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The Cleveland Indians have mastered the art of the near-no-hitter

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Monday night, Danny Salazar pitched another gem, which has become the new normal in Cleveland. In fact, this year’s pitching staff as a whole is closing in on one of the best years in Tribe history.

Half of the new Big Four, Danny Salazar and carlos Carrasco
Half of the new Big Four, Danny Salazar and carlos Carrasco
Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Trevor Bauer and the umpires had a rough go of things early in Tuesday's game, with Boston collecting 6 hits before the 2nd inning ended. That's more than the Indians have given up in nearly a quarter of their games this season. Tribe pitching has been excellent about not allowing hits. Not just the awesome threesome of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, but the rest of the guys too.

The Indians are still waiting for their first no-hitter since Len Barker's perfect game in 1981, but this year they have pitched (as a team), 5 one-hitters. That puts them in rarefied air. In 1917, 1947, 1955 and 1968 the Tribe had 3 one-hitters. But they'd never had 4 in a season, let alone 5, until now.

This year, the Indians have also pitched 5 two-hitters. That is not quite the highest in club history. In 1952 and 1954, with probably the best group of starters in franchise history (known as the Big Four: Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia, Early Wynn, Bob Feller) they pitched 6 two-hitters. The 5 this year are tied for second place with 1943 and 1970. Combining all games with two hits or fewer, the 1954 team had 8 such games. This year's team has already has 10 of them, the most in team history. Like I said before, rarefied air.

This year, the Indians also have 4 three-hitters, giving them a total of 14 games with 3 hits or fewer. That is tied with the 1940 and 1948 squads for second place behind the 1968 (The Year of the Pitcher) team, which had 22 of them.

Expanding it to 5 hits or fewer, the Indians have 29 such games (with 44 games still to be played). The record here is an untouchable 65 five- (or fewer) hitters in 1968. You see numbers like that and understand why the mound was lowered the following year.

Moving from team history to present day, how do the Indians' low-hit numbers stack up against the rest of MLB this year?

  • The Tribe's 5 one-hitters lead all teams; The A's and Mariners are tied for second with 3 apiece.
  • The Tribe's 10 games with two hits or fewer lead MLB; the Angels and A's  are tied for second with 6 apiece.
  • For games with three hits or fewer, The Tribe leads MLB with 14; the Rays are in second with 11, the A's and Blue Jays are in third with 9.
  • For five hits or fewer, the Tribe's 29 lead all teams; the Angels and Cubs tied for second with 28, the A's and Reds are tied for fourth with 27.

The Tribe's success has not been dominated by one starter, the way they were in the days of Bert Blyleven, Rick Sutcliffe, or Gaylord Perry, This year the distribution has been widespread. Here are the starting pitchers for each of the team's games in which they allowed five hits or fewer:

Starter*

1-hitter

2-hitter

3-hitter

4-hitter

5-hitter

Total

Corey Kluber

2

-

2

-

2

6

Carlos Carrasco

1

2

-

1

3

7

Danny Salazar

1

2

-

1

3

7

Trevor Bauer

1

-

1

3

1

6

Cody Anderson

-

-

1

1

-

2

Shaun Marcum

-

1

-

-

-

1

*Remember, this does not mean the pitcher threw a complete game.

This year's staff is a special bunch. Hopefully we continue to see this sort of thing from them for years to come.