By Paul Casella
No-hitters, in and of themselves, are an unconventional occurrence at any level of baseball, and Tuesday's gem from Giants rookie Chris Heston was certainly no exception.
While the Mets couldn't find a way to hit Heston, Heston had no problem hitting the Mets. The right-hander, making just his 13th career start, plunked three Mets batters en route to becoming the first pitcher ever to toss a no-hitter despite three hit batsmen.
That said, it's not as if Heston was struggling with his control throughout the night. After all, he racked up 11 strikeouts and didn't walk a single batter, including striking out the side -- all on called third strikes, no less -- in the ninth inning. It was only his second start this season without issuing at least one walk, with the other strangely enough coming in his only other complete game back on May 12.
That's part of the fun, however, when evaluating no-hitters. Whereas pitching lines from the even rarer perfect games tend to be more similar, with strikeouts being one of the lone significant variables, no-hitters leave the door wide open for some pretty wacky lines.
So while Heston's three hit batters was a first in no-no history, that pales in comparison to some of the more unconventional no-hitters that are forever etched in the Major League record books. Although no-hitters are an unusual feat, the following eight pitchers took that to an entirely new level in holding their opponents hitless.
Note that the following list includes only officially recognized individual no-hitters, meaning that the starting pitcher logged a complete game of at least nine innings and did not allow a hit. In other words, Andy Hawkins' July 1, 1990, outing in which he allowed four runs and five walks despite not giving up a hit over eight innings does not count because the opponent did not need to bat in the home half of the ninth inning.
Without further ado, here's the list:
8. Dock Ellis, Pirates
Date/opponent: June 12, 1970, at Padres
Final line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 8 BB, 6 K
Ellis makes the list not only for his eight walks and one hit batter, but also his claim years later that he pitched this no-hitter under the influence of LSD. According to Ellis, he supposedly struggled to even clearly see the batters when they stepped into the box after mistakenly taking LSD on what he thought to be one of his off days. Whether or not Ellis' story is fully true, completely fabricated or somewhere in between, the pitching line itself makes this a pretty quirky no-hitter.
7. Francisco Liriano, Twins
Date/opponent: May 3, 2011, at White Sox
Final line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 6 BB, 2 K
Liriano entered this 2011 start sporting a 9.13 ERA. As if that wasn't enough to make this an unconventional no-hitter, consider the fact that he racked up three times as many walks as he did strikeouts. Only two other pitchers can make that same claim, and they each had three walks to just one strikeout. Though Liriano clearly wasn't fooling too many hitters, he benefitted from erasing half of those walks with three double-play balls.
6. Ken Johnson, Houston Colt .45's
Date/opponent: April 23, 1964, vs. Reds
Final line: 9 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 9 K
The line itself doesn't look as if it belongs on this list. That is, until you consider that Johnson remains the only pitcher in Major League history to be credited with the loss while pitching a no-hitter. Two others, the aforementioned Hawkins and Boston's Matt Young, suffered a complete-game loss while not allowing a hit, but both did so as the visiting pitcher, meaning they pitched only eight innings of no-hit ball. Making matters worse, Johnson wasn't even done in by either of the two walks, his lone blemishes on the night. Instead, Houston entered the ninth inning in a scoreless tie before allowing Pete Rose to reach on a two-base error, move to third on a groundout and then score what proved to be the game's only run on yet another error.
5. Ken Holtzman, Cubs
Date/opponent: Aug. 19, 1969, vs. Braves
Final line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 0 K
That's a lot of zeroes, the last of which is the reason Holtzman checks in at No. 5 here. Plenty of pitchers carve out remarkable careers without being overpowering, strikeout-style pitchers, but to allow 27 batters to put the ball in play -- he didn't benefit from any double plays or caught stealings -- without a single one going for a hit is a special feat. He recorded 15 fly-ball outs and 12 groundouts, while outdueling future Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, who went on to toss a somewhat unconventional no-hitter of his own four years later. He walked three batters and had two others reach on errors, while striking out just four. Holtzman tossed a second no-no two years later, albeit with the help of six strikeouts this time around.
4. Joe Cowley, White Sox
Date/opponent: Sept. 19, 1986, at Angels
Final line: 9 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 7 BB, 8 K
Cowley not only allowed a run, but he actually managed to somehow serve up an earned run without giving up a single hit. How you ask? Three of Cowley's seven walks came to the first three batters of the sixth inning, loading the bases with nobody out. He then escaped the jam with three consecutive flyouts, the second of which went as a sacrifice fly off the bat of future Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson. In allowing the earned run to score, Cowley became one of only two pitchers to ever allow an earned run in a no-hitter, with the other being Dean Chance back on Aug. 25, 1967. Cowley gets the nod for this list thanks to his two extra walks.
3. Edwin Jackson, Diamondbacks
Date/opponent: June 25, 2010, at Rays
Final line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 8 BB, 6 K
A career journeyman, Jackson defied all odds when he completed his no-hitter against the Rays, the team with which he spent three seasons from 2006-08. He began the game by issuing two walks in the opening frame, two more in the second and three in the third. Having already walked seven batters and sitting at 70 pitches through just three innings, nothing suggested Jackson would be able to complete even six innings, let alone toss a complete-game no-hitter. Yet that's exactly what Jackson did, despite walking eight batters in all, hitting another and throwing 149 total pitches, one of which was a wild pitch and only 79 of which were strikes. Jackson had only three 1-2-3 innings in the effort.
2. A.J. Burnett, Marlins
Date/opponent: May 12, 2001, at Padres
Final line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 9 BB, 7 K
Jackson's no-hitter was reminiscent of this one tossed by Burnett more than nine years earlier. In Burnett's case, the then-24-year old righty walked at least one batter in each of the first four innings before retiring the side in order in both the fifth and sixth innings. His only other 1-2-3 inning came in the ninth, when he breezed through three Padres hitters on just nine pitches, eight of which went for strikes. Every San Diego position player reached base. Along with his nine walks, Burnett also hit a batter, uncorked a wild pitch and allowed the Padres to steal three bases, all while keeping them out of the hit column.
1. Jim Maloney, Reds
Date/opponent: Aug. 19, 1965, at Cubs
Final line: 10 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 10 BB, 12 K
As if this line needed any explanation for being the most unconventional no-hitter of all-time, consider that no other pitching line on this list has even one double-digit number. This one has three. Typically, the only number that you would think even has a chance of reaching double-digits in a no-hitter or perfect game is strikeouts. Maloney, however, double-dipped in both strikeouts and walks in an extra-inning no-hitter -- and that's not all.
This mind-boggling line actually came just a little more than two months after Maloney had tossed what was considered at the time another extra-innings no-hitter (Major League Baseball's Committee for Statistical Accuracy altered its definition of a no-hitter in 1991). On June 14, 1965, he held the Mets hitless through 10 full innings before losing his no-hitter in the 11th inning in an eventual 2-0 loss. He dominated in that game, finishing with 18 strikeouts and only one walk. So imagine his thoughts when, two months later, he had again held the opponent without a hit through nine innings, only to once again find himself locked in a scoreless tie. Fortunately, the Reds came through with a run in the top of the 10th this time around and Maloney pitched around a leadoff walk -- his no-hitter record 10th of the game -- in the bottom of the inning to close out what would be the first of two career no-hitters. He struck out 13 and walked five in another no-no four years later.
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Paul Casella is a Sports on Earth contributor and a reporter for MLB.com.