The Philadelphia Phillies acquired Michael Lorenzen at the trading deadline in hopes of bolstering their starting rotation as they made a playoff push.
In just his second start with the team, he more than delivered, tossing a no-hitter in a 7-0 win over the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
Lorenzen’s outing was the fourth no-hitter of the season and came just eight days after the previous one, in which Framber Valdez of the Houston Astros allowed only one baserunner and faced the minimum number of hitters against the Cleveland Guardians. And it was a month after Justin Verlander had lamented that more and more no-hitters were combined efforts by multiple pitchers as a result of pitch limits.
Both no-hitters since Verlander’s comments have been solo efforts, but Lorenzen had a more treacherous path to history than Valdez. He entered the ninth inning with 111 pitches, already a season high, and had already walked four batters.
He completed the no-hitter by getting Nationals first baseman Dominic Smith to fly out to center fielder Johan Rojas. Lorenzen ended up with 124 pitches, passing the Los Angeles Angels right-hander Griffin Canning for the most thrown by any pitcher in a game this season.
Starters these days typically throw around 100 pitches per game, and worries about overtaxing pitchers with high pitch counts have led to some managers pulling the plug on no-hit bids. Last season, for example, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts removed the star left-hander Clayton Kershaw from a cold April game in Minnesota after seven perfect innings, even though he had thrown only 80 pitches.
But with the Phillies leading by seven runs against the Nationals, the last-place team in the National League East, Manager Rob Thomson could afford to leave Lorenzen in the game to finish the 14th no-hitter in franchise history.
After the game, Thomson told reporters that Smith may have been Lorenzen’s last batter regardless of the outcome.
“I may have had to wear a bulletproof vest,” Thomson said of the potential consequences he would have faced if he had taken out Lorenzen.
Lorenzen’s teammates mobbed him after the final out and his mother and other family members celebrated in the stands. In a postgame television interview, he became choked up when asked how his father, who died in 2016, would have reacted.
“He’d just be saying, ‘Atta boy. Way to finish it,’” he said.
Lorenzen, a right-hander, joined Philadelphia earlier this month through a trade from Detroit, where he had been in his first season there. He was the Tigers’ requisite representative at last month’s All-Star Game in Seattle, where he pitched two-thirds of an inning in relief in his first career All-Star appearance.
He joined a Philadelphia team that had started slowly this season after making the 2022 World Series. The slugging first baseman Rhys Hoskins tore a knee ligament in spring training, and the star outfielder Bryce Harper did not make his season debut until May after recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Phillies entered July with a winning record but in third place in the N.L. East. They have since climbed to second to gain one of the league’s wild-card positions.
In choosing to trade for Lorenzen, Philadelphia added to a strength. Its pitching staff ranks in the top five in the N.L. in opponents’ average, walks and hits per innings pitched and E.R.A. despite playing its home games at the generally hitter friendly Citizens Bank Park and the team having a league-average defense.
Lorenzen made his major league debut with Cincinnati in 2015, starting 21 games before becoming a full-time reliever over the next six seasons with the club. An outfielder in college at Cal State, Fullerton, Lorenzen even occasionally pinch hit and played the outfield with Cincinnati. He has a career .233 average with seven home runs and made six starts in center field in 2019.
His moonlighting as an outfielder faded in 2020 and 2021, with the introduction of the designated hitter in the N.L. and Lorenzen injured for portions of 2021. Seeking to be a full-time starter, he joined the Angels in 2022 and left two-way exploits to someone else (Shohei Ohtani). On Wednesday, at least, it looked like a great choice.