Johnny Vander Meer’s record is safe.
Sean Manaea did not pitch a no-hitter Friday night, but the lefty — who threw one in his previous start — shut down the Astros for three innings, long enough to get people talking about it.
The A’s lefthander (4-2) held Boston hitless on April 21 and didn’t allow a hit by the Astros on Friday until Carlos Correa’s RBI single in the fourth.
“There’s the potential — I don’t want to say letdown — but after you go through something like that and you take the mound again, certainly a lot went on between then and the next start, but he was focused right away,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Manaea.
“He was hitting his spots,” Correa said. “His changeup was working. He was throwing it from behind in the count to get back in the count. His fastball was good. It was a great performance by him.”
In 1938, Cincinnati Reds lefthander Vander Meer became the first and only pitcher to throw no-hitters in consecutive starts, basically coming out of nowhere with an 8-7 career record before holding the Boston Bees hitless on June 11. Four days later, he did it again at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field against the Dodgers.
“Guy walks in and throws two no-hitters,” said Chuck Stevens, who at 99 is the oldest living former major-leaguer. “I thought it was astounding. Everybody else did, too.”
MLB historian John Thorn views Vander Meer’s feat in the context of today’s game in which, he said, “Two consecutive complete games are pretty rare.’’
Vander Meer, who grew up in Midland Park, New Jersey, was 119-121 in a 13-year big-league career that centered on two starts he made as a 23-year-old lefthander in his first full season with the Reds.
On June 11 against the Bees (also known as the Braves), with Boston manager Casey Stengel reportedly taunting him from the seventh inning on, Vander Meer struck out four and walked three in the first no-hitter by a lefty since 1931.
Four days later, he was on the mound against the Dodgers in the first night game played in New York. Vander Meer walked two hitters in the seventh and went to the mound in the ninth with a 6-0 lead. With one out, he walked the bases loaded. Ernie Koy dribbled a ball to third and Lew Riggs threw home, forcing the runner for the second out.
After hitting a loud foul to right, Leo Durocher flied out to center, and Vander Meer started his 80-years-and- counting run in the record book.
In the start after his second no-hitter, Vander Meer held the Bees hitless for 3 1⁄3 innings, increasing his total to 21 2⁄3 innings, before Debs Garms singled in the fourth. Vander Meer started the All-Star Game for the National League that year and finished at 15-10 with a 3.12 ERA.
The final-out balls from his no-hitters sold for $43,020 in 2015 to an anonymous collector in Missouri, according to a spokesman for Heritage Auctions in Dallas.
As for Manaea, his name will live on in A’s history for pitching 14 consecutive hitless innings dating to his April 15 start at Seattle (technically, he went 15 innings without a hit, but the record book does not recognize partial innings on either side of the 14 full innings). That streak was the longest for the A’s since the franchise moved to Oakland, topping John Odom’s 13 innings on June 1 and 7 in 1968.
“There have been some pretty good pitchers in Oakland history, so that’s really something to hang his hat on,” Melvin said. “I mean, we’ve had some big-time pitchers here.’’