During my first year on the Giants beat in 2012, I took a Thursday night in June off to go to a concert with some friends. I then sat at a bar in horror a few minutes before it started, watching Madison Bumgarner march a no-hit attempt toward the late innings.
I didn't end up missing out on a chance to cover history that night. Bumgarner gave up a leadoff single in the sixth and ended up with a one-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds. But from June 26, 2012 on, I vowed to cover as many Bumgarner starts as possible. He always seemed capable of doing something special, and over the next few years he would take a couple of perfect game attempts into the eighth and lose what would have been a 14-strikeout no-hitter with five outs to go.
Bumgarner never got that no-hitter with the Giants, but on Sunday, in the fifth start of his second year as an Arizona Diamondback, he watched a liner get caught for the final out of a 7-0 win, then turned and welcomed a swarm of teammates. The scoreboard said Atlanta had zero hits, but Bumgarner did not get his first no-hitter, because ... well, because of MLB, if we're being honest.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has taken a chainsaw to the rulebook in recent years, bringing in the universal DH last year (much to Bumgarner's dismay), putting a runner on second in extra innings and shortening doubleheader games to seven innings. That last change cost Bumgarner on Sunday, as MLB and the Elias Sports Bureau -- the majors' official statistician -- had previously said that no teams or individuals could get no-hitters in seven-inning games.
Bumgarner knows better than anyone that the final outs can be the hardest to get on these days, but he also knows that you can only control what you can control.
"I didn't give up any hits today," he said after the game. "I'm not in control of how many innings we're playing."
On a day when Atlanta had just one hit over two games, there's a good chance Bumgarner -- who threw 98 pitches -- could have gone down in the record books, but he won't because of inconsistency from the league office.
When the Giants lost in extra innings on Opening Day, Evan White -- the Seattle Mariner who was placed on second in the bottom of the 10th -- got credit for scoring a run despite the fact that he never did anything to actually reach base. The rule change put him there. Jake Fraley, who walked to push the placed runner home, got an RBI.
On Sunday, Bumgarner got credited with a complete game and a shutout, so just about every part of this game counted as it normally would, other than the no-hitter moniker. And then there's this bit of weirdness.
The worst part about all of this is that it's possible it simply caught league execs by surprise.
According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, one of the more plugged-in people in the industry, MLB and Elias are discussing whether these games can count as no-hitters, so perhaps it's possible that at some point Bumgarner's will. It sounds like a crazy notion because this is something that could be decided over one long Zoom meeting, but it would be very MLB to delay a decision like this until after games have actually started to be played.
The uncertainty kept the Diamondbacks from fully enjoying this as much as they should have, but hopefully Bumgarner was able to soak it all in. He has been waiting a long time for a day like this and has had some incredibly close calls. Here's hoping he got a chance to bust out the old beer chug celebration.