Minor League Recap: not one, but two (5-inning) no-hitters!

So I was listening to the Charlotte Stone Crabs' radio broadcast yesterday, because I wanted to hear how Nestor Molina's pitching looks in person. It was a bit of a strange outing for Molina, as he started the game with a walk to Rays SS prospect Hak-Ju Lee, and he would later walk another batter. It didn't escape the Stone Crabs' broadcasters' attention that this was a very unusual occurrence. But despite the walks, Molina was dominant, with a very hard to hit splitter, fastballs (and perhaps unrecognized cutters?) that painted the corners and sometimes even a breaking ball for a strike. Nestor worked very quickly and he has a strange and quite unique herky-jerky delivery that one of the radio guys likened to Ben Weber's. If only I knew how Weber's delivery looked.

Molina struck out four Stone Crabs, which isn't bad, but it might have been more had they not bunted three times (hard to strike out a batter who's bunting). Thanks to Nestor's cat-like fielding and a good play by Kevin Ahrens these bunts were not successful in getting the Crabs cheap hits. It was only after he was replaced by Aaron Loup to start the sixth inning that the Stone Crab's broadcasters talked about Nestor Molina's no-hitter, which they didn't want to jinx while was still in. Unfortunately Nestor seems to be limited to 5 innings per start now as his arm is stretched out carefully since he was a reliever last year. He now has pitched 17 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

At that point, I didn't even know Justin Nicolino was going to pitch as well. Nicolino, a 2nd round pick from last year's draft is another guy whose stats really impress. And yup, the other 5 no-hit innings were his. Unlike Molina, who was good but didn't miss an extraordinary amount of bats, Nicolino K'd a stunning 9 hitters in 5 innings. He would allow a walk, and of the six balls in play only two were grounders, but that's really just nitpicking. When you strike out more than half of the batters you face, you're just not going to give up a lot of hits. And sure enough, Nicolino didn't give up any. "Il Cambio", which is Italian for the change(up), because Nicolino is an Italian name and his best pitch is the change, now has struck out 37% of the batters he's faced. That's so ridiculously good that we can safely call him a top 15 prospect even in the Jays' system, in my opinion.

Okay, there were some other prospects doing good things as well, even if they did not throw no-hitters. Brett Lawrie was 3-for-5 with a double. No, you're not reading yesterday's recap, he did it again. He did strike out this time, but it was his only whiff in the game, he made contact with all other pitches he swung at. He worked the count well, except in his last at bat, which resulted in a deep flyout to center off the first pitch. He also had a line drive single, an infield single and a flyball double off the wall in left. That's two good days in a row for Lawrie's bat, so Jays fans will once again be counting down the days until Lawrie comes up. Although we don't know for sure if Farrell will give him exactly ten days in Vegas, of course.

Anthony Gose was NH's best hitter, with a double and a single. He did not strike out (yay!). Travis d'Arnaud sat this one out, with his replacement Yan Gomes hitting in the Cats' only two runs on a homer. Moises Sierra scored the other run, he had gotten on base with a walk. Jon Talley was Dunedin's offensive spark: he had a homer, a double and a walk. Ryan Schimpf (2-4), Sean Ochinko (2-4) and Kevin Ahrens (1-3, BB) were also effective.

Over in Lansing, Michael Crouse continued his hot streak by going 2-for-4 with no Ks. Jake Marisnick also didn't strike out but he was 0-for-4, whereas Marcus Knecht K'd twice but he added a single. Carlos Perez was 2-for-4 with a double and a strikeout. Vancouver's Jon Berti was 2-for-4 with his first professional home run, the second baseman is now hitting .322/.412/.437.

Bluefield's most exciting positional player is probably Chris Hawkins, and he did not disappoint yesterday by going 2-for-4 with a homer and a double. He's now up to .321/.353/.550, hopefully he'll add some walks to that, but the power is very nice. He also has 4 triples and 6 stolen bases (no caught stealings) in 30 games, showing his speed. Dalton Pompey, who I describe as a sleeper only yesterday, didn't want to disappoint me and went 3-for-4 with a home run, a double, a walk, and a stolen base. Talk about doing it all! He's now at .240/.347/.365 for the season after a very slow start. Eric Arce played the role of three true outcomes hitter perfectly: he had two Ks, a homer and a walk with a .200/.344/.514 line on the season. Santiago Nessy was more in the mood for small ball with a 2-for-4 night, adding a walk but also a strikeout. Nessy is hitting .298/.344/.439 in a very limited amount of games.

Tonight is both Deck McGuire night and Danish Destroyer night on the Jays' farm!

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