Taylor Cole has been virtually unhittable this year in the short-season Northwest League. On Thursday he was literally unhittable.
The Vancouver right-hander tossed 7 2/3 no-hit innings before being pulled for a reliever en route to the Canadians' 7-1 victory over the Yakima Bears.
The no-no was broken up in the ninth inning when Wagner Mateo led off with a double off reliever Griffin Murphy, who had recorded the last out of the eighth.
Until that point, Cole (6-0) had baffled the Yakima lineup, striking out six in his longest outing of the season. The 23-year-old Brigham Young University product has allowed just two hits in his last 19 1/3 innings, spanning his last three starts.
"Tonight, our game plan going in ... he and I sat and talked about doing whatever it takes to put up zeros," said Vancouver pitching coach Jim Czajkowski. "We've talked all year long about making one quality pitch at a time, don't get ahead of the game. He was phenomenal.
"We let him go as long as we could, he wound up right at 95 pitches, and that was plenty. We had scored a couple of runs, made it OK to bring in the other guy. Unfortunately [he] gave up a hit the next inning. The win was the factor for us."
Over his last four outings, a 25 1/3-inning stretch, Cole has allowed just one run. Outside of a four-run outing on Aug. 10, it's the only one he's allowed for Vancouver this season. The Las Vegas native racked up a 24-inning scoreless streak through his first five starts of the year.
A 29th-round pick in the 2011 Draft by the Blue Jays, Cole went 1-3 with a 5.88 ERA, striking out 25 and walking 17, in 33 2/3 innings in his debut last year with the Canadians.
In his second go-round with the team, though, he's been utterly dominant. Cole boasts an 0.81 ERA in 66 1/3 innings with 57 strikeouts and 17 walks. He leads the league in ERA by over half a run, with teammate Javier Avendano second on the leaderboard with a 1.23 ERA.
Cole also leads the league in WHIP with an 0.80 mark, and he hasn't allowed a single home run yet this season. His six wins have him tied for sixth with Everett's Victor Sanchez.
On Thursday, Cole took a perfect game into the sixth, retiring the first 16 batters he faced before Mateo reached on a throwing error by catcher Tucker Frawley. But Frawley then threw him out at second on a steal attempt.
Offensively, he was backed by Art Charles, who hit his seventh home run for the Canadians. Charles also doubled and plated two runs. Left fielder Matt Newman went 3-for-4 with two triples, three runs scored and an RBI while shortstop Jorge Flores went 2-for-4 and added another pair of RBIs.
The win helped Vancouver stave off elimination in the Northwest League West Division second-half race as Eugene beat Spokane, 4-3, to lower its magic number to one.
"He's pitched extremely well," Czajkowski said of Cole. "He did whatever he had to do to keep them off the bases [tonight]. It's nice to get a performance like that in the big-time situation we're in."