San Diego Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove didn’t sleep well on Thursday night. When he woke up Friday morning, his body felt tight. As he navigated through his typical pre-start routine later in the afternoon, he was noticeably off. Then the game began and Musgrove drank about a dozen bottles of water, which made him feel as if he would explode by around the fourth inning.
But he couldn’t do anything about it.
He had yet to allow any hits.
“That was the one thing I didn’t want to break, the superstition of it,” Musgrove said. “I didn’t want to have to go use the bathroom in the middle of a start.”
Musgrove somehow held it in — and held off the Texas Rangers in the process. The Padres’ starter, a local product who grew up rooting for the team and wears No. 44 to honor former Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, twirled the first no-hitter in franchise history during a 3-0 victory at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. The Padres entered Friday as the only team in the majors to never record a no-hitter, but Musgrove snapped the streak at 8,206 regular-season games by allowing only one baserunner — on a hit by pitch in the fourth — and striking out 10 batters over nine innings.
“I think a no-hitter is special regardless of where you’re playing,” Musgrove said, “but it almost seems as if this was meant to be.”
Musgrove, 28, retired the first 11 Rangers hitters in order, then plunked Joey Gallo and retired the next 16. He began the bottom of the ninth with 103 pitches, a concerning pitch count given the heightened caution managers are expressing with their pitchers coming off a shortened season. But Musgrove was hell-bent on continuing to pitch.
“I was just so locked in,” he added. “I had no intentions of coming out of that game.”
Nine pitches later, he made history.
David Dahl lined out to second baseman Jake Cronenworth, Leody Taveras hit a tapper back to the mound, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa produced a two-hopper to Ha-Seong Kim, who is temporarily replacing the injured Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop. Padres catcher Victor Caratini, who caught the most recent no-hitter when Alec Mills did it for the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 13, 2020, sprinted to the mound for an emphatic hug before the rest of the team formed a dogpile.
Musgrove grew up in El Cajon, California, roughly 15 miles from San Diego.
“It feels so incredible,” said Musgrove, who had never thrown a no-hitter at any level. “The city of San Diego has shown me so much love, even before I came to the Padres. Just a San Diego kid that made it to the big leagues, so it feels even better to do it in a Padres uniform and selfishly be able to do it for my city and know that the kid from Grossmont High threw the first no-hitter.”
Musgrove threw 77 of his career-high 112 pitches for strikes and relied mostly on breaking balls. He knew he hadn’t given up any hits by the time he finished the sixth inning, but he thought his pitch count was too high for him to have any chance of finishing the game. When he noticed it was only at 67, he realized he had a shot. From that point on, Musgrove ditched his fastball entirely. He relied heavily on his curveball and slider, the latter of which was especially effective, and sprinkled in the occasional cutter to generate quick outs.
Musgrove’s back still felt tight during his pregame warm-up in the bullpen, and he felt as if he was pulling off pitches in the early innings. Two-thirds of the way through the game, his delivery still felt inconsistent, prompting a slight adjustment.
“I was just kind of willing my way through those at-bats,” Musgrove said. “A lot of trust in Vic, and then just will.”
Padres manager Jayce Tingler let Musgrove go the distance because he was so efficient — and knowing what it would mean to have a hometown player end the franchise’s no-hitter drought in its 53rd season.
“I think in a way that makes it, if it can be any sweeter, any more special for him, to do it growing up in San Diego and this being his team, it’s about the perfect story written,” Tingler said.
Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman — who pitched more than 15 years for the franchise — tweeted his congratulations to Musgrove.
Hometown kid getting it done!!! Congrats Joe!! @ItsbuccnJoe59
— Trevor Hoffman (@THoffman51) April 10, 2021
Musgrove was a relatively unheralded acquisition from the Pittsburgh Pirates over the offseason, but that was only because the Padres also added Yu Darvish and Blake Snell to the rotation. Musgrove — acquired in a three-team, seven-player trade on Jan. 19 — brought similar promise to the Padres’ hopes of dethroning the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West. He dealt with ankle and triceps injuries last season, but he posted a 2.16 ERA with 38 strikeouts and five walks in 25 innings over his last five starts.
Two starts into his Padres career, Musgrove has pitched 15 scoreless innings, striking out 18 batters while scattering just three hits and issuing zero walks.
He is the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his first or second start with a team since Clay Buchholz did so in his second start for the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 1, 2007, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Musgrove is the eighth pitcher in the modern era to do it.
Friday marked his first time completing nine innings in the major leagues, which was illustrated by one of his signature superstitions. Musgrove lines up nine pieces of gum on his towel before each start. He chews one of them each half-inning to help keep his mind occupied, then spits it out onto the towel and grabs the other.
“I try not to look at the scoreboard as much as I can, so I kind of mark my innings by the little pile of bubble gum that I spit out,” Musgrove said. “Tonight’s the first night that I got to chew all nine pieces.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.