It takes a lot to swing the Los Angeles Angels’ spotlight away from Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. You might even say it takes something like a changeup — the pitch rookie left-hander Reid Detmers threw so spectacularly in no-hitting the Tampa Bay Rays in Angel Stadium on Tuesday night.
Detmers, a 22-year-old making only his 11th career start, recorded the latest must-see moment in an Angels season that is gathering momentum. He struck out only two batters in a wild, 12-0 victory in which Trout smashed two home runs and Anthony Rendon, a right-handed batter, blasted a homer from the left side.
After cruising through eight quiet innings, Detmers had to wait out his team’s offense in an extended bottom half of the eighth. He showed zero evidence of jitters or jinxes when he finally did get back to the mound, retiring Vidal Bruján on a foul pop to the catcher and veteran outfielder Kevin Kiermaier on a ground ball to second. Then he stamped his name into the record books, recording the 12th no-hitter in Angels history by inducing another ground ball, this one from Yandy Díaz.
It was the second no-hitter in the majors this season after five Mets pitchers combined for one last month. Last year, MLB pitchers recorded nine no-hitters, breaking a single-season record that had been set in 1884.
“I don’t know if it has really sank in yet,” Detmers said after Tuesday’s no-hitter. “It is something I have always dreamed of. I can’t even process it right now.”
The long wait before finishing things off had come after the game took a turn toward the absurd. Trailing by 8-0 in the eighth inning, Tampa Bay moved Brett Phillips, the team’s plucky outfielder and would-be pitcher, from right field to the mound for mop-up duty. The Angels scored four times against him while banging out five hits, which left Detmers marooned on the bench. Trout and Rendon’s homers off Phillips each came off 54-mile-per-hour sliders.
“I thought it was great theater. Baseball is looking for fun moments like that,” Angels Manager Joe Maddon said of Phillips’s adventure on the mound, adding: “It was a cool inning. I was only concerned that it was taking too long and Reid was on the bench thinking about it.”
The Angels’ top pick in the 2020 MLB draft, Detmers entered this season as Baseball America’s top-ranked left-handed pitching prospect. He was 1-1 with a 5.32 ERA in five starts coming into Tuesday’s action and had been working with the Angels’ pitching coach, Matt Wise, and the team’s assistant pitching coach, Dom Chiti, on better placement of his inside fastball to right- handed hitters and working his change off his fastball.
“If he learns to do that on a regular basis, with the other stuff he has, that’s going to be a big part of his success,” Maddon said.
In turn, that could be an enormous part of the Angels’ success. That the spotlight swung to the mound on this night in Anaheim is an encouraging development for the Angels, whose all-bat, no-arms status over much of the past decade has kept them out of the playoffs since 2014.
The Angels, now 21-11 this season, continue to lead the AL West, one game ahead of the Houston Astros. They are 10 games over .500 for the first time since April 14, 2018, when they were 13-3.
General Manager Perry Minasian made it a point to acquire a particular kind of pitcher last winter, adding Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen as free agents. He wanted starting pitchers who are aggressive to set the tone for the in-house youngsters like Detmers and Patrick Sandoval.
Detmers, whom the Angels drafted out of the University of Louisville as the 10th overall pick, entered the game holding left-handed hitters to an .053 batting average. He had been throwing his curveball 24.2 percent of the time and had held opponents to a .125 batting average with the pitch.
Despite his success with his curve, his inability to consistently place his fastball is why his results through Tuesday night had been middling. But he was firing on all cylinders against the Rays. He said he began to feel something special in the air in the sixth inning and indicated he nearly went numb.
“I just blacked out, I don’t know,” he said, adding of the Angels lineup: “Our guys did a great job. They hit the ball all over the place. They just did what they do. They made tons of plays for me.”
It has been a momentous week at Angel Stadium. On Monday, Ohtani smashed a grand slam — the first he had hit as a professional in the United States or Japan. Then came the Detmers. His fastball topped out at 94 mph and his curve dipped as low as 73 mph, with the large differential keeping Tampa Bay off balance all night.
It was the longest outing of Detmers’s career, as he came into the night with career highs of six innings pitched and 97 pitches.
The only heart-stopping moment came in the seventh inning when, with one out, first baseman Jared Walsh failed to handle a Phillips ground ball. It was ruled an error, and history marched on.