Angels rookie Reid Detmers’ off-speed pitches keyed no-hitter

Angels rookie Reid Detmers off speed pitches keyed no hitter

It was a simple question with an elusive answer: How does a guy throw a no-hitter with only two strikeouts, an underwhelming 92-mph fastball and a less-than-electric four-pitch mix that generated only 10 swinging strikes in 108 pitches, as Angels left-hander Reid Detmers did against Tampa Bay on Tuesday night?

“Yeah, you have to play defense, right?” Angels manager Joe Maddon said after Detmers, a 22-year-old rookie, threw the 12th no-hitter in franchise history in his 11th big league start. “You gotta be in the right spots.”

True, but the Angels defense wasn’t really tested in the 12-0 victory. Brandon Marsh raced in from left field to catch a Harold Ramirez flare in the fourth inning, third baseman Anthony Ramirez leaped to catch Vidal Brujan’s line drive in the sixth, and first baseman Jared Walsh backhanded Kevin Kiermaier’s grounder near the bag to start a double play in the sixth, but on a degree-of-difficulty scale, the plays leaned more toward routine than spectacular.

A better explanation for how Detmers joined Ken Holtzman (1969), Clyde Wright (1970), Jerry Reuss (1980) and Francisco Liriano (2011) as the only pitchers to throw no-hitters with two or fewer strikeouts since divisional play began in 1969 came from the opposing dugout.

“Me personally, I didn’t think it was anything special,” Rays infielder Taylor Walls said. “I just think he did a good job of locating his pitches. He kept us off balance, kept us guessing.

“A lot of times in hitters’ counts, when we were sitting hard, he would throw something soft, and he was able to command it in the zone. When we would take it, he’d get back in the count. So I don’t know … just poor approaches by us and a good job by him.”

Detmers, the 10th overall pick of the 2020 draft out of Louisville, doesn’t overwhelm opponents with his repertoire, which features a four-seam fastball that averaged 92.3 mph and topped out at 93.9 mph Tuesday night, a looping 72.6-mph curve, an 83.6-mph changeup and an 82.6-mph slider.

But he spun a gem on a memorable and magical night in Angel Stadium because he pitched. He changed speeds, moved the ball around the zone and was not afraid to come inside to right-handed hitters with all of his pitches.

He got ahead in counts, throwing first-pitch strikes to 14 of 28 batters. He pitched to contact, and the Rays didn’t make much of it, hitting only four balls with exit velocities of 100 mph or more.

And he made adjustments. Detmers’ best off-speed pitch is his curve, which he threw 27 times, but he also threw his changeup 24 times. The most he had ever thrown his changeup in a game was nine times.

“We had a plan going into the game and made a couple of pivots,” said Chad Wallach, the veteran who caught the first no-hitter of his career in his second start for the Angels.

“His changeup was incredible tonight. That was probably not the pitch we expected it to be. He spins the ball a lot. We saw the first couple innings how good [the changeup] was, and we just ran with it.”

Detmers had a perfect game through five innings and went to three-ball counts to only three batters before walking Walls to start the sixth. Of the five times he had 1-and-1 counts, Detmers threw a strike to get to 1-2 four times.

“When you get in better counts, hitters become less hitters,” Maddon said. “If you’re getting into bad counts constantly, you’re always behind the hitters. It’s no big secret. The tipping point is normally the 1-1 pitch. When you can go from 1-1 to 1-2 you have a pretty good chance of having a decent night with regularity.

“Everybody’s trying to do that. But sometimes you’re trying to miss bats as opposed to trusting your stuff and staying with your particular game plan. I’d like to see him continue on that path of assertiveness, aggressiveness, and challenge hitters more.”

No one, not even Detmers, saw this no-hitter coming. Detmers hadn’t thrown more than six innings in a big league game, and he was occasionally effective but mostly erratic in his first five starts this season, going 1-1 with a 5.32 ERA.

He needed 88 pitches to complete five innings against Cleveland on April 28 and 78 pitches to throw 4 2/3 innings at Boston on May 4.

Considering his track record, did Detmers think this was possible?

“I don’t even know, honestly,” he said. “I just kind of had it set in my head coming into the field that I was gonna change a couple things. I kind of stuck to that, and it worked out.

“I thought my stuff was pretty good.I wouldn’t say it was anything different. I was hitting my spots a little more, using a couple different pitches, but things fell into place at the right time, and I made pitches when I needed to.”

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