Joey Cantillo had just come off one of the best starts of his young career, but listening to him, you wouldn't have known it.
"Definitely wasn't my best outing," he said. "My fastball command today was just brutal for the most part."
If that wasn't his best stuff, opponents beware.
The Padres' No. 19 prospect struck out seven and worked around three walks over six innings as Class A Fort Wayne came within three outs of a no-hitter in an 8-0 blanking of West Michigan on Sunday afternoon at Parkview Field.
Video: Cantillo seventh whiff of day
Cantillo (9-3) issued a leadoff walk in the first to Tigers No. 13 prospect Wenceel Perez, who stole second. But the left-hander picked him off in between strikeouts of No. 12 prospect Parker Meadows and 16th-ranked Nick Quintana. The second began the same, with Cantillo walking Tigers No. 24 prospect Andre Lipcius. He was erased on a forceout by Ulrich Bojarski, who swiped second. Reynaldo Rivera also walked, but the 19-year-old got Cooper Johnson to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Cantillo called the double play huge and played into his psyche when going back out for the third.
"That is what I was kind of telling myself in between those innings was, 'Hey, I struggled here and my fastball is spraying,'" the 2017 16th-round pick said. "I was obviously really frustrated, but we were able to get out of those innings. The defense made some good plays. I kind of took that into account like, 'Hey, there's a clean slate and let's start fresh and attack the next hitters.'"
It was smooth sailing from there for Cantillo as he retired his final 12 batters, striking out five.
Gameday box score
The lefty understood manager Anthony Contreras' decision to pull him, saying it all comes down to his pitch count.
"I threw 83 pitches. That's on me," Cantillo said. "If I don't walk guys, if I don't fall behind, 2-0, every hitter like that maybe I can start pitching a little deeper into games. Pitch count is pitch count. I was falling behind hitters. I took that into account in those later innings. Mixed in some changeups and curveballs a lot early in the count and we were able to drop those in there and come with the fastball later in the count. Pitched them backwards. I really haven't done that a lot the whole year."
The Honolulu native leads the Midwest League with a 1.93 ERA, 128 strikeouts and 0.87 WHIP. He's walked only 27 batters over 98 innings.
"All that stuff is something else," Cantillo said. "I'm confident in myself and I think my work shows for itself and I'm happy, but there's a lot of things to improve on. I try not to get caught up in that stuff if it gets to my head because I can be so much better."
Sam Keating fanned one in a perfect seventh and fellow right-hander Jose Quezada took the no-hitter into the ninth before allowing a leadoff single to Reyes. He struck out five over the final two frames, nailing down the fourth nine-inning one-hitter in team history.
Cantillo was prepared to celebrate with his teammates had the no-hitter occurred.
2019 MiLB include
"I was listening and I usually don't get to come back out and see the game," he said. "We had those long innings, so I was able to finish my lift and threw on my pants and ran out there. I was excited. I really thought we were doing it. I even told Quezada I was thinking about running out there and picking him up. Unfortunately, we didn't do it but, like I said, Keating, his first time out of the 'pen threw great and Quezada, to punch out five in two innings, obviously he's going to be frustrated with that hit, but he threw great."
Justin Lopez homered, singled and drove in two runs for the TinCaps, while Ethan Skender also had two hits and two RBIs. Dwanya Williams-Sutton contributed a two-run single.
"The guys that have been here the whole year on the offensive side of the ball ... you see it today," Cantillo said. "They are all good hitters and it's good to see them do that. We have a lot of studs on both sides of the ball."