Almost perfect: no-hitters where the only baserunners came on errors

On Friday night Jonathan Sanchez of the San Francisco Giants pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres, striking out eleven while not walking a batter.  The only baserunner for the Padres came on an eighth-inning error by third baseman Juan Uribe (who had entered the game as a defensive replacement — oof).

This got me wondering about how many other no-hitters there have been where the pitcher did not issue a walk or hit a batter, but didn’t get a perfect game because of an error.  After doing some checking, I think I have a complete list of such occurrences since 1901.

[There are a few games in the 1880s that are also possibilities, but I can’t find information that would confirm their status as perfectos-but-for-error(s).  One reason for this is that hit by pitches are often not listed, as opposed to walks, in simplified box scores and writeups.  It may well be that Pud Galvin would have thrown two perfect games but for errors, but I don’t really have a way to check (unless I have failed spectacularly as a google-meister).  Other 19th-century pitchers who may qualify in this category include “Old Hoss” Radbourn, Charlie Buffinton, and John Clarkson.]

Anyway, here is the list since the founding of the American League.  Again, it’s always possible I missed one, particularly in the first half of the 20th century, but I think I got them all:

  • Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants, 6/13/1905, against the Cubs.  He beat Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown in this game to pick up his second career no-hitter.  Two Cubs reached base via errors.  Mathewson won 31 games in 1905, and of course famously threw three shutouts in the World Series that year as well (the last one on one day’s rest).  In their next matchup, Brown began a streak of nine straight wins over Mathewson.
  • Nap Rucker of the Brooklyn Superbas (later Dodgers), 9/5/1908, against Boston (known as the Doves at that time).  Three baserunners reached on errors.  Rucker, who struck out 14 batters in this game, was a fine lefty with the misfortune of pitching for some bad Brooklyn teams.  He finished with a career record of 134-134.  Rucker was later in life the mayor of Roswell, Georgia.
  • Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators, 7/1/1920, against the Red Sox in Boston.  The only baserunner for the Red Sox reached on an error by second baseman Bucky Harris in the seventh inning (who had driven in the game’s only run in the top of the frame).  This was Johnson’s first career no-hitter.  Unfortunately, it was also his last victory in 1920, as he developed a sore arm following the game and only made two more appearances on the mound the rest of the season.
  • Bill McCahan of the Philadelphia Athletics, 9/3/1947, against Washington.  The only baserunner for the Senators came with one out in the second inning, when first baseman Ferris Fain botched a toss to McCahan on a pitcher-covering-first play.  McCahan had starred in baseball and basketball at Duke, and in addition to pitching for the Athletics played in the National Basketball League (a forerunner of the NBA) for the Syracuse Nationals.
  • Dick Bosman of the Cleveland Indians, 7/19/1974, against Oakland.  The only baserunner of the game for the A’s came on Bosman’s own throwing error in the fourth inning.  The following year, he was actually traded to Oakland.  Bosman, who won the AL ERA title in 1965, is also known for starting the first game for the Texas Rangers (and the last one for Washington before that version of the Senators moved to Texas).  He was also a pitching coach in the majors for a number of years.
  • Jerry Reuss of the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6/27/1980, against San Francisco.  Reuss beat the Giants 8-0 at Candlestick, striking out only two batters but allowing only one baserunner, which happened when shortstop Bill Russell committed a throwing error in the first inning.  1980 was a great year for Reuss, who won 18 games, finished second in the Cy Young voting to Steve Carlton, and was selected by The Sporting News as its Comeback Player of the Year.  He was also the winning pitcher in that year’s All-Star Game.
  • Terry Mulholland of the Philadelphia Phillies, 8/15/1990, against San Francisco.  This was the 8th no-hitter pitched in 1990.  The only baserunner allowed by Mulholland came on a seventh-inning error by third baseman Charlie Hayes.  However, Hayes caught a line drive by Gary Carter to end the game, preserving the no-hitter.  In June of 1989, Mulholland and Hayes had been traded to Philly — by the Giants (in the Steve Bedrosian deal).
  • Jonathan Sanchez of the San Francisco Giants, 7/10/2009, against San Diego.

[Edit, 10/3/15: Since I wrote this post, this particular feat has happened twice more. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers threw a no-hitter on June 18, 2014 against the Rockies; the only Colorado baserunner reached on an error in the 7th inning. Kershaw had 15 strikeouts in the contest.

On October 3, 2015, Max Scherzer of the Nationals no-hit the Mets with a 17-strikeout performance in which the only New York baserunner came on a throwing error in the sixth inning.]