Ah, the Gatorade bath. A fitting reward indeed for many sporting accomplishments including winning the Superbowl or a Conference Title, winning the World Series or Pennant and of course, as Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox learned, pitching a perfect game.
Humber's perfecto was one of three no hitters so far to be thrown in 2012, which has widely been proclaimed as the "year of the pitcher: take two."
In addition to the three no hitters, this season has also seen its share of one, two and three hitters as well as a handful of my favorite baseball stat, the CGSO (complete game shut out).
Needless to say, if you are a fan of great pitching and like to watch hitters squirm in the batter's box, then 2012 has been your year. With the baseball season already one third of the way in and the All-Star Break fast approaching, it's time to take a look back at each team's best and most dominant pitching performances so far this season.
The Line: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO, 116 pitches
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Joe Saunders has fallen victim to a less than average bullpen this season, hurting his chances in the win column. That said, when Saunders took to the mound against the Miami Marlins, he kept the bull pen out of the equation as he gave up just three hits in a complete game shut out.
Saunders gave up two of his three hits in the third and fifth innings as Gaby Sanchez and Omar Infante singled. Emilio Bonifacio represented the final hit with an infield single in the ninth. Even with the three hits, the balls were not hit hard and Saunders remained in control.
With the exception of the hits and two walks, Saunders kept the Marlins at bay for the duration of the game. Through mixing up his pitches he kept the Marlins relatively quiet and out of scoring position for nine innings of play.
The Line: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO, 122 pitches
Recently being referred to as an underrated ace, Brandon Beachy has come up in key spots to help the Atlanta Braves to victory this season. Such was the case when Beachy, whose ERA is well under 2.00, matched up against the Miami Marlins.
Scattering five hits, Beachy gave up a single in both the first and third innings, and a pair of hits in the fifth. With runners on second and third in the fifth, and Jose Reyes up to bat, Beachy relaxed and pitched brilliantly to the Marlins' star, yielding a line out to right field.
The fifth and final hit Beachy gave up came as a lead off double to Gaby Sanchez in the seventh inning. Again, working his way out of trouble, Beachy retired the next three batters and didn't yield another base runner for the rest of the game.
The Line: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 SO, 111 pitches
Jake Arrieta has not been on the receiving end of many victories this season. In fact with only three starts in which he has yielded less than four runs, Arrieta has stumbled to a 2-7 start. For the Baltimore Orioles, who are competing for first place in the AL East, it was one of Arrieta's two wins, an eight inning performance complete with nine strike outs, that proved to be a huge statement victory and the best Oriole pitching outing of the season.
Unlike many of his other starts this season, Arrieta came out of the gate strong, giving up just two hits in the first four innings. He scattered three more hits in the fifth, sixth and seventh, before having a clean eighth to end his night. Orioles pitcher Jim Johnson came in to finish the game and give Arrieta the win, just his second of the season.
The Line: 9 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO, 119 pitches
Jon Lester has not had a great season for the Boston Red Sox, but when he took the mound against the Seattle Mariners in May, Lester was as advertised. Sitting at 16-19, in a game they desperately needed to win, the Red Sox turned to Lester and he delivered with a complete game victory.
It wasn't until the fourth inning that Lester gave up his first hit of the game, an infield single to Ichiro Suzuki. Proving to be the only thorn in his side for the night, it was also Ichiro that scored what turned out to be the Mariners only run of the game as an RBI ground out brought him home from third.
The Line: 8.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO, 119 pitches
Against the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs ace, Matt Garza, faced up against another ace in Zach Greinke. In this particular game, Garza got the better of that match up. For the Cubs, the win will probably mean nothing as once again playoffs seem to be an afterthought, but for Garza, it was another great start and one of the best of his career.
Garza gave up a hit and a walk with an out in the first, giving the Cubs a chance with a runner in scoring position. However, he retired the next two batters he faced and with the exception of a walk in the second, didn't yield another base runner until the sixth inning.
Showcasing his arsenal of pitches, Garza pitched a strong game including four one-two-three innings and a third inning that saw him strike out the side.
The Line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 SO, 96 pitches
When the season began, if I told you Philip Humber, former New York Mets prospect and first time starter in 2011 with the Chicago White Sox, would throw the 21st perfect game in MLB history, you probably wouldn't have believed me. Well, as it turns out he did, and it was quite the performance as well.
There isn't much you can say about a pitcher's dominance in a perfect game that isn't already listed on the stat sheets. Humber was in total control all game as 17 of the 27 batters he faced he threw first pitch strikes to and 67 of his 96 pitches went for strikes
The biggest scare that the perfecto could slip away happened with Humber's one and only three ball count of the game. It was the start of the ninth inning and Humber threw three straight balls to Seattle Mariners hitter Michael Saunders. Looking like perfection would fade away, Humber finished the at bat strong as he threw three straight strikes, eventually causing Saunders to strike out swinging.
The Line: 9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO, 103 pitches
Against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Homer Bailey took to the mound and recorded the best start from a Cincinnati Reds pitcher this season. In the complete game, Bailey only gave up one run and four hits as he mixed up his pitches and kept the Pirates hitters off balance for most of the game.
24 of 32 batters received first pitch strikes as Bailey had all of his stuff working. After an Andrew McCutchen triple and a walk to Pedro Alvarez in the first, Bailey settled down and took control of the game. He retired the next 11 he faced before giving up three straight singles in the fifth that netted the Pirates only run. After that, Bailey shut down their offense, not allowing a base runner for the rest of the game.
The Line: 9 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 0 SO, 127 pitches
Derek Lowe has led a surging Cleveland Indians team through great pitching all season. With seven wins, he is atop the leader board for AL pitchers and with only three losses, he has really been in control of his game all season long. Such was the case when Lowe took to the mound to face the Minnesota Twins.
After a hit in the second, it was really the third inning that Lowe first found himself in a bit of trouble. Having surrendered a double to Alexi Casilla and a walk to Jamie Carroll, the Twins had runners on first and second with one out. Lowe however, forced the next batter he faced to ground into an inning ending double play.
With the exception of a lead off double to begin the fifth, Lowe was not really in trouble for the rest of the game. Although he did give up four walks, Lowe was mostly in command of his pitches.
For Lowe, his success comes when he gets ground balls and in this game, it was four ground ball double plays and two more fielder's choices that kept the Twins off of the scoreboard.
The Line: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO, 87 pitches
In a start that was never supposed to happen, Jamie Moyer otherwise known as the Ageless Wonder, pitched seven quality innings for the Colorado Rockies. Surprisingly, Moyer's start, in addition to it making history as he became the oldest pitcher to win a game, was also the best start by a Colorado Rockie this season.
The particulars of the game aren't as flashy as some of the other ones put up by pitchers this season, but it was a quality start nonetheless. Moyer, who at the end of last season didn't even have a team, scattered six hits and surrendered two unearned runs as his pitching style worked well enough to give him a much celebrated and historical win.
The Line: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 12 SO, 109 pitches
It is no surprise that the best start for a Detroit Tiger starting pitcher this season came from the arm of the defending Cy Young and MVP winner in the American League. It is also no surprise, that once again, Justin Verlander dominated his opposition, the Pittsburgh Pirates, flirting with his third career no-no in the process.
In control and totally dominant all night, Verlander took a no hitter into the ninth inning. The inning began with Verlander getting Michael McHenry to ground out after a 3-2 count. With the count not in his favor at one ball and two strikes, Josh Harrison broke up the no hitter with a single to center. Two ground outs later, and Verlander finished the best non no hitter or perfect game performance this season.
The Line: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 SO, 109 pitches
On a team that really lacks quality starting pitching, Bud Norris at 5-2, has been one of the best pitchers on the Houston Astros this season. Against divisional foes in the Chicago Cubs, Norris also pitched the best start from an Astro in 2012.
Showing command from the start, Norris threw first pitch strikes to 23 of the 29 batters he faced. Scattering five hits and striking out eight, Norris limited the Cubs to very few scoring opportunities. Four of the five hits he gave up went for singles as Norris was in complete control for most of the game.
The Line: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 8 SO, 103 pitches
Don't feel bad if you've never heard of Kansas City Royals second year pitcher Danny Duffy. I hadn't either until I decided to rank the best starting pitching performances. With his six inning, one hit performance against the Oakland Athletics however, Duffy was just too good to be ignored.
Giving up a walk in the first and second and his only hit, a double to Cliff Pennington, in the third, Duffy pitched strongly for six innings. Coupled with his youth, lack of innings pitched, and the four walks, Duffy was pulled after six. His outing may have been cut short but to give up just one hit and strike out eight showed that Duffy certainly was in charge of this game.
The Line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO, 121 pitches
Currently enjoying a great season, Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels, made it even better when against the Minnesota Twins, he was one walk away from being absolutely perfect.
It was nearly 27 up and 27 down for Angels ace Weaver as he threw his first career no hitter and the first no hitter at Angel Stadium since 1975. He mixed up his pitches all night and kept the Twins offense off balance for the entire game as all of his pitches were working for him.
With two outs in the ninth, Torii Hunter tracked down a ball hit hard to the outfield, locking up the no hitter and serving as one of the top three pitching performances of the season.
The Line: 9 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO, 117 pitches
It has been an up and down season for the NL's reigning Cy Young Winner, Clayton Kershaw. The LA Dodgers' ace has had to battle a little more this year but in one particular start against the St. Louis Cardinals, it wasn't Kershaw that struggled through the game.
Kershaw scattered six hits over nine strong innings as he kept the Cardinals off balance all game long. Only one hitter made it into scoring position, but Kershaw kept him off of the score sheet as he stranded the runner before he made it home.
With a Matt Holliday single in the ninth as the sixth and final hit, Kershaw ended the game in style by forcing a double play to get the two final outs, notching him his fourth win of the season.
The Line: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO, 109 pitches
Carlos Zambrano is enjoying a bit of a renaissance with the Miami Marlins. Not only has his bat once again provided pop and power, but his arm has also been pretty solid, including a game he threw against the Houston Astros, which was the most dominant start by a Miami pitcher this season.
After hitting Jose Altuve with a pitch in the first inning, Zambrano retired the next four batters he faced before allowing a single to Travis Buck. Big Z then immediately got the next batter to ground into a double play.
For the rest of the game, Zambrano shut down the Astros at every turn allowing just four more, (two hits one walk and one hit batter) to reach base. Just like most complete game shut outs seem to end, Zambrano finished the game by striking out the final Astro hitter.
The Line: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 SO, 104 pitches
Sitting at a 6-2 record, Zach Greinke has been a huge help to the Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff this season. With the exception of two bad starts in which he gave up seven and eight runs, Greinke has not given up more than four runs in a start this season. In two of his starts, including his season best eight innings of two hit ball, Greinke has shut down the opposition and posted a zero in the run column.
Greinke was absolutely on fire as he pitched against division rivals, the Cincinnati Reds. He took a no hitter into the 4th before giving up a one out double to Drew Stubbs. Greinke bookended the inning with two of his eleven strike outs. A single by Brandon Philips in the seventh was the only other hit given up by the Brewers ace.
After striking out the side in the eighth, Greinke's night was done as the Brewers brought in their closer. Unfortunately for Greinke, the closer blew the save and what should have been a win, only went down as a gem shrouded in tough luck.
The Line: 9 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO, 110 pitches
Struggling for most of the season, the Minnesota Twins don't really have much to celebrate. One exception to this however is a start by P.J. Walters who gave up just five hits and struck out eight as he pitched a complete game against divisional rival, the Chicago White Sox.
After giving up a double and home run in the first inning, it didn't look like Walters' outing would last that long. Walters however, came back strong, keeping the next 17 batters he faced from getting a hit. His command was slightly off as he gave up walks to start the third and fourth innings and a hit batter to lead off the fifth, but Walters limited the damage, keeping these lead off men on first base.
It wasn't until the ninth inning that Walters began to fatigue a little, giving up two hits and a second run. In the end though it was Walters who finished with the ball as a ground out to him was the final out of the game.
The Line: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 8 SO, 134 pitches
There really isn't much to say about this one. Clearly when you throw a no- hitter, not to mention it being the first no-hitter in your team's 50 year existence, you're likely to have not only the best start for your team but also one of the best for the entire season.
Despite five walks and the highest pitch count he has ever thrown in a game, Johan Santana dominated one of the better offenses in the St. Louis Cardinals all night.
Now unfortunately for Santana, his no-hitter has since been shrouded in a bit of controversy once again regarding MLB and the decision to expand instant replay. It was a double down the line by Carlos Beltran that would have given the Cardinals their first hit of the game. The ball however was ruled foul, and Santana went on to not give up a hit the entire game.
Even though television replays have shown that the umpires likely made the wrong call and that Beltran looked to have a clean double, none of that mattered as Santana threw that final pitch, which fittingly ended with a David Freese strike out.
The Line: 9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 SO, 123 pitches
As the New York Yankees continue to battle in the tougher than ever AL East, Phil Hughes is going to be looked to more than ever to assist this pitching staff. In a pivotal match in which he was pitted up against the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, Hughes got the better of it, pitching the first complete game of his career.
Having been very hot and cold this season, Hughes really tapped into his best when he faced the powerhouse Tigers line-up. A Prince Fielder home run in the fourth proved to be the only offense the Tigers could muster as Hughes shut down Detroit, allowing just four hits in nine innings. With eight strikeouts, he truly dominated the opposition and helped the Yankees to a much needed win.
The Line: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO, 98 pitches
With just one year big league experience, many people have probably not heard of the young Oakland Athletics hurler Tommy Milone. The Chicago White Sox however, who fell victim to a great start by the second year player, probably know his name all too well.
With the exception of an error by the first baseman in the first, Milone didn't allow his first base runner of the game until the start of the fifth inning. Leading off with a single, Alexi Ramirez was quickly erased as Milone forced a double play.
Like many of the other great starts across the league this season, Milone achieved success by keeping runners off of the base paths and out of scoring position, as none of the five he allowed to touch first, ever made it safely to second.
The Line: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO, 88 pitches
When Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are all on your team, you don't expect Joe Blanton to be the one to throw the best and most dominant start of the season. That is exactly what happened however, as Blanton took the mound against divisional rival, the Atlanta Braves.
From the first pitch of the game, Blanton was dealing, mixing up his pitches and keeping the Atlanta hitters off balance. While keeping the hitters at bay, Blanton was also being extremely economical with his pitch count, serving first pitch strikes to 22 of the 29 batters he faced.
After giving up a first inning single to Freddie Freeman, it wasn't until the bottom of the fifth, that the Braves got their second hit. After that, Blanton retired the next 10 batters he faced, before giving up his third and final hit, a single to Michael Bourn.
During the entire game, Blanton was well in command of his pitches as no batter reached second and there were no free passes.
The Line: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO, 103 pitches
James McDonald of the Pittsburgh Pirates is in the midst of a great season including a solid 5-2 record, 71 strike outs and a 2.14 ERA that is good enough for second best in the National League. He has recorded a quality start in most of his outings, including an eight inning, five hit performance against the Cincinnati Reds.
McDonald was in command and control of the game from the beginning. He scattered five hits throughout eight innings and only one extra base hit. The only inning he really had some trouble was the fifth where he allowed back-to-back singles to begin the inning before retiring the next three batters in order.
The Line: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO, 110 pitches
In the midst of a strong season, Cory Luebke faced off against a struggling Philly offense and exposed their weaknesses. On a San Diego Padres team that has not had much to cheer about this season, Luebke put in the performance of the year as through eight strong innings he held the Phillies to just two hits.
Luebke started the game by retiring the first seven batters he faced before he issued a walk to Brian Schneider. The first of two hits came an inning later as Placido Polanco singled to right center field. By the end of the inning, the Phillies had the bases loaded with a chance to score and help give some run support to Roy Halladay. Luebke settled down though and caused Freddy Galvis to fly out to center, ending the inning.
It was a single by Halladay that served as the Phils only other hit of the game, as Luebke shut down their offense and helped the Padres to a much needed win.
The Line: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 SO, 106 pitches
Matt Cain has been an absolute stud this season for the San Francisco Giants. After stumbling from the start by giving up five earned runs in six innings, Cain bounced back with two complete game shut outs, against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. It was against Pittsburgh however, that Cain put in the best start of any pitcher this season not named Justin Verlander, Johan Santana, Jered Weaver or Philip Humber.
Dominant from the start, Cain had the Pirates off balance the entire game. He took a no hitter into the sixth before giving up the first and only Pittsburgh hit of the game, a single to opposing pitcher, James McDonald. Scattered throughout the game was another sign of Cain's dominance as he retired 11 Pirates via the strike out.
The Line: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO, 113 pitches
Jamie Moyer wasn't the only one who turned back the clock this season. Seattle Mariners starter Kevin Millwood stunned Rockies hitters as he pitched a great game, giving up just two hits and striking out another seven as he dominated Colorado.
Millwood began the game by taking a no hitter deep into the sixth inning. With two outs in the inning he gave up back to back singles, the only hits he gave up all game. After he retired the final batter of the inning, Millwood retired the rest of the hitters he faced, keeping the Rockies hitters constantly guessing wrong at the plate.
The Line: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO, 111 pitches
It was an emotional moment for Adam Wainwright who said he felt a huge sense of relief after pitching this four hit shut out. After missing all of 2011 with ligament surgery and after having a really tough start to the current season, Wainwright acknowledged that this was the first time he felt locked in with his pitches. For the World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals, Wainwright's gem was more than just great for him, it was also the best pitched game by a Cardinal pitcher so far in 2012.
It was a double in the third that gave the San Diego Padres their first hit of the night. Wainwright then retired the next nine he faced before giving up another double in the sixth. The Padres two remaining hits were both singles laced in the seventh and ninth innings respectively.
The Line: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO, 119 pitches
David Price has always been a top ace since he joined the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff. From almost winning a Cy Young to getting off to a 7-3 start in 2012, Price has helped put the Rays in a dog fight for first place in the AL East with the Baltimore Orioles. Against the LA Angels, Price pitched yet another gem in the form of his first complete game shut out of the season.
Price kept the Angels hitters off balance as soon as the game began. It wasn't until the fourth inning that he surrendered his first base runner via a walk and not until the fifth that he gave up one of just five hits. With the exception of a stolen base and a defensive indifference in the ninth, Price never allowed a base runner to get into scoring position.
The Line: 8.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 SO, 119 pitches
After the dust settled and the bidding war was over, Japanese Olympian Yu Darvish, became an ace on the Texas Rangers pitching staff. In his rookie season, Darvish has been as advertised and in one start especially against the New York Yankees, he showed an immense amount of skill and star quality.
Against fellow Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, Darvish was engaged in a pitching duel. Kuroda gave up only five hits to Ranger hitters but as opposed to Darvish who kept the Yankees scoreless, Kuroda surrendered the two runs to give Texas the victory.
Darvish showed the great command and mastery of pitches that made him such a highly anticipated and highly expensive commodity during the off season. Recording double digits in strike outs for the first time in his Major League career, Darvish pitched a great game before handing the ball off to Texas closer, Joe Nathan, who recorded the save.
The Line: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 SO, 102 pitches
Brandon Morrow has come up huge for the Toronto Blue Jays this year, including two complete game three hitters. Both of Morrow's starts represent the two most dominant starts by the Jays this season, including one against the high powered LA Angels in which he scattered three hits and no walks over nine innings.
The Angels first two hits came courtesy of Mike Trout who began both the first and fourth innings with a single. After a Vernon Wells double play eliminated both he and Trout from the base paths in the fourth, Morrow continued his dominance and retired the next 13 batters he faced.
Facing only 28 batters the entire game, Morrow was in complete command from start to finish. Adding eight strike outs, it was clear that he had the upper hand over the Angels hitters.
The Line: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO, 97 pitches
Gio Gonzalez, who was traded to Washington in the off season, has been not only one of the best young pitchers in the game, but one of the best arms period. At a 7-2 record, Gonzalez is fourth in wins, first in strike outs and third in ERA in the National League.
In a game against the Cincinnati Reds, Gonzalez pitched his best start of the season. He went seven strong innings and gave up only two hits, while also striking out seven batters. He was well in command of his pitches and managed to allow only a pair of doubles in the second and fifth innings, keeping both of those runners from scoring.