Josh Beckett pitched the first no-hitter of his stellar career and the first in the majors this season, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Philadelphia Phillies 6-0 on Sunday.
Beckett struck out six, walked three and didn’t come close to allowing a hit against a lineup that included two former NL MVPs and four former All-Stars.
“I don’t think I had no-hit stuff,” he said. “I just really kept them guessing.”
The 34-year-old right-hander, whose career was almost derailed last year by a nerve condition that left him unable to feel his fingertips, threw 128 pitches and fanned Chase Utley on a called strike three to end the game.
Beckett mixed a sharp fastball with a slow, deceptive curve that kept hitters off-balance. He pitched the Dodgers’ first no-hitter since Hideo Nomo beat Colorado at Coors Field in 1996, and the 21st in franchise history. Sandy Koufax threw four.
Beckett pitched the first no-hitter in the majors since Miami’s Henderson Alvarez did it against Detroit on the final day of the 2013 season.
Beckett also became the first visiting pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Philadelphia since Montreal’s Bill Stoneman stopped the Phillies on April 17, 1969, at Connie Mack Stadium.
All of the defensive plays behind Beckett were routine. Domonic Brown had the hardest out, a liner that left fielder Carl Crawford ran down near the warning track in the fifth.
Beckett sat at the end of the bench, next to a security guard, as the Dodgers batted in the ninth inning, before taking the mound in his bid for history.
“It was awesome. You think about it pretty much from the fourth on. I’m not one of those guys that carried a lot of no-hitters deep into games,” he said.
Beckett retired pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. on a popup to shortstop to start the ninth. Speedy Ben Revere followed with a grounder that first baseman Adrian Gonzalez fielded, and he flipped to Beckett covering the bag for the second out.
Jimmy Rollins was up next, and Beckett walked him on a full-count pitch. That brought up Utley, and when the count when to 3-2, Dodgers catcher Drew Butera went to the mound to talk to Beckett.
Beckett then threw a 94 mph fastball that Utley looked at, and plate umpire Brian Knight called strike three to end it.
Beckett walked off the mound, pumped his fist and was mobbed by teammates. He got a standing ovation from the crowd of 36,141 at Citizens Bank Park on his way to the dugout.
Last July, Beckett had a rib removed in thoracic outlet syndrome surgery to fix a condition that was affecting his right arm. He went 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA in eight games in 2013.
Beckett (3-1) started this season on the disabled list with a thumb injury, raising more doubts about how effective he would be this season.
A three-time All-Star, Beckett was the MVP of the 2003 World Series for the Marlins, capping off their championship run by pitching a five-hit shutout in the clinching Game 6 at Yankee Stadium.
Roy Halladay had the only other no-hitter at cozy Citizens Bank Park, doing it for the Phillies in a 4-0 playoff win over Cincinnati on Oct. 6, 2010.
In 1988, Pascual Perez of the Expos held the host Phillies hitless for five innings at Veterans Stadium before the game was stopped because of rain. A Major League Baseball committee later ruled that no-hitters of less than nine innings didn’t officially count.
Beckett walked Utley in the first and Marlon Byrd in the second before retiring 23 straight batters.
Beckett threw a one-hitter for the Red Sox at Tampa Bay on June 15, 2011. He allowed an infield single to current Phillies utilityman Reid Brignac in the third inning of a 3-0 win.