So close! Twins rookies 2 outs shy of combo no-no

Ryan goes 7 hitless IP, but is pulled after 106 pitches; Moran yields 1-out double in 9th

September 14th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Twins manager Rocco Baldelli approached Joe Ryan in the dugout after his seven no-hit innings on Tuesday night, the easy-going rookie pitcher pleaded his case to stay in the game to try and finish Minnesota’s first no-hitter since 2011.

Baldelli said Ryan was ticked off, but the right-hander understood being pulled after 106 pitches, just four off his season high. Ryan, in trying to talk himself into another inning, reminded Baldelli that he had once thrown 156 pitches in a Minor League game.

None of it worked. Jovani Moran, another rookie, came on to finish out the final two innings. He cruised through the eighth, but Kansas City’s Bobby Witt Jr.’s one-out double in the ninth ended the combined no-hit bid before Moran finished off a 6-3 win over the Royals at Target Field.

“I just pleaded a case,” Ryan said. “I wouldn't say I was grilling [Baldelli] or anything. The pitch count obviously comes into play. We're trying to win some games and I'm throwing in five days again, too.

“Going for probably 130, 135 [pitches], I haven't done it this year. I totally understand and we're in a [playoff] hunt. I think we just make the right decision for the team.”

The pair of rookie pitchers were trying to finish off the first Twins no-hitter since Francisco Liriano on May 3, 2011, a stunning feat as he walked six batters and had just two strikeouts. There have been five no-hitters in franchise history, each one a complete game.

Ryan’s outing came at a much-needed time as the Twins recently slipped to third place in the American League Central and were swept at home by first-place Cleveland, which maintained a five-game lead on Minnesota with a 3-1 win against the Angels on Tuesday, over the weekend.

Ryan (11-8) surrendered just two walks and had nine strikeouts. Moran struck out two batters in the eighth, but the lefty walked two in the ninth before Witt’s double. Sebastian Rivero added an RBI single and another run scored off Moran on Vinnie Pasquantino’s sacrifice fly before he whiffed Nick Pratto to seal the win.

“I'm not going to feel happy,” Moran said. “I wanted to help and be part of that no-hitter. But that's part of the game. And of course, I'm going to get mad because I wanted to do my best and get that out, but it happens.”

Carlos Correa hit a two-run homer, while Jose Miranda and Gio Urshela added solo jacks to pace Minnesota’s offense. The Twins had lost nine of their previous 10 games heading into the opener of a three-game set.

Ryan, the 26-year-old rookie with 35 career games under his belt, was never going to finish his outing because of the climbing pitch count. The Royals hit 32 foul balls among Ryan’s 106 pitches.

“I think in those situations, you kind of have to be direct about what’s going on,” Baldelli said of his talk with Ryan. “They don’t happen often, but the closer you get to the end of these kinds of games, these very well-pitched games, the tougher and tougher it would ever be to take someone out of that game. One hundred thirty pitches, 135 pitches, it wasn’t something he was going to get to today, one way or the other. But he gave us all of those amazing feelings, when you see a guy just pitching a gem.”

Ryan didn’t need to survive many close calls.

Center fielder Gilberto Celestino made a sliding catch for the first out of the third inning and third baseman Urshela added a nifty grab on a foul ball in the sixth, falling into the netting as he made the catch.

Ryan watched the final two innings from the dugout, a departure from his normal procedure.

“Mentally, I feel like I'm still in the game,” he said. “So, a little different. But [Moran has] been outstanding all year, so it's fun to watch him compete. I think he did a great job. Obviously, the result wasn't probably what he wanted, but he threw the ball really well.”

Ryan, acquired in a 2021 Trade Deadline deal that sent Nelson Cruz to the Rays, had allowed nine runs in nine innings over his past two starts. But the 26-year-old has sizzled against the AL Central in his first full season. He entered the game 7-0 with a 1.95 ERA against the division, with 57 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings.

“Joe was pitching so well that it wasn’t really anxiety, to be honest with you,” Baldelli said. “I was excited watching him pitch, too. That was a blast. That was about as good of a start as I’ve seen, from him or anyone else.”

Royals manager Mike Matheny said “frustration” grows in the opposing dugout, but he wasn’t surprised to see Baldelli take Ryan out.

“Not, not at all,” Matheny said. “They got games to win. He’s at 105 pitches after seven. I get it, it’s something very special. But I would have been surprised if he stayed in.”

There have been three no-hitters in the Majors this season.

Houston’s Cristian Javier, Héctor Neris and Ryan Pressly no-hit the Yankees on June 25. Reid Detmers recorded a no-hitter for the Angels on May 10 against the Rays, and five Mets pitchers combined to no-hit the Phillies on April 29, with Tylor Megill starting the game followed by Drew Smith, Joely Rodríguez, Seth Lugo and Edwin Díaz.

Missing his own chance to join that group, Ryan said he wasn’t really upset when Witt’s hit fell into left field.

“He’s a great hitter,” Ryan said. “Sure you want to finish that, but I don’t know. It is what it is. It’s a hit; get the next guy out. Would’ve been cool, but should of, could of, would of.”