Unless you are a Chicago Cubs fan, you might not have heard of Alec Mills, a 28-year-old right-handed pitcher from the University of Tennessee-Martin. On Sunday, Mills pitched a stellar no-hitter, the 16th in Cubs history, that led the Cubs to a 12-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. Mills struck out five batters, the fewest since Henderson Alvarez’s no-hitter in 2013, three walks and 114 pitches. In this classic performance, he made his ninth start of the season, picked up his fifth win of the year and dropped his ERA to 3.93.
For this special no-hitter, the first for the Cubs since Jake Arrieta’s second in 2016, Mills was able to get enough run support as the Cubs plated five runs in the fourth, four in the fifth, one in the seventh and two more in the ninth to cushion the lead. Five of the runs scored were unearned due to a throwing error by Eric Sogard. The closest the Brewers ever got in terms of mounting offense was a Jedd Gyorko fly ball to deep center and an Avasail Garcia groundout that was fielded just in the nick of time.
While on the mound, Mills changed his schematics in an attempt to confuse the Milwaukee offense, transferring from a 90 MPH fastball to a 66 MPH curveball, a pitch he used once out of every five times during the game, or around 23 of his 114 pitches.
“I thought the slow curveball was a really good pitch for him,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Mills’ performance. “He threw good strikes with that pitch. He mixed in his fastball enough and had enough movement on it that he kept us off the barrel for the most part.”
After the game, Mills commented, “I’m just proud to be the person that can tell you to never give up, … never stop playing. Never let people tell you what you can and can’t do and just keep persevering.”
Mills’ career as a baseball player has not been a smooth road to the show. Unrecruited out of high school, Alec Mills walked on at the University of Tennessee-Martin, starting as a reliever before becoming the ace of the team. After a few years of college baseball, Mills was drafted in the 22nd round by the Royals in 2012 and traded to the Cubs in 2017. He then spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons switching between the minors and majors before spending his first full season in the majors in 2020.
Pitchers that throw no-hitters sometimes have incredible backstories, and Lucas Giolito is no-different. Giolito, who also threw a no-hitter in 2020, had the league’s worst ERA in 2018 before rebounding excellently in 2019 to become the team’s ace.
Speaking of Giolito, in his no-hitter for the White Sox against the Pirates — just the 19th in franchise history — he struck out 13 batters and walked just one on 101 pitches. His no-hitter is even more significant because it is the first time in baseball history each team in Chicago has thrown a no-hitter in the same season.
What is even crazier about this no-hitter is the fact that it was not only the second one thrown at Miller Park by the Cubs, but the first one involving the Brewers. When Carlos Zambrano pitched his no-hitter on September 14, 2008, almost 12 years to the day of Mills’ no-no, he shut down the Houston Astros offense in a game relocated up north due to the disastrous Hurricane Ike.
Back to the present, the Cubs improved to 28-20 and increased their lead in the NL Central to 3.5 games (they have since increased to 4.0 with the Cardinals’ 10-5 loss to the Reds Sunday). The Cubs, who currently hold the No. 3 seed in the NL, will look to improve their seeding with a crucial two-game series at home against the third place Cleveland Indians on Tuesday and Wednesday. Yu Darvish will go against Carlos Carrasco on Tuesday while Jon Lester will contest with Aaron Civale on Wednesday.
When all is said and done, the members of the Chicago Cubs will be able to remember their emotions when Javier Baez threw the ball to Anthony Rizzo and concluded Mills’ best game of his remarkable journey. As David Ross puts best, “He was in control the whole day, … And when you get to make history, that’s a special, special day. And a special day for us and a special day for Alec Mills. That was fun to be a part of and fun to watch.” The W flew very high on Sunday as Mills joined the no-hitter club with no-hitter number 305.