Brady Singer‘s bid at history turned to heartbreak in one pitch.
“I had all the confidence in the world we were going to see it happen,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said.
Singer allowed just one hit – a two-out single to Austin Hedges through an infield shift in the eighth inning – and the rookie flirted with a baseball rarity while leading the Kansas City Royals to a 11-1 win over the Cleveland Indians on Thursday night.
Making just his ninth big league start, the 24-year-old right-hander was four outs from becoming only the 36th rookie to throw a no-hitter when Hedges, who came in batting .148, bounced a single through a wide-open right side.
Kansas City had shifted its infield for the right-handed hitting Hedges, and he found the hole left open when second baseman Nicky Lopez moved.
“I honestly kind of blacked out,” Singer said of his reaction. “I saw him get jammed, I saw it kind of get him on the handle. I don’t know who was playing there. I didn’t turn around and see what the shift was, honestly. But it snuck through. That’s how the game works.”
Hedges got the hit on a 93 mph full-count fastball on Singer’s 116th pitch, and after Matheny came out to visit him,. Singer finished the inning and was warmly greeted by teammates when he got back to Kansas City’s dugout.
“I felt really good from the start,” Singer said. “It was probably a bad thing, but I kind of noticed there was no hits after the third inning. So it was stressful, but I felt sharp from pitch one and tried to stay focused the whole time.”
Singer (2-4) threw 119 pitches, the second-highest total in the majors this season behind the 122 by St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright on Aug. 30. Matheny said he was going to let Singer go as long as he needed to finish the no-hitter.
“I just thought that it was going to be a special night,” Matheny said. “I was right, but unfortunately, it was just short of being as special as we wanted. Not many guys get an opportunity like that. That was going to be his no matter what.”
Hedges, acquired from San Diego on Aug. 31, said he went to the plate determined not to let the Indians get blanked.
“I was just trying to have a good at-bat, see some pitches and wait for a mistake,” Hedges said. “And he gave me one of those.”
Maikel Franco and Adalberto Mondesi each hit three-run homers and Edward Olivares added a solo shot off Aaron Civale (3-5). The Royals have won three straight since stopping a seven-game losing streak.
Franco also had a two-run single and drove in five runs.
Singer’s performance came in his first start after giving up a season-high 10 hits – all singles – in a loss to the White Sox on Sept 4.
The Indians have struggled at the plate all season and they spent most of the unusually chilly evening inside Progressive Field either over-swinging or guessing against Singer, who made his major league debut against Cleveland on July 25.
Singer gave up a one-out walk in the first but then retired the Indians with relative ease.
Cleveland had a few close calls: Tyler Naquin flied out to the warning track in right in the fifth, Cesar Hernandez lined out to end the sixth and Francisco Lindor hit a rocket to shortstop Mondesi in the seventh.
The Indians even tried to jinx Singer by putting him on the video board in the sixth inning above the caption: “Currently pitching a no-hitter.”
He got through two outs in the eighth but couldn’t put away Hedges, who joined Cleveland last week in a trade from San Diego.
Cleveland avoided being shut out with a run in the ninth, but the Indians have scored just two runs in their last 24 innings and Singer made them look inept.
“He kept the ball down, ball in the corner, low pitches borderline, they were giving them to him,” said Indians acting manager Sandy Alomar Jr. “He earned those pitches. He has a good arm and he was painting the corners. So you have to give him some kudos.”
Alomar joked that it would take three hours to describe all the unexpected decisions he’s had to make while filling in for Terry Francona.
Alomar credited the team’s collaboration and culture in helping offset Francona’s absence.
“The players miss him,” Alomar said of Francona, who has missed 30 games. “As a student, you can only handle the substitute teacher for so long. You have to bring the real teacher back. It’s been fun, but I tell him all the time: `Get your butt back, bro.”‘
Indians: 3B Jose Ramirez got another day off to rest his sore left thumb. Alomar said the switch-hitting Ramirez has more of an issue when he bats left-handed. The team is hoping some down time and treatment will help Ramirez heal. Entering Thursday, he led the club in homers, RBIs and steals.