Hector Noesi has had a bit of a rough run since being optioned from the Seattle Mariners to Tacoma on July 5.
He took the loss in four of his first six starts as a member of the Rainiers and saw his ERA balloon to 7.04.
But if Saturday night’s performance was any indicator, the right-hander could be turning the corner. The 25-year-old took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and recorded a season-high 11 strikeouts, eventually earning a no decision as the Rainiers pulled out a 2-0 win over the Pacific Coast League North-leading Reno Aces at Cheney Stadium.
“I’m getting better and better every time I go out there,” Noesi said. “(It’s about not) being afraid to go after hitters and (keeping) my ball down.”
Reno’s Adam Eaton broke up the no-hitter with two outs in the top of the eighth, singling into right field past a diving Alex Liddi on Noesi’s 121st pitch of the night. Noesi left to a standing ovation, tipping his hat to the crowd of 6,319 before entering the dugout.
“I thought he commanded his fastball and got his off-speed around the plate,” Tacoma manager Darren Brown said. “Obviously the numbers speak for themselves.”
Shawn Kelley took over for Noesi and struck out Taylor Harbin to end the inning.
Tacoma (54-74) finally broke through in the bottom of the eighth. Nick Franklin lined a one-out single to right and Mike Wilson followed with a towering two-run home run to left on the first pitch he saw from reliever Sam Demel.
Kelley pitched a perfect ninth inning to improve to 2-0 on the year, earning his first win since he was optioned to Tacoma on Friday.
Noesi, who said he didn’t get much sleep on Saturday’s afternoon flight back from Nashville, looked sharp nevertheless from the get-go, retiring the first 10 batters he faced before giving up a walk.
“He’s had about three good starts in a row,” Brown said. “More than anything, he’s challenging hitters and getting the ball around the strike zone.”
The Rainiers’ best chance to score for Noesi came in the bottom of the sixth when Nick Franklin led off with a triple against Reno starter Joe Martinez. But he was stranded on third after Wilson popped out to the pitcher, Luis Jimenez popped out to third and Liddi bounced out to shortstop to end the inning.
Franklin Gutierrez made his first start as part of a rehab assignment with the Rainiers. He was placed on the seven-day DL on June 29 with a concussion after being struck in the side of the head on an errant pick-off attempt. In Gutierrez’s first at bat Saturday, he broke his bat in lining into a double play. In his second, he took a called third strike from Reno’s Martinez.
The Rainier’s final homestand continues today when the teams continue the four-game series at 1:35 p.m. Danny Hultzen (1-2, 4.71 ERA) faces Reno’s Daniel Cabrera (0-0, 0.00). The game may be heard on 850-AM.