Reid Detmers’ no-hitter a case of killing them softly with off-speed pitches
It was a simple question with an elusive answer: How does a guy throw a no-hitter with only two strikeouts, an underwhelming 92-mph fastball and a less-than-electric four-pitch mix that generated only 10 swinging strikes in 108 pitches, as Angels left-hander Reid Detmers did against Tampa Bay on Tuesday night?
“Yeah, you have to play defense, right?” Angels manager Joe Maddon said after Detmers, a 22-year-old rookie, threw the 12th no-hitter in franchise history in his 11th big league start. “You gotta be in the right spots.”
True, but the Angels defense wasn’t really tested in the 12-0 victory. Brandon Marsh raced in from left field to catch a Harold Ramirez flare in the fourth inning, third baseman Anthony Ramirez leaped to catch Vidal Brujan’s line drive in the sixth and first baseman Jared Walsh backhanded Kevin Kiermaier’s grounder near the bag to start a double play in the sixth, but none of the plays had a high degree of difficulty.
A better explanation for how Detmers joined Ken Holtzman (1969), Clyde Wright (1970), Jerry Reuss (1980) and Francisco Liriano (2011) as the only pitchers to throw no-hitters with two or fewer strikeouts since divisional play began in 1969 came from the opposing dugout.
The Angels lead the majors in shutouts and are fifth in team ERA. Coupled with their powerful batting order, they appear poised to make a playoff run.
“Me personally, I didn’t think it was anything special,” Rays infielder Taylor Walls said. “I just think he did a good job of locating his pitches. He kept us off balance, kept us guessing.
“A lot of times in hitters’ counts, when we were sitting hard, he would throw something soft, and he was able to command it in the zone. When we would take it, he’d get back in the count. So I don’t know … just poor approaches by us and a good job by him.”
Detmers, the 10th overall pick of the 2020 draft out of Louisville, won’t overwhelm opponents with his repertoire, which features a four-seam fastball that averaged 92.3 mph and topped out at 93.9 mph Tuesday night, a looping 72.6-mph curve, an 83.6-mph changeup and an 82.6-mph slider.
But he spun a gem on a magical night in Angel Stadium because he pitched. He changed speeds, moved the ball around the zone and was not afraid to come inside to right-handed hitters. He pitched to contact, and not much of it was loud — the Rays hit only four balls with exit velocities of 100 mph or more.
And he made adjustments. Detmers’ best off-speed pitch is his curve, which he threw 27 times, but he also threw his changeup 24 times. The most he had ever thrown his changeup in a game was nine times.
“We had a plan going into the game and made a couple of pivots,” said Chad Wallach, the veteran who caught the first no-hitter of his career in his second start for the Angels.
“His changeup was incredible tonight. That was probably not the pitch we expected it to be. He spins the ball a lot. We saw the first couple innings how good [the changeup] was, and we just ran with it.”
Rookie Reid Detmers threw a no-hitter in the Angels’ 12-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday at Angel Stadium.
Detmers had a perfect game through five innings and went to three-ball counts to three batters before walking Walls to start the sixth. Of the five times he had 1-and-1 counts, Detmers threw a strike to get to 1-and-2 four times.
“When you get in better counts, hitters become less hitters,” Maddon said. “If you’re getting into bad counts constantly, you’re always behind the hitters. It’s no big secret. The tipping point is normally the 1-1 pitch. When you can go from 1-1 to 1-2 you have a pretty good chance of having a decent night with regularity.
“Everybody’s trying to do that. But sometimes you’re trying to miss bats as opposed to trusting your stuff and staying with your particular game plan. I’d like to see him continue on that path of assertiveness, aggressiveness and challenge hitters more.”
No one, not even Detmers, saw this no-hitter coming. Detmers hadn’t thrown more than six innings in a big league game, and he was occasionally effective but mostly erratic in his first five starts this season, going 1-1 with a 5.32 ERA.
He needed 88 pitches to complete five innings against Cleveland on April 28 and 78 pitches to throw 4 2/3 innings at Boston on May 4.
Considering his track record, did Detmers think this was possible?
A day later, he was still trying to process it all.
“It’s still a blur,” Detmers said Wednesday. “Thinking back on it, I remember getting the last out, and that’s pretty much it. I remember hanging out in the locker room. It was a dream come true. It was a crazy day.”
Maddon said throwing a no-hitter, a complete game and being so pitch-efficient could be “transformative” for a young pitcher. Detmers believes it will boost his confidence.
“Obviously, my next outing, I don’t really expect the same thing,” Detmers said. “But just kind of keep the same mentality and trust my stuff like I did [Tuesday night]. That’s what I want to focus on.”
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