At the beginning of the season, Buddy Borden, playing in his first season in the Rays organization, and No. 9 Tampa Bay prospect Blake Snell were roommates at Class A Advanced Charlotte. A month and a half into the season, they can claim to be the best pair of pitching roommates the Stone Crabs have ever seen. Snell, now with Double-A Montgomery, has started the season with 40 straight scoreless innings, and Borden was on the mound for one of the most interesting games of the young Minor League season.
Buddy Borden threw a seven-inning no-hitter Wednesday to help Class A Advanced Charlotte defeat Clearwater, 5-0, at Bright House Field in a game that also featured a triple play.
Playing in the first game of a doubleheader after Monday's series opener was postponed due to a team-wide Threshers' illness and the second game of Tuesday's twinbill was postponed due to rain, the 23-year-old right-hander walked two and faced only one batter over the minimum.
"It was kind of a weird, messed-up day as far as all that goes," Borden said. "Last night's game got postponed right when I was in the middle of stretching. And then today, you're not necessarily used to getting going that early [for a 10:30 a.m. start]. But after that, it was a pretty normal day."
A "normal day" that included a triple play in the fourth inning.
After Andrew Pullin reached on an error by shortstop Willy Adames and Andrew Knapp walked on four pitches to start the frame, Adames made up for his mistake by snagging a line drive off the bat of Dylan Cozens, stepping on second to get Pullin and then throwing over to first base to get Knapp.
"He picked me up there," Borden said of Adames. "The last thing you want to do is walk guys and put the defense on its heels like I did there. So when he turned that and got us out, it was huge and really awesome to see. It was the first triple play I've ever been a part of, I can say that."
Borden retired each of the nine batters he faced from the fifth inning forward to complete the no-hitter and was met by hugs on the mound from his teammates, who had to turn around and play Game 2 of the twinbill in a matter of minutes. He said the end of the game was "different than just a normal handshake but something really special."
By the Stone Crabs starter's own admission, the Threshers, who rank second in the FSL with a .258 team batting average, played right into Borden's hands on Wednesday.
"It's a really, really good team, hitting-wise, and they were really aggressive today," said Borden, whose heater usually sits in the low-90s. "That meant a lot of early-count fastballs, and I was lucky enough to get a lot of them in play for some soft contact. They didn't take too many deep counts, and that meant I didn't have to use too much offspeed stuff.
"I have the most confidence in my fastball. It's no secret I like to throw it. I think the hardest pitch to hit in baseball is a well-located fastball. I showed some other stuff to keep them from sitting dead-red, but that was mostly it today."
The feat marked the fifth time a no-hitter has been thrown in the Minors this season and the second in Stone Crabs history -- the first coming Aug. 2, 2014, when Snell kept the zeros coming in a rain-shortened, 5 1/3-inning affair. The triple play was the fourth such occurence this season in the Minor Leagues.
A seventh-round pick by the Pirates back in 2013, Borden came to the Rays organization in December when the team announced it had acquired the right-hander as the player-to-be-named later in the deal that sent utilityman Sean Rodriguez to Pittsburgh. He had gone 7-9 with a 3.16 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 122 strikeouts and 48 walks in 128 innings last season at Class A West Virginia.
The former UNLV hurler started his Rays career coming out of the bullpen for Charlotte, making his first six appearances as a reliever. When Snell moved up to Double-A, Borden moved into the rotation, making his first Florida State League start last Wednesday at Jupiter, giving up one run on three hits over five innings as part of a no-decision.
After Wednesday's feat, Borden is 4-1 with a 2.54 ERA, 24 strikeouts and seven walks in eight games (28 1/3 innings) this season. His 0.92 WHIP stands third in the FSL behind only Fort Myers' Chih-Wei Hu (0.79) and St. Lucie's Robert Gsellman (0.86). So far, Borden's transition from the Pirates organization to the Rays has been mostly seamless.
"Obviously, there are a lot of different things, but overall, they have pretty similar philosophies," he said. "Neither is in a spot to sign really big free agents, so they really invest in their Minor League systems and put a big emphasis on developing young talent. For me, it's a new city, new coaches, new coordinators and teammates, but I loved being with the Pirates, and right now I love being with the Rays."
The Stone Crabs' pitching dominance didn't end after Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader. Jordan Harrison (three innings), Kyle McKenzie (three innings) and Brad Schneider (one inning) combined on a seven-inning one-hitter in a 1-0 win during the second contest. Clearwater's lone hit of the day came on a bunt single in the second frame by Aaron Brown, and Charlotte got the game's only run when Phillies top prospect and shortstop J.P. Crawford made a throwing error with two outs in the seventh that allowed Marty Gantt to score from second.
With the two wins Wednesday, the Stone Crabs have won seven straight and improved to 23-10, six games ahead of Bradenton and Palm Beach in the FSL South Division.
"The staff just did a great job of continuing to get weak contact," Borden said. "I mean, the only hit was a push bunt to second. They took what happened in the first game and did a great job of carrying it over. There's something about this team that it just finds ways to win. Today was a great day to be on this team, and I'm really grateful for it."