The Angels are one no-hitter away from an article titled "The Angels' 10 Best No-Hitters", but since we just went 21 years between the eighth and the ninth -- Ervin Santana's, today -- now's as good as any time to talk about just how good Santana's was, relative to other no-hitters in Los Angeles of Anaheim, California's history.
We'll use Game Score, a Bill James' invention that will give us an idea of just how good these starts were. None of them had hits allowed by nature of their being no-hitters, but if we want to know just how beaten into submission the opposition in terms of walks allowed, strikeouts recorded, and runs given up, Game Score will do the trick.
9: Mark Langston and Mike Witt, April 11, 1990 vs. the Seattle Mariners (Game Score: 75)
This one goes in the record books for the Angels as a no-hitter, but due to its combined nature, neither Langston nor Witt can share in the fully glory of the moment. Langston didn't pitch all that well and lasted just seven innings. He walked four batters and struck out just three, and had a fifth baserunner reach via error. Witt had to come in for the eighth and ninth to close things out.
8: Clyde Wright, July 3, 1970 vs. the Oakland Athletics (Game Score: 85)
Wright also threw a ho-hum no-no in terms of pizzazz -- he struck out one A, and walked three -- but 14 grounders, 11 flyballs, and a pair of liners were gobbled up by his defense, and they even helped him out with a double play to drop his batters faced to 29 in spite of his walks.
7: Bo Belinsky, May 5, 1962 vs. the Baltimore Orioles (Game Score: 92)
This Cinco de Mayo no-no was the first in the organization's history. It came in the Angels' second year of existence, too -- somewhere, a Mets fan is crying. Belinsky struck out nine Orioles, had one reach on an error, walked four, and hit two more, bringing his total batters faced count to 34. That's almost like an 11-inning no-no.
6: Nolan Ryan, June 1, 1975 vs. the Baltimore Orioles (Game Score: 92)
This was Ryan's fourth no-hitter with the Angels, and the last he would pitch in their uniform. This appearance will seem boring in comparison, considering there are three other Ryan entries in the last five. Not surprisingly, it's similar to Belinsky's, given the same Game Score: Ryan punched out nine Orioles and walked four, facing five over the minimum.
5. Nolan Ryan, September 28, 1974 vs. the Minnesota Twins (Game Score: 94)
Ryan's third no-hitter with the Angels came in his 41st and final start of the season. The Game Score is amazing when you consider he walked eight batters and faced 35, but he struck out 15, helping himself more than anyone else on this list not named Nolan Ryan. Roger Clemens struck out 20 batters in 1986 to set what has since stood (but has been matched multiple times, including by Clemens himself) as the single-game strikeout record, but just know that in 1974, Ryan struck out 19 hitters in a game three times -- his no-hitter wasn't even his best start of the year, as that honor goes to a 19-strikeout, five-walk performance against the Tigers in August.
4. Ervin Santana, July 27, 2011 vs. the Cleveland Indians (Game Score: 94)
Santana's 10-strikeout, one-walk performance splits the Ryan no-nos apart, coming in as the fourth-best no-hitter for the Angels. It's also the top start of the season by Game Score, tied with Justin Verlander's June 14 showing against -- you guessed it -- the Cleveland Indians. Santana's is the most highly-ranked no-hitter of the year, though -- the next closest is Verlander's, which scored a 90.
3. Nolan Ryan, May 15, 1973 vs. the Kansas City Royals (Game Score: 96)
This was Ryan's first no-hitter with the Angels, and his first of the 1973 season. That's right -- this isn't even his best no-hitter of the year. He had better control in this outing than in his previous two on the list, walking just three batters and hitting double-digits in whiffs, facing three hitters over the minimum. It wasn't quite the tightrope act of some of his other appearances, but that's why Game Score remembers it so fondly.
2. Mike Witt, September 30, 1984 vs. the Texas Rangers (Game Score: 97)
What, you think Nolan Ryan is the only pitcher who can have multiple no-hitters with the same organization? Witt's 1990 relief job doesn't count, but luckily he had a solo act in the rotation long before he was a reliever for the Angels. In his 34th start of the year, on the last day of the season, Witt struck out 10 Rangers without allowing a walk. This wasn't just a no-hitter, it was a perfect game, the only one in Angels history.
My hope is that Witt reminds Ryan how much more impressive not walking any of the 27 batters he faced is than Ryan's four no-hitters with the Angels at all Angels Alumni parties, and it eventually devolves into Ryan, still inexplicably able to throw 90 mph, chucking pitches three feet wide of targets designated by Witt, until Ryan eventually puts Witt into a headlock to shut him up.
1. Nolan Ryan, July 15, 1973 vs. the Detroit Tigers (Game Score: 100)
How dominating do you have to be to top a perfect game on a list of an organization's best no-hitters? Striking out 17 batters is a good start, even when four walks means Ryan faced four more hitters than Witt did. Those 17 strikeouts were the most Ryan had that season, though that number looks pedestrian compared to some of his later totals.