CLEVELAND -- Few pitching masterpieces reach completion without the aid of a defensive gem or two. En route to the first no-hitter in Progressive Field history on Wednesday, the Angels' Ervin Santana didn't allow many balls to reach the brink of finding an outfield gap or hole on the infield.
The Angels right-hander did, however, benefit from one history-preserving defensive jewel.
Jason Kipnis opened the Indians' half of the sixth with a sharp grounder to the right of second base. Howard Kendrick sprinted to his right, making a diving stop on the outfield grass, then rushed to his feet and threw across his body to retire the Cleveland rookie.
"I was just trying to knock that ball down and keep it in the infield," Kendrick said. "I was able to glove it and get a good throw over to first base."
First baseman Mark Trumbo scooped the ball out of the dirt to preserve the out and Santana's no-hitter. Kendrick was able to get enough mustard on the throw to nab the speedy Kipnis by a step.
"It was one of those plays where I had to dive to get to it, and I just wanted to try to get rid of it as quick as I could," Kendrick said. "I threw a little low throw and Trumbo dug it out of the dirt there. I was just trying to make plays behind Ervin today."
Cognizant of Santana's no-hit bid, the Angels' defense remained on its toes, in anticipation of a ball coming their way.
"He'd throw a pitch, get the ball back and he's right back on the mound," Kendrick said.
For much of the afternoon, Santana made his teammates' jobs easy.
|Bo Belinsky||Orioles||May 5, 1962||2-0|
|Clyde Wright||A's||July 3, 1970||4-0|
|Nolan Ryan||Royals||May 15, 1973||3-0|
|Nolan Ryan||Tigers||July 15, 1973||6-0|
|Nolan Ryan||Twins||Sept. 28, 1974||4-0|
|Nolan Ryan||Orioles||June 1, 1975||1-0|
|Mike Witt||Rangers||Sept. 30, 1984||1-0*|
|M. Langston/Witt||Mariners||Apr. 11, 1990||1-0|
|Ervin Santana||Indians||July 27, 2011||3-1|
"He the type of guy that has electric stuff," Indians outfielder Travis Buck said. "He throws all his pitches for strikes, has good bite on his breaking pitches. Guys like that are scary. Once they feel that all their pitches are good, it's tough to get a couple hits off them."
After Kendrick threw out Kipnis, Austin Kearns shot a comebacker to Santana, who knocked the ball down with his mitt, retrieved it a few feet from the mound and fired a quick throw to first to narrowly retire the Indians' right fielder.
Aside from the two close calls, Santana made it look simple.
"Ervin has the ability to do what he did this afternoon," Angels skipper Mike Scioscia said. "Obviously, he's not going to do this every time. ... But he has that kind of arm, and it showed up on the field. Everything fell into place this afternoon."
When they did make contact, the Indians struggled to put the good part of the bat on the ball. As the game went on, Santana relied on his defense less and less. He recorded five straight outs via punchout, starting with the final out of the seventh. In the ninth, he caught Buck looking at a third strike on the outside corner, then retired Ezequiel Carrera on a slow grounder to Kendrick before getting Michael Brantley to sky a harmless fly ball to center to wrap up the no-no.
Santana worked swiftly and efficiently, throwing 76 of his 105 pitches for strikes, needing just two hours, 22 minutes to keep the Indians hitless.
"It's rare you see guys go out and pitch like this," Kendrick said. "He's got really good stuff, and today was the best stuff I've ever seen him have, playing behind him."
Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.