Yankees: Corey Kluber’s no-hitter vs Rangers proved they still matter

Adam Weinrib
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - MAY 19: Corey Kluber #28 of the New York Yankees celebrates a no-hitter with Luke Voit #59 and Kyle Higashioka #66 against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on May 19, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - MAY 19: Corey Kluber #28 of the New York Yankees celebrates a no-hitter with Luke Voit #59 and Kyle Higashioka #66 against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on May 19, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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At the tail end of MLB’s discourse about the supposed devaluing of the no-hitter, Yankees starter Corey Kluber stepped in Wednesday to remind us exactly why they still matter: the narrative value.

After all, no matter how many spotless starts are thrown across the league, you can never replace the pace, flow, zip and release of an individual no-no.

Especially when the pitcher responsible for the effort threw one inning in 2020. Especially when the pitcher responsible felt his teres major muscle hang loosely off his arm, ending a comeback season from an injury-ravaged 2019 before it began.

Especially when the pitcher responsible has just spent a month and a half finding the groove on one one of the most unhittable arsenals any starter has ever possessed, only to put it all together — officially — on one balmy night deep in the heart of Texas.

101 pitches after it began, Corey Kluber watched a Willie Calhoun grounder trickle to second base, breathing in measured blips through a Gleyber Torres soft toss as the final out was recorded.

Ruthlessly efficient with the mix. Remarkably potent with the slider. For the first time in 22 years, the Yankees have a no-hitter to frame.

Yankees project Corey Kluber has climbed the mountaintop with a no-hitter.

If you consumed the season’s first five no-hitters by the box score alone, then we understand why you may believe they’re growing stale.

But if you sat down to watch the Yankees attempt to take their second game in as many nights, a beer in your hand, a TV tray by your side, and a summer breeze ripping through a small crack in the window, you understand. If you felt yourself slipping during Kluber’s first few starts of the year, plateauing during a particularly tough outing in Dunedin, wondering why the team had believed Eric Cressey and used a pile of their precious few dollars to sign him, you understand.

If you flipped the tabs on your internet browser every half inning, methodically and maniacally taking commercial break laps to reset yourself every time the YES Network theme blared, you understand. You might be insane, and you might be me, but you understand.

Kluber’s 2020 season was halted before it began — and did any of us really experience a resonant season last year, anyway?

His 2019 campaign was derailed by any number of small maladies. The kind of injuries that, two years later, morph narratively from freak accidents to an indictment on the aging curve. Between April 2019 and April 2021, it became common knowledge that Kluber had moved on from his position as one of the game’s greatest, and now resided somewhere between a hopeful bounce-back candidate and a castaway.

Only Kluber knew, between the day he left the mound last August and the day he owned the same mound this May, that he had anything approaching this in him. Perhaps even he didn’t know. A blank slate is never the expressed goal, especially for a team-first Efficiency Mechanism like Kluber. Get a win, and let the rest fall where it may.

No-hitters will always matter, no matter how many are accrued, because of the roller coaster experience of watching a pitcher jolt up from the dugout, handle his business once more, and spend 10 minutes decompressing before doing it all again. They’ll always be important because John Means isn’t a spilled bit of ink on a box score. Because Spencer Turnbull isn’t an MLB 2K character.

And because Corey Kluber, who’s been called a has-been, an expensive bust, and a reclamation project far from his peak, threw 101 pitches worth of no-hit stuff on Wednesday night, bending his Kluberball in previously-unforeseen ways, while learning how to be a new version of himself.

Almost 22 years after David Cone’s perfect game, Yankees fans now have another short-hand vernacular whenever May 19 rolls around. Where were you? Though he would’ve doubted it if you’d relayed it to him in March, Kluber was on the mound, watching the final out rolling towards Torres, and exhaling.

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