of 11,407 Wednesday night.
The other is the incredible, undefeated Milwaukee team, which won its ninth straight game and is currently off to the fifth-best start in major league history.
Nieves allowed five baserunners--all on walks--and was saved when center fielder Robin Yount made a diving catch of Eddie Murray's liner to end the game.
The Brewers received home runs from Dale Sveum, Greg Brock and Glenn Braggs, but they were dwarfed by the feat of Nieves (2-0), who produced the first no-hitter in Brewer history and the third ever against the Baltimore Orioles. The others were by Bo Belinsky in 1962 and by Nolan Ryan in 1975.
"I just care about my teammates and wanted to get it for them," said Nieves, a native of San Piedras, Puerto Rico, who is in his fifth pro season. "I didn't think about the no-hitter until late in the game and really not until my teammates were out on the field tackling me like I was a quarterback or something. I don't think it's really hit me yet."
Nieves did it with 128 pitches. His fastball was clocked as high as 91 m.p.h., consistently traveling in the high 80s.
He had only three other close calls: In the second inning, rookie left fielder Jim Paciorek, playing his first game in the outfield, made a diving catch of another liner by Murray. In the fourth, Cal Ripken Jr. led off with a hard liner to third baseman Paul Molitor. In the seventh, Fred Lynn hit a hard grounder that shortstop Sveum turned into a double play.
Other drama was generated by two towering foul balls that were near-miss home runs. One was in the third by rookie Ken Gerhart, whose drive appeared to blow a couple of feet foul. The other was in the eighth, by Oriole catcher Floyd Rayford. It landed about 20 feet foul.
"I really had only a mediocre fastball," Nieves said. "My slider was awful until late in the game. When the lead went to 3-0, my slider and change-up showed up, and I said to myself, 'This thing is over.' "
Told that no Brewer ever had thrown a no-hitter, he smiled and said, "I thought with great pitchers like Jim Slaton and Teddy Higuera, there would have to be one. I hope every guy on this staff gets to throw one sometime."
The Orioles (5-4), who were dealt their third straight defeat by the Brewers, saluted Nieves.
"He made good pitches," Oriole Manager Cal Ripken Sr. said. "You have to give him credit. When I saw Robin going for that last ball, I knew he was going to catch it. That guy doesn't let many drop."
Nieves had given the Brewers no indication that he was on the edge of any brilliance, allowing 8 hits and 6 earned runs in 5 innings in his other start.
Brewer rookie manager Tom Trebelhorn reacted calmly to his team's magical mystery tour.
"There was a lot of body language and all that on the bench," he said, "but no one said anything. It's certainly a great achievement. There's just no words to describe it. The whole season has been like this."