The Columbus Clippers were a pitch away from history on Friday night.
Facing Anthony Gose with two outs, a 2-2 count and a no-hitter on the line, Clay Rapada got the Buffalo leadoff man to send a bloop toward right field. Matt Carson and second baseman Nate Spears chased after the flair, but the ball dropped in.
Rapada retired Kevin Pillar two pitches later to end the game as Danny Salazar's five dominant innings turned into a four-pitcher one-hitter in Columbus' 8-0 blanking of the Bisons at Huntington Park.
The Indians' No. 6 prospect struck out eight and would have been perfect, if not for an error by Clippers first baseman Chun Chen.
Salazar (4-2), who underwent Tommy John surgery prior to the 2011 season, is being brought along slowly by Cleveland, which is keeping him on a strict 80-pitch, five-inning limit. He threw 52 pitches Friday, including 40 strikes.
The 23-year-old right-hander has been a breakout performer all year and he's been especially exceptional of late. In his past three outings, he's given up six hits and a walk while striking out 25 over 14 scoreless innings.
Salazar has a 2.98 ERA and 70 strikeouts over 54 1/3 frames in 13 Triple-A outings, walking 14 batters and surrendering four homers. He's fanned 121 in 88 innings across two Minor League levels after striking out 76 over 87 2/3 innings last year.
Jim Negrych was the only batter to reach against the native of the Dominican Republic, who struck out Ryan Goins on a 98 mph fastball on his final pitch of the night.
Salazar made his Major League debut on July 11 and was charged with a run on two hits over six innings against the Blue Jays. He struck out seven and walked one in that outing, which remains his lone big league appearance.
With the Indians making a run at a playoff spot, Salazar could prove a useful piece down the stretch, especially out of the bullpen. If it wasn't for his injury history, he might already be there.
"He looks and fits the profile. I agree with all that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona told MLB.com on July 22. "It seems like it'd be easy to bring him in the seventh and let him throw. He controls the running game and all those things. But there are other things to think about."
Preston Guilmet relieved Salazar in the sixth and fanned three in two perfect innings. Vinnie Pestano followed with a 1-2-3 eighth in his second hitless appearance with the Clippers.
Rapada came on for the ninth, got Sean Ochinko to fly to center and struck out Mike McCoy to get within an out of Columbus' first no-hitter since Justin Germano pitched a perfect game on July 26, 2011. Gose, who was 0-for-3 with a strikeout to that point, worked the count to 2-1 and fouled off a couple of pitches before sending a down and away offering from Rapada -- a sidearming southpaw -- to shallow right.
Two pitches later, Pillar flied to center to end the game.
Tim Fedroff had two hits and four RBIs, while catcher Roberto Perez went 3-for-4 with three doubles and three runs scored for the Clippers.