Justin Marks did such a good job keeping himself grounded during his run at history on Saturday night, he had a hard time believing he did it when it was all over.
The Rays left-hander tossed the first nine-inning no-hitter in the International League in nearly two years as Triple-A Durham bested Syracuse, 2-0, at NBT Bank Stadium.
Marks (3-9) walked two batters and struck out seven en route to the first nine-inning complete game of his eight-year career. He threw 130 pitches, 70 for strikes, and faces three batters over the minimum in his 16 appearance and 14th start for the Bulls.
"I think a lot of it was a combination was mixing all my pitches," Marks said. "I was able to get through the lineup the first time through with primarily fastballs. I knew that once I was able to get through with fastballs the first three innings I knew I would be able to mix up a lot more.
"I followed Hank Conger's game plan behind the plate. It was the first time he caught me, but he was really confident in the fingers he was putting down. When it's working back there, you don't want to shake off because things are working."
The 28-year-old right-hander finished off the Bulls' first no-hitter since Mike Montgomery and Brad Boxberger combined on one on April 26, 2014 by striking out Matt Skole on six pitches. It was the first time an IL pitcher went all nine innings in a no-hitter since Tyler Cloyd did it for Lehigh Valley on July 30, 2014.
"If you had said to me, 'What's your dream scenario,' I would say striking out the last batter of the game on a 3-2 count to end the game with a no-hitter. That's about as good as it gets," the Kentucky native said. "It was good. I was really fortunate to get him to swing at it -- it was a ball. We went deep into the counts the last inning and I was wanting to not to walk anybody. When he swung at that, it was a pretty good feeling.
"I kept telling myself, 'Take it batter at a time.' Once I struck out Skole, it didn't seem like it was actually real. It was like, did that just happen? Really, from the sixth inning on, I was aware of it, but I had to keep bringing myself down, saying, 'OK, just go out there and get the first hitter and go from there.'"
The 130 pitches were a career high for Marks and came less than two weeks after threw 109 against the Chiefs.
"Last week, I went 109 pitches and my pitching coach, Kyle Snyder, came to me and said, 'I've never thrown a guy that much, how do you feel,'" Marks recalled. "I said, 'I'll be the first one to tell you that I am more than comfortable going 120, 130 pitches if the situation calls for it.' That's just the pitcher I am as far as not being that fatigued. I was really hoping that was resonating with him, and talking with him after the game, he said it was."
Marks is in his fourth season in the Rays organization. Two years removed from his lone Major League appearance with the Royals, he's savvy enough to recognize that while Saturday was a historic performance, it has little bearing on his future.
"At this point in my career, I'm just focused on the next game that I can throw," Marks said. "I'm still hungry to get out there and I still want to get back to the big leagues. At this point, I'm taking it game by game. If I can put together a couple of good starts and keep it going from there, I'm all about that. I'd be a fool to say I'm going to live off this start and this is gonna gain me anything. I just have to keep rolling and things work out.'
Marks got all the runs he needed in the fifth when Jake Goebbert and Jaff Decker scored on a throwing error by shortstop Adrian Sanchez.
Chiefs starter A.J. Cole fell to 6-6 after giving up a pair of unearned runs on four hits and a walk while striking out six over six innings.
Robert Emrich is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich.