While no-hitters are rare and special, they do happen virtually every year in Major League Baseball. Occasionally, we see a pitcher make history even when they don’t bring their A game. On this day 20 years ago came one of the stranger no-hitters ever seen.
Against the San Diego Padres on May 12, 2001, Florida Marlins starter A.J. Burnett became just the franchise’s third pitcher to toss a no-hitter. He did so while walking nine batters in a 3-0 victory for the Marlins.
In what was just Burnett’s second start of the season, he threw 129 pitches and struck out seven batters. Throughout the night however, the Padres never managed a hit.
In the bottom of the second inning, Burnett began the frame with walks to Ben Davis and Bubba Trammell. But after a sacrifice fly pushed Davis to third, Burnett got Donaldo Mendez to hit into an inning-ending double play.
In the third, a pair of walks and a wild pitch put San Diego runners on second and third with one out. Burnett was able to strike out Ryan Klesko before getting Dave Magadan to fly out to end the threat.
Offensively, it was in the top of the third that the Marlins got the scoring started as catcher Charles Johnson plated a pair of runs with a double. The Marlins pushed the lead to 3-0 in the fifth after San Diego misplayed a Johnson ground ball.
But Johnson’s best work that night came from behind the plate. In the fourth inning, the Padres again put a pair of runners on as Burnett walked Trammell before hitting Damian Jackson. He settled in to strike out both Mendez and San Diego starting pitcher Wascar Serrano.
The sixth, seventh and ninth innings were the only frames where San Diego didn’t have a baserunner. Although Burnett was wild, he made the pitches when he had to.
Down 3-0, the Padres would bring the tying run to the plate in the eighth inning after walks to Klesko and Magadan. Burnett was again able to work out of trouble as Davis and Trammell each popped out in foul territory.
Needing three outs for a no-hitter, the ninth inning may have been Burnett’s best of the night. Burnett threw nine pitches, including eight for strikes. After original Marlin, Alex Arias, flied out, Burnett struck out Santiago Perez on four pitches. To the plate came Phil Nevin.
With the count even 1-1, Nevin got a fastball, but popped it up. Shortstop Álex González was able to squeeze it as Burnett completed the third no-hitter in Marlins history.
Burnett tossed the no-no despite throwing only about half—65 of his 129 pitches—for strikes. The nine walks were the most allowed in a nine-inning, complete-game no-hitter since 1900 and the most in any no-hitter since 1965.
It also served as Burnett’s first complete game in the majors. It came on this day two decades ago.