An interesting side-note from C.C. Sabathia’s near-no hitter yesterday was that, even had Tampa Bay’s Kelly Shoppach failed to record his team’s first hit with two outs in the eighth inning, Yankees manager Joe Girardi was ready to pull Sabathia anyway.
The decision was all about pitch count; Shoppach’s single came on Sabathia’s 111th pitch of the night. Despite Sabathia’s established reputation for extraordinary stamina, Girardi wanted to take no chances this early in the season.
Had he pulled his pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter, it wouldn’t have been the first time it’s happened.
When Preston Gomez was managing the Padres in 1970, he yanked starter Clay Kirby, not due to fear of overload, but because a series of first-inning walks and stolen bases by the Mets gave them a 1-0 lead. Despite his eight no-hit innings, he was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the frame.
In ’74, Gomez did it again as manager of the Astros, pulling Don Wilson after eight no-hit innings, while trailing 2-1.
While that technically qualifies as precedent for Girardi, Gomez’s career winning percentage was .395, and his teams finished somewhere other than last place only once in seven years.
That certainly had more to do with talent-free rosters than stirring up bad baseball juju, but it’s still something that Mr. Girardi might want to consider should a similar situation arise in the future.