That’s where Hernandez comes in.
Hernandez’s run of brilliance began on July 14, while facing the Rangers (who would finish the season as the AL’s top run-scoring team) in Seattle. In an absolute masterpiece, the Mariners right-hander held Texas to just three hits, fanned 12 with no walks and picked up his seventh victory of the year while producing his second shutout of the season. The effort marked just the 33rd time since 1916 a pitcher had hurled a shutout on no more than three hits with at least 12 strikeouts and no walks.
Four starts later, Hernandez made a little more history, holding the Yankees, who finished the season with the second-most runs per game in the league, to just two hits in a 1-0 victory. It had been 34 years since another pitcher -- Palmer -- had shut out the Yankees on two or fewer hits in a 1-0 game in the Bronx (on June 1, 1978), giving Hernandez’s effort a little extra bump of appreciation.
And then there was the perfect game, during which Hernandez fanned 12 batters, giving him the fourth-most punchouts in any of the 23 perfectos hurled in baseball history. In all, over a stretch of seven starts, Hernandez had vibrantly illustrated his immense talents, arsenal and potential for dominance.
With the six combined efforts from Morrow and Hernandez as part of the overall work in the AL this past year, the season ended with AL staffs allowing 4.40 runs per game, the lowest mark for the league since 1992. Coincidentally (or maybe not), that ‘92 season also happened to be the most recent before 2012 to have two AL pitchers each produce at least three shutouts on no more than three hits.
Clemens was the first to do it in 1992, with a two-hit shutout against the Twins on July 18 completing his trifecta. The first of the three had come in Clemens’ second start of the year, when he held the Indians to two hits and beat the Tribe, 3-0. A month later, Clemens defeated the Royals, holding Kansas City to only three hits (with George Brett responsible for two of them) in a 5-0 victory. In all, Clemens’ three gems came over a span of 18 starts and were part of a season in which he captured his third consecutive ERA title.
A week after Clemens’ third, the Red Sox right-hander was joined by Ron Darling. Pitching for the Athletics, Darling tossed a two-hit shutout against the Blue Jays (the second-highest run-scoring team in the AL that year) on July 25, giving him three two-hit shutouts that season (his other two came on May 24 against the Red Sox and July 12 against Toronto). With his three efforts (coming over a 12-start span), Darling had become the 11th AL pitcher in the DH era to have at least three shutouts on no more than two hits in a season, and the first to accomplish this feat since Dave Stieb in 1988. To find an AL season in which more than two pitchers had three shutouts on three or fewer hits, one has to go back to 1988, with Mark Gubicza, Stieb, Greg Swindell and Clemens all doing it. The most in the AL in the DH-era came in 1976, when six pitchers -- Bert Blyleven, Ed Figueroa, Palmer, Dave Goltz, Rick Wise and Ryan achieved the feat. Actually, those six in ’76 are the most for any AL season since ‘16.
It’s a fun list to look at, and one that would probably have remained unobserved if not for the brilliance of Morrow and Hernandez in 2012.