with the AA Carolina Mudcats combined last night to throw a seven-inning no-hitter. This comes one night after the AA Akron Aeros had three pitchers combine on a seven-inning no-no of their own. And that followed by one night the wildly improbable nine-inning perfect game by AAA Nashville Sounds and former big-league journeyman John Wasdin.
Now, I'm no Jayson Stark, but I'm pretty sure that never before, on any combination of major- and minor-league levels, have there been no-hitters on three consecutive days in professional baseball. I don't even want to guess at the odds against it. There are caveats, of course: 21-out minor-league no-hitters aren't as impressive as the real thing, for one --- kind of like saying Dreamcatcher
was a great movie except for the last half-hour. And the frigid weather lately has probably been an advantage to pitchers -- witness the 26K-duel between Javier Vazquez and Mark Prior in chilly Wrigley yesterday.
But even though these three straight no-hitters have only freak coincidence value, I'm taking them as a symbol of a deeper, unrelated trend: the gradual but definite swing of the pendulum back from the hitters' era of the '90s to a new pitchers' era of the '00s. The young guns that have emerged in the last few years -- Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Matt Clement, Roy Oswalt, Wade Miller, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Roy Halladay, Mark Buehrle, Jarrod Washburn, Randy Wolf, Vincente Padilla, Brett Myers, Brandon Duckworth, Brad Penny, AJ Burnett, Josh Beckett, Javier Vazquez, and Matt Morris, to name some -- and those yet to come, including the likes of Rich Harden and Jason Arnold, presage a new dominance of pitching. I predict that by 2006, we'll be looking back at the 60- and 70- home run seasons of the late '90s and shaking our heads in disbelief. Baseball is a game of cycles, and I think the pitching cycle is in ascendance.