It didn’t take too long for the Baltimore Orioles, who came into this season with one of the most clown-ass rosters ever assembled in the history of clown-ass rosters, to do away with whatever good will might have been earned by taking two of three from the Yankees to open the season. They did so by yanking a shot at a no-hitter right out of second-year pitcher David Hess’s hands.
Hess no-hit the Toronto Blue Jays for 6.1 innings last night, and after retiring the first batter of the seventh inning, he was pulled from the game by O’s manager Brandon Hyde. Hess had thrown just 82 pitches in the game, and he couldn’t hide the shock on his face as Hyde came striding towards him.
As Hyde explained after the game, Hess was pulled with such a low pitch count because he had thrown 42 pitches in relief on Opening Day. Hyde said that he “hated to do it,” but argued that he made the move to protect his pitcher’s health.
To his credit, Hess seemed to be in decent spirits while answering questions from reporters after the game. “I think the biggest thing is that [Hyde] cares about us a lot,” he said.
A manager making decisions with the health of his players in mind is broadly better than the alternative, but there does come a point where modern baseball’s zealous adherence to the Laws of The Pitch Count undercuts what actually makes the game fun. Hess is a 25-year-old fifth-round pick with just over 100 major-league innings and a career 4.51 ERA to his name. We’re not talking about Max Scherzer—a guy who will probably take multiple no-hitters into the seventh inning this season—but a pitcher who was in the middle of what may well have been the best outing of his life. How great a moment would it have been for the Orioles, already marked for doom this season, to have gotten an early season burst of light from a little-known pitcher in the form of a shocking no-hitter? Hyde dimming that moment before it even had a chance to fully shine was unfair not only to the fans but to Hess, who may never again find himself so close to such a feat.
And let’s not forget that Hess’s pitch count being such a cause for concern was entirely the result of the O’s steadfast refusal to field a real, major-league quality baseball team. This is a team in desperate need of pitching reinforcements, but instead of spending money on a player like Dallas Keuchel, they decided to start the season with just four starters, leaving Hyde a jumble of pitchers with nebulous roles with which to patch together outings. This is how you end up with a guy like Hess—not a reliever but not really a starter, either—losing a shot at a no-hitter because he had to pitch two innings in relief three days earlier.
You have to hand it to the 2019 Orioles: no organization is more committed to making sure that nothing fun or exciting actually happens to any of their players or fans.