It’s the dream of every kid who grows up throwing a baseball: pitching a no-hitter. In his first major-league start, Yankees rookie Domingo German had a chance to live that dream. Then he ran out of pitches.
Promoted from the bullpen to replace the injured Jordan Montgomery, German fired six innings of brilliant no-hit pitching against the Indians at the Stadium on Sunday. He was well past the Yankees’ prescribed pitch limit when he returned to the dugout in the middle of the sixth, though, and the gem was handed off to reliever Dellin Betances.
Betances took it into the eighth before Yonder Alonso broke it up with a leadoff single to right.
“It goes back to when I was a kid and playing the game and daydreaming for an opportunity like this and hopefully pitching a no-hitter or a perfect game,” German said through an interpreter after the Yankees’ 7-4 victory. “You think of that stuff when you’re a kid. Actually getting the opportunity today and throwing a no-hitter through six innings? It means a lot to me. It’s something I will always remember.”
And it will make for quite a memory.
German’s fastball crackled in the high 90s. His curveball broke sharply. His changeup had a devastating dive to the opposite side of the plate. He retired the first 11 Cleveland hitters he faced and 18 of 20 overall, walking two and striking out nine.
“When you have all your pitches working, you have a lot of confidence in yourself because you can see that you can do what you want to do out there,” German said. “In a situation like that, you stop paying attention on who is the hitter and concentrate on the pitch. It gives me a better feel and a better result if I can just execute and throw them where I want. It gives me a lot of confidence. It’s a good feeling.”
When Montgomery left last Tuesday’s game in Houston after one inning with an elbow strain, German relieved and crafted four shutout innings on 61 pitches.
Manager Aaron Boone said the Yankees’ “best-case” hope for Sunday was for five innings and about 70 pitches. He was at 64 when he returned for the sixth and at 84 when it ended. It was clear to Boone that his day was done. German knew it, too.
“We were slightly over where we wanted him to go, and to get six innings out of him like that, man, what more could you ask for?” Boone said. “He was terrific. All three pitches — the breaking ball, the changeup and the fastball — were all weapons . . . I know he was really excited for this opportunity, this chance; to absolutely go out and deliver for us, I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
According to Elias, German is the only Yankee to throw at least six hitless innings in his first career start. The statistical service also has him as the first pitcher with at least six hitless innings and at least nine strikeouts since the mound was moved to 60 feet, 6 inches in 1893.
Boone said he began to sense that German was tiring in the fifth and again in the sixth, but he kept him in because of the poise and composure he saw. “It’s a tribute to how good a pitcher he has become and the weapons he has,” he said.
As the game moved on without him, German still had a chance to become a part of history and have his name on a no-hitter. He said he didn’t feel as if he’d lost something when Betances surrendered Cleveland’s first hit. He had done everything he could. And he can go into next weekend’s start against Oakland knowing that he’ll be allowed to throw even more pitches.
“I knew there was a limit,” he said. “I knew they were going to take me out . . . I’m happy the way it went.”
The Yankees didn’t miss a beat with Domingo German joining the rotation. Their starters’ numbers in the last 16 games:
Innings 95 1⁄3