CLEVELAND — In a sometimes sticky season, Corbin Burnes got a grip on history.
The Milwaukee Brewers ace combined with reliever Josh Hader to pitch MLB's record ninth no-hitter this season — breaking a mark set when pitchers began throwing overhand in 1884 — in a 3-0 win against the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night.
Months after Major League Baseball clamped down on pitchers' use of illicit foreign substances after a rash of early no-hitters, Burnes cemented 2021 as the Year of the No-No with just the second such gem in franchise history.
"It was a masterpiece," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said.
Burnes (10-4) struck out 14 batters with a career-high 115 pitches in eight innings, taking a perfect game into the seventh while overpowering the Indians, who were held hitless for a record third time in 2021. All of those came with starter Zach Plesac on the mound for Cleveland.
This time, the Indians were stymied by Burnes — who has become a Cy Young contender as the Brewers run away with the National League Central Division title — and Hader, one of the game's top closers.
"Anyone would want to keep pitching in that situation, but if there was anyone I would want out there for the ninth, it would be Josh Hader," Burnes said. "There were no nerves with him. It was more like a done deal when he came in."
The right-handed Burnes was in control from the start, striking out 11 of the first 14 hitters he faced and retiring the first 18 in order. After walking Myles Straw to start the seventh, the 26-year-old got through the eighth thanks to a diving catch by center fielder Lorenzo Cain on Owen Miller's liner.
"I was definitely on my horse, ready to go get that one," Cain said. "You need a little bit of everything to go right in a no-hitter."
The Progressive Field crowd booed as Hader came on in the ninth. He overpowered Oscar Mercado, striking him out to start the inning. Then, first baseman Jace Peterson went into foul territory to make a lunging catch for the second out.
Hader completed the no-hitter by getting Straw to flail at a pitch in the dirt for his 31st save of the year. The Brewers stormed the field to share hugs and high-fives with a signature victory in their runaway season.
"I had to fight pretty hard (with Counsell) for the eighth to come back out, so I knew I had no shot for the ninth," Burnes said.
Juan Nieves pitched the Brewers' previous no-hitter on April 15, 1987, in a road game against the Baltimore Orioles.
Burnes dropped his season ERA to 2.25 and has more than doubled his career high for strikeouts with 210 in 152 innings. He's been competing with the Philadelphia Phillies' Zack Wheeler and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Max Scherzer for the NL Cy Young Award. This performance, no doubt, will have some sway with voters.
"Corbin felt good after the eighth, but knowing you're putting in Josh Hader to finish it played a part in the decision," Counsell said.
The Brewers improved to a franchise-record 33 games over .500 while slimming their magic number to clinch the division to eight.
Arizona Diamondbacks rookie Tyler Gilbert had thrown the majors' most recent no-hitter on Aug. 14, and the Chicago Cubs threw the only previous combined no-hitter this year on June 24. The other no-hitters this season were thrown by the San Diego Padres' Joe Musgrove (April 9), Carlos Rodón of the Chicago White Sox (April 14), Cincinnati's Wade Miley (May 7), Spencer Turnbull of the Detroit Tigers (May 18) and the New York Yankees' Corey Kluber (May 19).
Most of those were thrown before MLB cracked down on the use of banned grip-enhancing substances by pitchers in late June.
"I don't think anyone's going to be upset about putting a no-hitter in the books," Burnes said.
The no-hitters by Miley and Rodón both came against the Indians, who were also hitless in a seven-inning game against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 7 that doesn't count as a no-hitter in the MLB record book. Arizona's Madison Bumgarner held the Atlanta Braves hitless in a seven-inning game, too, during the second game of a doubleheader on April 25.
The Brewers completed this bit of history three days after Minnesota Twins rookie Joe Ryan retired the first 19 Cleveland batters in a 3-0 win at Progressive Field.
Plesac couldn't get his head around being on the wrong side of three no-hitters. Prior to Saturday, Jim Perry was the only starter in baseball history to have his opponent throw a no-hitter three times in a career prior to Saturday, per Elias.
"I don't even know if that makes sense to me," Plesac said. "That's insane. I don't know if it's me or what."
DeMarlo Hale, serving as the Indians' manager for the rest of the season with Terry Francona out due to health reasons, didn't offer any excuses.
"You deal with it, you get up and play tomorrow," he said. "The good thing about no-hitters, it's only one loss. I know it's been three times, but you deal with it, you move on, you understand the level of competition you're playing against and you move on. I don't have an answer for that."
Plesac allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings.
Straw had faced Burnes in the minor leagues but admitted he had little chance against him on this late summer evening.
"He dominated," Straw said. "He's going to get some Cy Young votes this year, I'm sure of it. You just have to tip your cap, come back tomorrow and compete again."
The Brewers scored twice in the first inning on an RBI double by Christian Yelich and a sacrifice fly from Omar Narváez. Milwaukee made it 3-0 in the second when Rowdy Tellez doubled home Daniel Vogelbach.
Tellez experienced right knee pain while running the bases and left the game.
Peterson returned to action after being struck by a foul ball on his left arm Wednesday in the home dugout against Philadelphia. Counsell said Peterson was hit squarely by a line drive off the bat of a Philadelphia player, but the ball narrowly missed hitting his elbow.