The Cincinnati Reds accomplished a baseball rarity Sunday by losing despite conceding no hits.
Hunter Greene, a rookie right-hander, had struck out nine batters through seven innings without allowing a hit. His counterpart, the Pirates’ veteran left-hander José Quintana, nearly matched him, allowing only three hits and one walk in seven innings before turning the game over to the Pittsburgh bullpen.
Though Greene’s pitch count had surpassed 100, Reds Manager David Bell allowed him to begin the bottom of the eighth inning in pursuit of a no-hitter in Pittsburgh. Greene induced a groundout, but then issued walks to Rodolfo Castro and Michael Perez. After seven and one-third innings, five walks and 118 pitches, Greene was finally pulled.
The right-hander Art Warren walked another batter to load the bases, and Ke’Bryan Hayes grounded into a fielders’ choice to drive in the game’s only run and hand Greene a hard-luck loss. It was only the sixth time in baseball’s modern era that a team lost without yielding a hit, and the first time it had happened since 2008.
“It would have been great to have a different result, but it is what it is,” Greene told reporters after the game.
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He also said he did get tired as the game dragged on.
“But then again, there’s the mental part of, you know: ‘I’m fine. I’m not tired,’” he said.
Unfortunately for Greene, Warren and the Reds, Sunday’s feat will not be recorded as a no-hitter. In 1991, Major League Baseball changed the definition of a no-hitter, requiring that a team finish at least nine innings in a complete game, thus wiping out each of the no-hit losses, as well as several that were shortened by rain. By the same rule, a Madison Bumgarner start in 2021, in which he allowed no hits in a complete-game win, was not recorded as a no-hitter because it came in a seven-inning game as part of M.L.B.’s doubleheader rules that season.
Sunday’s defeat was the latest for Cincinnati (9-26), which is more than 10 games out of first place in the National League Central. The Reds’ 3-19 start with a minus-65 run differential was worse than both the 2003 Tigers, who finished with 119 losses, and the 1962 Mets, who lost 120, though they’ve been more competitive of late with six wins in their past 10 games.
Still, the outing had to be encouraging for the Reds and Greene, who had a 7.62 E.R.A. and allowed 11 home runs in 26 innings entering Sunday’s game. But it will surely come with some criticism as the total of 118 pitches is the most a pitcher has been allowed to throw this season, which stands in sharp contrast to how other teams have handled pitchers. The Dodgers, notably, pulled Clayton Kershaw after seven perfect innings because the veteran left-hander had thrown 80 pitches on a cold afternoon in Minnesota and they have designs on a deep postseason run.
Bell said there was a chance he would have allowed Greene to go back out for the ninth if he had not gotten into trouble.
“Looking at it now, I think it would have to have gone really easy for him to go back out there for the ninth,” Bell said. “But I think there was a chance he could have done it.”
The Reds selected Greene with the second overall pick in the 2017 draft, one spot behind Royce Lewis, the shortstop who made his debut for the Twins this month. With a fastball that can touch triple digits and strong hitting skills at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., Greene graced the cover of an issue of Sports Illustrated, billed as “the star baseball needs.” He had some evaluators thinking he could be a two-way player as a professional.
Greene hit some in the low levels of the minors but eventually gave it up, eschewing the paths taken by Shohei Ohtani and Michael Lorenzen. After having Tommy John surgery in 2019 and the cancellation of the minor league season in 2020 because of the pandemic, Greene had a 3.30 E.R.A. across Class AA and AAA last year. And he ranks as one of the top 25 prospects, according to MLB.com.
After a record-setting year of no-hitters in 2021, there have been two official ones this season, a combined effort by the Mets’ staff and a two-strikeout outing by the Angels rookie left-hander Reid Detmers in a blowout of the Tampa Bay Rays.