While the Golden State Warriors were letting another game slip away to the Cleveland Cavaliers, history was being made at Citi Field in New York. For the fourth year in a row, a San Francisco Giants pitcher was about to do what only 16 pitchers before him have done in the franchise’s 132-year history:
Complete a no-hitter.
After hitting catcher Anthony Recker with a pitch – something he had already done twice in the fourth inning – a 27-year-old rookie previously unknown by anyone other than his friends and family before the 2015 season went back to the mound. He composed himself, and proceeded to mow down the next three batters in succession.
His name was Chris Heston. He had just thrown the first no-hitter of the 2015 regular season. And he pitched himself into major league lore.
Despite little national recognition, Heston has been somewhat formidable as a first-year starter. He began the 2015 season in impressive fashion, filling in for ailing starters Matt Cain and Jake Peavy with a six-inning debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 8th. Since then, he had been up-and-down, going into Tuesday’s start with a 5-4 record and a 4.29 ERA. It should be noted that, in his previous start, he was rocked for 5 earned runs in only 3.2 innings of work in Pittsburgh.
None of that mattered when he took the mound on that fateful evening. Against an unpredictable Mets offense that saw themselves struggling at times, Heston handled them like a seasoned veteran. The rookie never threw a pitch north of 93 mph, but he never had to: he had Mets batters fooled with his arsenal of off-speed pitches, including a nasty curve ball that New York’s lineup couldn’t cleanly place their bats on.
After all was said and done, the former East Carolina hurler from Palm Bay, Florida finished off the Mets with 11 strikeouts, zero walks and zero errors. Had he not finished with 3 HBPs, he could have had an opportunity at the ever-elusive baseball accomplishment that was the Perfect Game. All this in front of a small crowd of Giants fans who call New York home, and an equally improbable spectator in the stands: Heston’s former childhood coach, Brad Thomsen, who mentored him from little league to high school.
Additionally, Heston carries on an insanely improbable tradition, now going on four years – throwing a regular-season no-hitter for the San Francisco Giants. In 2013 and 2014, Tim Lincecum made some crazy history of his own, by throwing no-hitters in consecutive years, against the same team (San Diego) for the first time ever. 2012 saw the Giants’ first-ever perfect game, thrown by former ace Matt Cain against the Houston Astros. In fact, Heston threw his no-hitter a mere 349 days after Lincecum’s last No-No – missing the record for least amount of time between Giants no-hitters by two days. Big Time Timmy Jim duplicated his pitching feat only 347 days after his 2013 no-hitter.
Overlooked in all this is the ever-growing Hall of Fame resume of one Gerald Dempsey Posey III. The three-time World Series champ and 2012 NL MVP can now say he has caught three no-hitters in his relatively young career – something only 12 other catchers have done in the history of the major leagues.
But the spotlight was firmly on Heston, who currently stands as only the 12th rookie to throw a no-hitter – and the first since Boston’s Clay Buchholz in 2007 – in major league history. After the called third strike that ended the game, Heston was hesitant as to what to do next. That is, until Posey came to the mound to give him one of his patented “Buster Hugs”. It was a fitting end to the greatest performance of Heston’s young career.
Not a bad night for the rook, or for the team that calls him their starter.