No-hitter or not, bullpens need to be ready

If a pitcher takes a no-hitter into the sixth or seventh inning, that’s usually around when it starts to feel possible.

It’s also apparently a decent time to pull him.

In the past week, three pitchers were taken out with no-hitters in progress in the sixth inning or later, part of a growing trend in which managers are willing to go to the bullpen even when the starter has a chance to make history. In an era when complete games are rare, this isn’t a surprise, but it’s noteworthy all the same.

Of the three no-hitters thrown this season, two were combined efforts. Only Mike Fiers of Oakland pulled one off by himself, May 7 against Cincinnati.

When Houston’s Aaron Sanchez, Will Harris, Joe Biagini and Chris Devenski blanked Seattle on Aug. 3, it was the 14th combined no-hitter in major league history. Five of them have come in the last eight years.

That number did not increase this past week. Dakota Hudson of St. Louis was lifted after 6 2/3 no-hit innings, and the Cardinals ended up throwing a one-hit shutout against Milwaukee on Monday night. Four days later, Jordan Lyles of the Brewers was pulled after six innings, and Arizona broke up that combined no-hit bid in the seventh.

On Sunday, Reynaldo López of the White Sox left after five no-hit innings, although there were extenuating circumstances: He was dealing with dehydration and flu-like symptoms. Texas broke up the no-hitter in the sixth.

According to the Play Index at Baseball-Reference.com, López was the ninth starting pitcher this season to end his outing with at least five innings and no hits allowed. Only Fiers went the full nine innings. In fact, none of the other eight pitchers lasted more than seven.

Hudson said he didn’t even realize he had a no-hitter until after he’d been taken out. Lyles said he understood being pulled. He’d thrown 99 pitches and knew it wasn’t a good idea to throw another 30 or 40 in pursuit of a no-hitter.

If a starter has a high pitch count through six or seven innings, pulling him isn’t all that controversial nowadays. After all, he’d still have a lot of work to do to complete the no-hitter.

Once a pitcher works into the eighth, however, it’s still rare for him to come out with a no-hitter intact. That’s only happened twice since the start of the 2010 season, both times in 2016. Adam Conley of the Marlins left after 7 2/3 innings and 116 pitches, and Ross Stripling of the Dodgers was taken out after 7 1/3.

Elsewhere around the majors:

IN THE CARDS

It wasn’t long ago that St. Louis was a postseason regular and always seemed dangerous in October, but the Cardinals haven’t made the playoffs since 2015. They’ve been overlooked to some extent this year, but after beating Colorado on Sunday, the Cardinals have won 13 of their last 16 and lead the NL Central by 2½ games.

St. Louis is second in the National League in ERA thanks to Hudson and fellow youngster Jack Flaherty. The Cardinals have also gotten good work from their bullpen.

HIGHLIGHT

Aaron Judge homered in three straight games for the Yankees at Dodger Stadium, but before that, he connected for a 467-foot drive at Oakland on Tuesday night that didn’t take long to clear the wall.

LINE OF THE WEEK

Occasionally, someone does actually throw a complete game. Lucas Giolito of the White Sox has three this season, in fact. He struck out 12 in a three-hit shutout of the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.

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Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

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