It was a "planned piggyback" no-hitter for Quad Cities on Wednesday. Sort of.
Cardinals prospects Hector Cardenas and Kevin Thomas combined on a seven-inning no-hitter as the River Bandits blanked the visiting Beloit Snappers, 3-0, in the first game of a doubleheader.
Cardenas (1-0), a 22-year-old Dominican left-hander, struck out four over five frames to earn the win in his 2009 debut. He threw 47 pitches and induced six grounders and five fly balls. Only an infield error in the third kept Cardenas from a perfect outing, his first in full-season Class A.
Thomas, a 22-year-old Stephen Austin State product, struck out one and walked a batter over two frames to seal the no-hit bid.
Just as the Bandits planned. Literally.
"We had no thought of sending him out there [for the sixth inning]," Quad Cities pitching coach Ace Adams said of his starter. "We have a 'piggyback system' -- we have two guys pitching each day. One guy throws 60 pitches or five innings, and the other guys throws 40. We have five sets of those for 10 pitchers."
Cardenas made it look easy.
"I was comfortable today," said Cardenas. "Last year in Batavia, we won the championship, and that was a lot of pressure. So it helped me today."
It was the first no-hitter for Quad Cities since Brian Wolfe's nine inning gem against the Dayton Dragons on Aug. 12, 2001. The Bandits' last seven-inning no-no came in 2000.
"Hector was outstanding," Adams said. "He threw 12 first-pitch strikes, and that makes it pretty easy when you're pitching ahead."
That, of course, was also in Cardenas' plan.
"I wanted to get ahead in the count and use all my pitches," said Cardenas. "My fastball and curve are my primary pitches, but the curve is my best pitch. I also threw two changeups. I was just trying to keep the ball down."
Cardenas, signed by the Cardinals as a nondrafted free agent in 2006, started just two of his 15 appearances last summer with Class A Short-Season Batavia. He lasted five innings in both those starts, allowing just two hits in each.
"I can do it as a starter or reliever, it doesn't matter to me," Cardenas said. "I'm comfortable either way."
The southpaw finished the 2008 season with a 5-0 record and a 1.83 ERA in 34 1/3 innings for the Muckdogs.
Thomas pitched around a pair of base runners in the seventh, after Adan Severino reached on third baseman Alex Castellanos' error to lead off the frame. Thomas walked Ramon Santana, but avoided further damage when Jon Waltenbury popped up and he induced a game-ending double play from Eli Tintor.
"Kevin Thomas was good too," Adams said. "He got into a little trouble there in the seventh, but made good pitches when he had to."
Quad Cities gave Cardenas a lead in the second when Chris Swauger hit a leadoff homer -- his first of the year -- to right field off Snappers starter Michael Allen. Paul Cruz added an RBI single in the fifth, and Roberto Espinoza knocked home Castellanos with a base hit an inning later for a three-run cushion.
Allen (0-1) was charged with three runs on eight hits over six frames for the loss. The seven-inning no-hitter, which took just one hour and 35 minutes to complete, is the second no-hitter in the Minors this season. Rangers farmhands Martin Perez, Tyler Tufts and Fabio Castillo combined on the first no-no of the year on April 11 when Class A Hickory blanked Bowling Green, 5-0, in seven innings in the first game of a doubleheader.