Josh Beckett had been putting together a very nice comeback season for the Los Angeles Dodgers in his return from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, but made a profound statement by dealing his first career no-hitter on Sunday in a 6-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the 21st no-hitter in Dodgers’ history, and Beckett needed a whopping 128 pitches to get through it, a career-high. It was also the first no-hitter of the 2014 MLB season and L.A.’s first since Hideo Nomo in 1996.
The Phillies did not even put a scare into Beckett, as just about every single play was of the routine variety. During the middle innings, it looked as if pitch count would derail Beckett’s quest for history, especially with his injury history, but he was able to buckle down in the latter part of the contest. After a Marlon Byrd leadoff walk to begin the second inning, no Phillies reached base until Jimmy Rollins worked a walk in the ninth frame.
Beckett’s transformation as a pitcher has been startling as the 34-year-old has learned how to dominate with guile and veteran savvy instead of blowing hitters away and freezing guys with 97-mph two-seamers on the corner. Beckett had the Phillies guessing all day with an assortment of spotted fastballs and a slow curveball with his other secondary pitches sprinkled in. He is clearly not the same type of pitcher he was when he was stampeding through the 2007 playoffs with the Boston Red Sox, but Beckett is now 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA this year. His strikeout rate is the highest it has been since 2008.
The bigger picture indicates that the Dodgers have a legitimate case for having the league’s best overall starting rotation. Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu have both returned from injuries and shown the same dominance fans have grown accustomed to watching from those two. Zack Greinke is 7-1 with a 2.01 ERA and has not allowed more than two earned runs in his last 25 starts (including the playoffs). Dan Haren has bounced back and also is 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA. Beckett was the one true wild card coming off his rare surgery. No one knew what to expect out of him, and it has almost been an added bonus how great he has been for the Dodgers, particularly with the injuries to Ryu and Kershaw.
The Dodgers are only 27-24 and have yet to put it all together for an extended period this season, but a rounded out rotation combined with the sizzling offensive production from Adrian Gonzalez, Dee Gordon and Yasiel Puig, this team could get white hot at any time However, Sunday belonged to Josh Beckett and signaled the official return of one of this generation’s most dominant forces on the mound. He is overcoming the same obstacle that emphatically ended the career of Chris Carpenter, a surgery which required doctors to remove a rib from Beckett’s right side just so he could feel his fingers again. The fact that he has come back so strong and had such early success following the surgery must have fans clamoring for what is in store the rest of the way.
Commentary by Justin Hussong
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Los Angeles Dodgers