The Tuesday Takeaway
If you had Chris Heston in the first-no-hitter-of-the-year pool, come collect your prize.
Given a choice between the two rookies pitching Tuesday in Queens, the 22-year-old flame-throwing blue-chipper dubbed Thor and the late-blooming 27-year-old sinkerballer known to a select few as Hesto Presto, only the daring would have laid their money with the visitor. But it was Heston, not fellow first-year Noah Syndergaard, who became the 22nd rookie to deliver a no-no.
Bruce Bochy's squad spotted its starter an early lead, singling Syndergaard to death with eight one-baggers in the first four innings. Three of those hits were of the infield variety, and another was a ducksnort. Even Heston got in on the magic-wandoo fun:
With a run of support in hand before he took the mound and two more on the way, Heston struck out five Mets in his first look at the order. The righty mixed his two primary pitches, a sinker and curveball, with aplomb, hitting his spots with both and sprinkling in a handful of changeups to keep the home nine on their heels:
Heston's command of the curveball—a pitch he manipulated from a slider-like, 79 mph offering to a bigger, low-70s hook—both inside and outside of the zone stymied the Mets early and enabled him to get away with mistakes late. He spun the breaker 36 times in 110 offerings, and the Mets only offered at 11 of them. Seven of those swings caught nothing but air.
His sinker was similarly outstanding, with 14 groundball outs attesting to its effectiveness Tuesday night. Over and over again, the Mets hit the top of the ball, generally into routine plays for the infield. With the outfield largely taking the night off, Brandon Crawford turned in the most challenging defensive effort behind Heston, this backhanded stab-and-throw to retire Eric Campbell and end the eighth:
The infielders to either side of the shortstop Crawford did their part at the plate. Heston's lead kept growing in the middle frames, as Matt Duffy pummeled a 3–1 Syndergaard mistake
All that was superfluous on a night when Heston eluded the Mets' bats and dodged their barrels when wood and hide connected. He maintained his velocity and spread his workload evenly, using between eight and 14 pitches to retire the side in every inning after the first (16). That left plenty in the East Carolina University product's tank come the ninth, when, thanks in part to plate umpire Rob Drake's expanding zone, he punctuated the night by punching out the side.
Heston wasn't perfect Tuesday, though his particular sort of imperfection was noteworthy, too. He didn't issue any walks or see any errors made behind him. The only blemishes that stood between Heston and a perfect game were three hit batsmen, two back-to-back with one away in the fourth, the third at the outset of the ninth. According to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, he's the first pitcher ever to drill three opponents in a nine-inning no-hitter.
By working around those HBPs, Heston and the Giants became the first team since the Sandy Koufax–era Dodgers to treat their fans to a no-hitter in four consecutive seasons. Koufax did all that by himself in 1962–65. Heston followed in the still-fresh footsteps of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum to make history in the 5–0 Giants win.
Quick Hits from Tuesday
While Heston was busy turning in the year's first no-hitter, Joey Votto went to work on its third three-homer game. Former teammate Aaron Harang bore the brunt of his damage on a night when Jay Bruce was ejected and Brandon Phillips left hurt.
Todd Frazier followed with a bomb of his own to complete the lone back-to-back set in the Reds' five-homer assault.
Votto was back at it in the fifth
with that replay-reviewed wall-scraper to left-center. It was the fourth gopher ball served up by Harang, who'd given up only four in 12 starts before he ascended the bump last night.
That two-run shot, part of a three-run seventh, squashed any shot of a Phillies rally in the late stages of the game. The Reds went on to win 11–2.
For a while, it seemed Heston might not be alone in the no-hitter club by the end of Tuesday night. Chris Young made a valiant bid to give the rookie an equally unlikely partner.
Much like Heston, Young saw the Royals score before his workday began, when Alcides Escobar led off with a double and scored on a Mike Moustakas single. But unlike the Giants, the Royals wouldn't soon add on.
That was okay, because the 36-year-old Young retired the first seven batters he faced in order. When the eighth, Eduardo Escobar, reached by drawing a walk, he was promptly thrown out by Salvador Perez on a steal attempt. Aaron Hicks then lined out, so Young faced the minimum through three.
And four. And five. And 5 2/3. He spotted the Twins a couple of walks with two away in the sixth, but Torii Hunter lined out to preserve the no-hitter and the shutout.
The latter would remain intact all night, though not under Young's watch, because when Trevor Plouffe cranked a one-out triple in the seventh, Ned Yost fetched Franklin Morales from the bullpen. Morales and Kelvin Herrera made good on the skipper's plan by coaxing a pair of groundballs that left the tying run stranded on third.
And so, the mission of getting the ball to Wade Davis and Greg Holland was complete. Perez made it 2–0 Royals with a solo shot to kick off the ninth, and Holland made 2–0 the final with a scoreless home half.
With the defeat, the Twins, who surged to first place in the American League Central with a red hot May and early June, fell back to second, a game behind Kansas City. Paul Molitor's offense has scored just five runs in its last four games.
The headlines coming out of the Marlins and Nationals games last night were poised to center on the burgeoning home-run showdown between Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper. Then, Edwin Encarnacion and the Yankees, respectively, got in the way.
Stanton didn't wait around to launch his 20th of the season, laying the lumber on an elevated offering from Mark Buehrle in his first at-bat:
Harper couldn't allow his Miami rival to stand alone at 20, so he went deep in his second trip to the box
Neither Harper's tie with Stanton nor the Nats' tie with the Yanks would last. New York broke the draw by scoring four times in the seventh on four singles and a costly throwing error by Ian Desmond. They added one more in the eighth on a dinger by Stephen Drew, his second of the night, good for hits no. 1,000 and 1,001 of his big-league career. The 6–1 victory was New York's seventh in a row.
Meanwhile, up in Toronto, and also in the seventh, Stanton belted his 21st bomb of the year
to give the Marlins a 3–2 edge over the Jays. But while he'll wake up this morning as the majors' home-run leader, he won't be looking back on a game-winner.
Edwin Encarnacion will:
Thanks to E5, the Jays have matched the Yankees' seven-game surge win-for-win. They're still four back in the East, and 1 1/2 shy of the second-place Rays.
Position players must perform three basic functions: catch, throw, and hit. On Tuesday, Nick Franklin flubbed all three.
Catching the ball is a particularly critical responsibility for a first baseman, one that goes under the microscope when the throw coming his way is the second act of an acrobatic play. A middle infielder in the minors, Franklin is still a novice at first, and his scant experience there showed in the opening frame:
That missed catch was the first of two Rays errors in the inning, which helped the Halos out to a 2-0 lead.
Franklin's second error of the day also came in a David Freese at-bat, this time in the third inning, when the third baseman doubled on a flare down the right-field line and got a free trip to third after Franklin's throw bounced into him:
Factor in an 0-for-3 showing with two strikeouts at the plate before getting subbed out in the eighth, and it's safe to say the 8–2 loss to the Angels wasn't Franklin's best day on a baseball field.
It didn't take long for Carlos Correa to call Astros fans' attention to his tools. The 20-year-old shortstop got his first big-league steal and homer out of the way in his second game with the team. Zach Duke had the pleasure of serving up the latter:
Unfortunately for A.J. Hinch's bunch, the long ball came too late to save the visitors in the 4–2 loss. The White Sox scored twice each in the sixth and eighth before Correa halved the deficit in the ninth.
His namesake and fellow top prospect Carlos Rodon kept Houston off the scoreboard for six innings, scattering four hits and two walks while striking out five. It was the first scoreless start of Rodon's career, and it topped the seven-inning, two-run effort turned in by Dallas Keuchel.
Chad Qualls' nightmarish eighth, which saw the righty reliever face four batters and permit all of them to reach base, buried the Astros too deep for Correa to dig them out.
The Defensive Play of the Day
Major-league third-base coaches are still challenging Yoenis Cespedes to throw their runners out at the plate. And he's still obliging:
What to Watch on Wednesday
When it comes to success at the major-league level, for Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis, the third time just might be the charm. Bettis made 16 trips to the big-league bump in 2013, half as a starter and half in relief, and wound up with a 5.64 ERA. He worked exclusively out of the bullpen last year and was bludgeoned to the tune of a 9.12 ERA in 21 appearances. Now being used solely as a starter, Bettis appears to have settled into a groove.
A second-round selection in the 2010 draft, Bettis got the call to return to the majors in May and has since authored a 2.70 ERA over 33 1/3 innings. Perhaps most impressively, he's done that without permitting a home run, even though three of his outings have come at Coors Field and the two road dates have been at the power-packed Dodgers and in the Phillies' tater-friendly yard.
Bettis also kept his foes in the park in his last two starts of 2013, so he's now preserved the “0" in the HR column of his line in seven straight starts, something only 13 other Rockies have done since 2000. Per the Play Index, the 26-year-old's peer group would shrink to seven if he makes it eight in a row with Carlos Martinez and the Cardinals in town this afternoon (3:10 p.m. ET).
In other pitcher streak news, Trevor Bauer will vie for his sixth straight effort of 6 2/3-plus innings and two or fewer runs allowed. When an Indians starter last did that, the year was 1980 and the pitcher in question was Len Barker. To join the likes of Barker and Gaylord Perry, Bauer will need to flummox a Mariners club that he limited to two runs in seven innings on May 29th. That evening ended with a tough-luck defeat for Bauer, who struck out 10 but watched Taijuan Walker two-hit the Tribe through eight scoreless. The right-hander would greatly appreciate some support from his offense in the rematch at Progressive Field (7:10 p.m. ET).
Finally, there's Vincent Velasquez, who hasn't been up long enough to start any sort of streak. The Astros' right-hander makes his major-league debut this evening in the series finale versus the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, where he'll take on Jose Quintana.
Ranked third on the club's preseason top-10 list, Velasquez was considered Houston's best pitching prospect not named Mark Appel, and that was before he rolled up a 1.37 ERA in his first five Double-A starts. Be sure to read up on the 23-year-old in our Call-Up post from yesterday before first pitch (8:10 p.m. ET).