MILWAUKEE — If you asked anybody who would be the Cubs’ starting pitcher to throw a no-hitter, 10 times out of 10, the answer would be anyone but Alec Mills.
But on this Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee, it was Mills who did the unlikely, throwing the 16th no-hitter in franchise history in the Cubs’ 12-0 win over the Brewers.
“I don’t really know what to say,” Mills said. “I think it’s kind of hit me now — it’s very overwhelming. A once in a lifetime type of thing. And I’ll always remember it and just look back and be thankful.”
“I feel so good and happy to be part of history with Alec,” said catcher Victor Caratini, who caught the first no-hitter of his career. “I’m really proud to be part of this moment.”
It’s the Cubs’ first no-hitter since Jake Arrieta no-hit the Cincinnati Reds on April 21, 2016 with the last four Cubs no-hitters coming on the road.
It had been a season of mixed results for the 28-year-old right-hander prior to Sunday’s start. After a great first month, he hit a low point in August. But following his six-shutout innings against the Reds in his last start, Mills felt like he got back to being who he was.
“Just having a good plan going forward,” he said. “[Borzello], Tommy and [Mills] really set up a good plan. We kind of attacked that. Me and Victor we’re really meshing well.”
The Cubs’ right-hander let his sinker guide him through the historic afternoon getting 10 off his 27 outs via the groundball and after the Cubs offense put up 10 runs, Mills went into cruise control.
That was the name of the game for Cubs’ right-hander as he only induced five swings-and-misses in the game. Four of those whiffs were on strikeouts.
The 114-pitch outing for Mills only seemed to be in doubt at one point as 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich ripped a sinking line drive at left fielder Kyle Schwarber in the fourth inning. But Schwarber was able to adjust and caught the 104 mph liner without any problems.
“I think a couple of big plays,” Mills said. “Happ made a really good play on a ball in center field. Schwarber made a really good play on that Yelich drive to left [in the fourth inning]. I think those were two big plays for me.
“After the Yelich out, I kind of started realizing what was happening.”
With each passing inning, the moment continued to grow as each player, coach and manager began to realize what was happening.
“I was letting him roll. He was in control the whole day,” manager David Ross said.
“He had everything working,” Brewers infielder Eric Sogard told reporters. “Obviously location was the biggest part. Really, just hitting his spots and not allowing us to get hard contact.”
Mills is as even keel as they come, but his heart was pumping as the ninth inning approached. After a quick pop up to Anthony Rizzo for out one and strikeout of Tyrone Taylor for the second out, only Jace Peterson stood between him and history.
Peterson was ahead in the count, 3-1, but as he had done all day, Mills got him to hit a ground ball to the sure-handed Javy Baez, who let out a scream of excitement before firing a strike to first and sealing Mills’ place in MLB history.
“I just wanted the ball hit to me,” a smiling Baez said. “The last two hitters had just come into the game, so I didn’t have the card [saying] where to play them. Just hoping the ball was hit to me and making sure that ball was in my glove.”
Mills not only recorded the second no-no in Miller Park history, but also the second by a Cub. Carlos Zambrano tossed the park’s first no-hitter on Sept. 14, 2008 against the Houston Astros almost 12 years to the day.
For one day, Mills was the center of the baseball world and even in a wild year that is 2020, this memory will last.
“I’ll remember it forever.”