Astros No. 10 prospect spearheads Double-A no-hitter

June 16th, 2024

For the first time since the franchise relocated to the Gulf Coast of Texas, the Corpus Christi Hooks checked off their first no-hitter in 19 seasons. On the shoulders of Astros prospects Jake Bloss and Cesar Gomez, the Double-A affiliate blanked the San Antonio Missions in a 3-0 win at Nelson Wolff Stadium.

"Honestly, nobody said a word about it the entire game," Hooks pitching coach Sean Buchanan said. "You look up at the scoreboard, and you start to see more and more zeroes after that second column in from the runs on the home team side hasn't moved yet."

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Bloss -- Houston’s No. 10 prospect -- walked two batters in his first two frames before a pair of defensive web gems locked him into shutdown mode.

In the second inning, Astros No. 6 prospect Zach Cole made a Superman-like catch in left field, scampering to his right for a diving grab. An inning later, the organization's top prospect, Jacob Melton, mirrored the heroics with his own diving grab in center field.

"Those were two unbelievable plays," Buchanan said. "Those two guys bailed us out, kept it alive."

With the catches coming so early in the game, a no-hitter wasn't on the minds of the team or coaching staff. But they did stave off early hit bids for San Antonio, building momentum for the remainder of the contest.

Bloss allowed just one more baserunner after Melton's catch and navigated 6 1/3 innings with six strikeouts and three walks. The righty worked his second-longest start at Double-A this season on 82 pitches, 52 of which went for strikes.

Gomez entered a clean slate in the seventh with one out and pitched perfectly for the remainder of the game. The 25-year-old righty retired all eight batters he faced, striking out three and securing the final out on a ground ball to the right side.

Striking out the first two batters of the eighth inning on six pitches, Gomez instilled confidence in Buchanan that a no-hitter was obtainable.

"I personally started to think, 'Oh boy, if he is this dialed in tonight, I don't think there's anybody that can hit him,'" Buchanan said. "'And we're already at this point in the game, he's going to have enough bullets to get this thing done.'"

Buchanan -- in his first season coaching Gomez -- didn't get within 30 feet of his reliever the entire game. The veteran Double-A reliever took stake in the end of the dugout and kept to himself.

"He is a fiery competitor, so you probably want to stay out of his way regardless," Buchanan said. "But especially in that situation and how well he's been throwing the baseball, it was definitely stay out of his way and let him finish this."

Gomez -- a 2020 undrafted signee by the Astros -- managed to earn his second save of the season and lowered his ERA to 1.29 and WHIP to 0.82 in 28 innings for the Hooks this season.

"It's pretty ridiculous what he's done this season," Buchanan said. "He's reinvented himself. There were some struggles at times, as he got to the higher levels last year, especially. There's been some mechanical changes. There's been some changes to his pitch arsenal, and all the credit goes to him and his ability to adapt and to put himself in the best position to be successful."

Polar opposite of Gomez, Buchanan was constantly having conversation with Bloss. Given where his starting pitcher stands in his development, Buchanan believes their dialogue in between every inning only betters the right-hander's attack plan and how to approach hitters.

"It was not a situation where, 'Hey, the guy's throwing a no-hitter, you can't talk to him,'" Buchanan said. "We wanted Jake dialed in and on script and on plan as much as possible, so the dialogue with him was constant throughout the game."

Bloss’ no-hit bid furthered a dominant stretch since his May 3 promotion to Double-A, when he became the first Astros’ 2023 draftee to reach the level. The third-rounder dropped his ERA to 1.61 in 44 2/3 frames.

"You never go into a game, thinking, 'Hey, we are going to throw a no-hitter tonight,'" Buchanan said. "It's always about 'How well can I execute? How well can I follow the gameplan? What can I do to punch guys out and give my team a chance to win?' So that's always the goal, and I think a night like tonight, it just helps give us clues on how to do it more."