Missions notch second no-no in less than a week

May 19th, 2022

As the great Yogi Berra said, "It's like déjà vu all over again." And for the Missions, it certainly feels that way.

For the second time in three games, Double-A San Antonio had four pitchers combine on a no-hitter. Ryan Lillie, Michel Baez, Osvaldo Hernandez and Mason Fox delivered the feat in a 4-0 blanking of Midland at Nelson Wolff Stadium on Wednesday.

"Our manager [Phillip Wellman] told us after the game on Sunday, 'You guys are a part of history. You won't see this very often, so take some time and enjoy it.' And then, three days later, here we are tossing up another zero. It's crazy," Lillie said. "And I'm not gonna lie, I was sitting in the bullpen the entire game on Sunday and I was a little jealous. You always want to be part of something cool like this. So to do it in such little time from the last one and to start it and contribute four innings -- it definitely weights a little more in the heart."

None of the four hurlers who completed the nine-inning gem appeared in the club's previous no-no Sunday. That feat was accomplished by Lake Bachar, Moises Lugo, Carlos Belen, Kevin Kopps. It was the 16th nine-inning no-hitter in franchise history, and the ninth thrown in the Minors this year.

And Lillie, who has been used almost exclusively out of the 'pen this year with the Missions, found out Tuesday that he was going to get the ball for a spot start Wednesday. That usually means two to three innings for a reliever, but after the third, the 2017 fifth-round Draft selection of the Marlins was asked by his skipper if he had one more in him. Lillie did not hesitate to respond.

"I didn't have much time to prepare, so my goal was to just take it inning by inning and go as far as I could because I know our bullpen got really taxed yesterday and we were short on arms," he said. "So when Wellie asked me if I could go another one, I was just like, 'Sure, why not?' I knew I was kind of cruising, and as a reliever, you really pay attention to exactly what you're doing out there. So after I put up another zero, I came back and just felt really good about my outing and went in for some arm work."

In just his second start of the year, Lillie set the tone early. The right-hander was nearly perfect over the first four frames -- working around a one-out walk in the opening frame to retire the final 11 batters he faced. The 26-year-old fanned four and exited after tossing 36 of his 56 pitches for strikes.

Baez extended the consecutive out streak to 13 with a pair of punchouts to start the fifth, but the righty hit Kyle McCann with a 1-1 pitch. He settled back in to whiff the side and escape the inning unscathed. The 26-year-old worked around a walk in the sixth with two more strikeouts and a soft ground ball to second to end his outing. It was Baez's first appearance with San Antonio since 2018.

"I came back to the dugout around the sixth, and I had a feeling something was happening, but I didn't want to jinx it so I didn't check the board," Lillie said. "But after the seventh, when I saw another zero, I was like, 'OK, I have to check.' And then when I realized it was still going on, I just said to myself, 'Oh my gosh, we gotta lock it in here!'"

Hernandez was perfect over the next two innings of relief. The left-hander worked quickly and efficiently, retiring the side on 13 pitches in the seventh and needing just seven pitches to navigate through the eighth. The 24-year-old has not yielded a hit over his past three appearances -- 5 1/3 frames.

Fox was called on to shut the door on the milestone. After a leadoff walk, the righty induced a soft ground ball to third for an around-the-horn double play, and then won a six-pitch battle with Jonah Bride that resulted in a routine groundout to second and San Antonio's second dogpile in less than a week.

"The best part really was that there weren't that many strikeouts, so the ball was put in play a lot and the defense was just nails," Lillie said. "Something we've been working on a lot lately is defense, and they got a chance tonight to take care of the baseball and when that happens we do well as pitchers. So a lot of credit to our defense tonight too. They had a great night, and our offense put up some numbers too."

Even the score wound up matching Sunday's no-hitter. Esteury Ruiz cleared the bases with a three-run triple to center in the second, and Yorman Rodriguez capped the scoring with an RBI knock to left in the sixth.

"After the game, I got a brand-new baseball and had Osvaldo, (catcher) Juan Fernandez, Michel and Mason all sign it." Lillie said. "And I'm gonna keep that for a while."