There is a very short list of names that most fans would have guessed would throw a Cubs no-hitter prior to this season…heck, prior to this week even! That list would have started and ended with Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish. Maybe some thought Jon Lester would have some magic left in the tank, or that Jose Quintana could put it all together for a masterful performance. Even Tyler Chatwood would have been listed ahead of the man of the hour, Alec Mills. Yet, it was Mills who toed the rubber on the thirteenth of September, 2020, and it was Mills and his mystifying mid-60’s MPH curveball that induced the goose egg in the hit column against the Milwaukee Brewers.
This same Alec Mills was not expected to be in the rotation once the season began, nor was he even guaranteed a roster spot! After a couple of rough outings, there were no guarantees Mills would still be here, pitching a pivotal game in a pennant race were it not for injuries to Chatwood and Quintana. Then again, this is 2020, which means literally anything can happen.
I am abandoning my typical format as nothing really matters from this game other than the good, which belongs to, quite obviously, Alec Mills. The bad (Anthony Rizzo‘s 0-6 with 4 strikeouts) and the ugly (the Brewers defense and overall effort with their mitts) simply don’t matter. Even 11 of the 12 runs scored by the Cubs offense were merely window dressing on this day.
I am sure other writers will give a much more in-depth breakdown of what worked, and how Mills managed this feat, but I am merely going to bask in the moment, to simply enjoy what this means for this young man and his struggling team.
Alec Mills has never been on anyone’s top “anything” lists. He isn’t the pitcher teams fear to face. He has been DFA’d, ignored, counted out, and overlooked. The Cubs broadcast team of Len Kasper and Jim Deshais told many fascinating stories about Mills as the game progressed. Among the most interesting was the fact that Mills was a walk-on in college. He had no lofty aspirations. In fact, as the story was spun, apparently his decision to try out was an afterthought. Yet today, after only his fifteenth big-league start, he etched his place in the history books by throwing only the fourteenth no-hitter in the Chicago Cubs 145 seasons. Regardless of how this campaign ends, Mills has given Cubs fans something incredible to remember.
His final line score for the game was: 9.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, and 5 SO. I said earlier that 11 of the 12 runs scored didn’t matter, though that is misleading. The Cubs explosion of offense combined with the shockingly lackadaisical effort on the defensive side for the Brewers meant that Mills could settle in from the fourth inning on and simply challenge hitters as he saw fit. The game was his to manage, and manage it he did in masterful fashion!
What This Means For the 2020 Cubs
This game may only count for one win in the win/loss column, but you’re left with the feeling that this may matter on many levels for this ball club as a whole. There is no question the Cubs have been scuffling mightily of late. Two-thirds of their expected rotation is injured, and it is unclear whether or not they can be counted on as key contributors going forward. The offense has been inconsistent at best, nonexistent more often than is comfortable for fans to watch at home. The bullpen, while much better lately, has been leaky overall. Any time one player can transcend from good to greatness it has the potential to buoy a team. Will this be the ignition that this team has been looking for?
But it’s more than just a spark. In last night’s game, the Cubs entered the 9th inning being shutout in back-to-back games by a division rival that has relentlessly run them down in September in recent years. The Brewers have one of the best closers in the game. Yet, somehow, Jason Heyward blasted the Cubs out of their doldrums. That was game two. The series was tied, and while the division may not have been up for grabs in game three, another series loss in September to the Brewers seemed inevitable. But Alec Mills apparently decided that wasn’t going to happen on his watch.
The Cubs won a game. They won a series against a bitter division rival. They experienced magic from one of the unlikeliest of sources, and they return home to a much needed day of rest. There are twelve games left in the season. That means there is plenty of time for the story to end in a variety of ways, good or bad, but maybe we can just save that worry for Tuesday. Thanks to Alec Mills, the Chicago Cubs and their oft-tortured and long-suffering fanbase can rest easy tonight. It was only one game, but it was an historic one at that.
With all that is going on in our world, with all the happiness and joy seeming to vanish at every opportunity, go ahead and smile, Cubs fans.
Alec Mills threw a no-hitter.
Featured Photo: Duane Burleson/Getty Images
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