There hasn’t been a no-hitter in MLB spring training since 2017, but the Oakland A’s came one out away from throwing one on Thursday.
The A’s blanked the Texas Rangers in their seven-inning Cactus League game, by the score of 6-0. The Rangers walked three times but didn’t collect their first hit until there were two outs in the 7th inning, on the verge of an abbreviated no-no.
On the other side of the ball Texas was equally helpless, allowing six runs to a lineup of mostly A’s prospects and non-roster invitees. The Rangers pitchers were so overwhelmed that they invoked the mercy rule in one inning without recording a single out. It was about as dominant of a performance by Oakland as has ever been allowed by rule in MLB history.
The top story line entering the game was the spring debut of Jesús Luzardo, and the lefty phenom didn’t disappoint. He walked his first batter but immediately eliminated him in a double play, and then retired the next nine straight before issuing one more harmless free pass in the 4th. He struck out five of his 13 batters, and came off the mound to field his position on a bunt attempt.
Luzardo: 4 ip, 0 runs, 5 Ks, 2 BB, 0 hits, 49 pitches
Three relievers followed him. Jordan Weems cruised through a 1-2-3 frame in the 5th, and non-roster invitee Cristian Alvarado worked around a two-out walk in the 6th. Then came Miguel Romero, who ranks No. 26 on our Community Prospect List, and he dispatched the first two batters he faced.
But with the Rangers down to their final out against Romero, prospect Andy Ibáñez poked a grounder up the middle for a single to bust the no-hitter at the last moment. Granted, anything less than the full nine innings would have come with a considerable asterisk, but if the A’s had completed this no-no then you know Athletics Nation would have celebrated it all the same.
Still, details aside, it was a brilliant performance by Oakland’s pitching staff, and it came against a lineup full of MLB hitters rather than a spring B-team. As always in any no-hitter attempt, there were defensive heroics, especially in the late innings by a pair of non-roster invitees — first baseman Frank Schwindel robbed a liner in the 6th, and second baseman Jacob Wilson made a nice play on a grounder leading off the 7th.
Spring no-hitter history
The last time anyone threw a no-no in spring training was 2017, and of course it happened twice within a week, and once in each geographic league. The Yankees pulled it off against the Tigers in the Grapefruit League, and then seven days later the Angels repeated it in the Cactus League, against the Mariners obviously. Former A’s All-Star closer Andrew Bailey pitched for the Angels in that game.
The A’s also have one spring no-hitter, though you have to go back to the 1966 Kansas City team. Paul Lindblad and John Wyatt combined against the Astros, in a game in Florida. Oakland was once on the wrong side of one in 1984, against the Mariners, in a game started by Mark Langston and finished by former A’s closer Dave Beard.
Today’s game does not add anything to those history books, but, now you know, and knowing is half the spring positional battle.
Luzardo serves Turkey Sub
Back to Luzardo and his unhittable outing.
The southpaw began the game in the relatively modest 94-96 mph range, and dialed it up to 97 as the day went on. But he’s always had powerful velocity, and the more interesting development was the new pitch he threw — a 65 mph curveball. The Turkey Sub.
Luzardo said it was a “turkey sub” that he threw at 65 mph. Didn’t have the confidence to throw it last year but he’s been working on it and said he will throw it a lot more this year. Turkey sub was inspired by A’s prospect Brian Howard.
Legends of Luzardo’s turkey sub aren’t new, but we didn’t get to see it in a game last season. Now it appears to be joining the menu, with 30+ miles of separation from his heater.
With the A’s facing the Rangers, Luzardo got to face old teammate Khris Davis, who was traded to Texas over the winter. Here’s their first matchup.
Khris Davis v. Jesús Luzardo. Davis hit 95 sharply with two strikes into a 6-3 pic.twitter.com/bpuCxcudVr— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) March 11, 2021
... And their second.
Davis v. Luzardo part two, swinging K pic.twitter.com/NlxsnvUbcp— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) March 11, 2021
In other words, Luzardo looks ready to go. Let’s get this season started so he can begin his quest for a Cy Young.
Lineup keeps rolling
After scoring 17 runs over the previous two days combined, the A’s didn’t slow down on offense.
The only piece of bad news came on the very first pitch of the afternoon, which pegged Tony Kemp in the back. He exited the game but sounds OK, per Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle.
Otherwise, it was all good. Oakland waited until the 4th to pounce, and got started with a solo homer by Seth Brown, a good sign as he competes for an outfield job. In the 5th it was a singles rally, including one by shortstop prospect Nick Allen and then the RBI knock by outfield prospect Luis Barrera.
Then came the 6th, and what was left of the game just fell apart for Texas. A pair of walks and a single loaded the bases, and then came an RBI single and a walk to force in another, all to an assortment of A’s prospects and NRIs — including Schwindel and Wilson, and also backup catcher candidate Aramis Garcia. The Rangers didn’t even bother getting an out, they just called mercy and ended the frame.
It almost happened again the next inning. Mini-camp prospect Edwin Diaz doubled in a run, and Barrera notched his second RBI single of the day to plate another, but then the Rangers finally set down the next three batters after letting eight straight reach base. And lest you thought you weren’t getting a Buddy Reed highlight today, fear not, he scored from first on Diaz’s hit.
Diaz has never been a big name on the prospect radar, and he’s never come close to making our CPL. But the 25-year-old is 2-for-4 this spring with a pair of doubles, for what it’s worth.
Edwin Díaz had a loud double today. His hype train may only have one passenger, but I'm going to annoy you all season. Sleeper prospect to watch.— Melissa Lockard (@melissalockard) March 11, 2021
What a game! And that’s without mentioning that Jed Lowrie played again (at DH), is still healthy, and will play again tomorrow at second base, per Gallegos.
We’re not even two weeks into the Cactus League, and this A’s season is already shaping up to be a blast.