For White Sox pitching prospect and former math teacher Terry Doyle, Thursday was all about the numbers. Zero hits. Eight innings. Three outs away from history.
But Doyle, who took a no-hitter in the eighth inning against Durham on Memorial Day, saw his most recent bid for history end this time in the ninth. Behind a season-high 115 pitches, it was a matter of subtraction by addition.
Doyle allowed one run on one hit -- Audy Ciriaco's ninth-inning double -- and three walks while striking out nine batters over 8 1/3 innings in the Triple-A Knights' 6-1 victory over the Mud Hens. He threw 71 pitches for strikes and hit one batter.
"I felt pretty good. I wish I could have got through the ninth inning, but I can't complain about going 8 1/3 innings and giving up one hit," he said.
"It was a little disappointing, but I was really happy with my start. A no-hitter is so rare you can't be that disappointed if you don't get it."
The Boston College alum was vying to become the first Knight to toss a no-no in almost eight years since Tetsu Yofu blanked Durham, 5-0, on Aug. 1 2004. But three outs away from a place in the record books, Toledo's No. 8 hitter Ciriaco lined a 1-2 pitch into left field to break up his bid.
The outing gave Doyle his fifth consecutive victory -- four of which have come on the road -- and lowered his ERA from 3.04 to 2.83.
"Everything was working pretty good. My curveball, my slider, my changeup, I was moving all three of them in and out. But there really were not that many similarities [with Durham] today. I felt a lot better and I felt like I was more in control. Last time I felt like I was more lucky."
The 6-foot-4 hurler set the side in order in the first inning and he used a double play to erase Brad Eldred's leadoff walk in the second.
After a perfect third inning, Doyle walked Ben Guez with two outs in the fourth, but the right-hander struck out Eldred to maintain the shutout.
Doyle walked Rob Brantly to begin the fifth frame -- his third walk of the night -- but the right-hander retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced, including Justin Henry who hit a comebacker off Doyle in the sixth.
Batting with two outs in the sixth inning, Henry laced a ball that appeared destined to end up in center field. But Doyle knocked the ball down, composed himself and threw on to first base to keep the no-hitter intact.
"I fell behind 2-0 and threw two fastball for strikes," said Doyle, selected by the White Sox in the 37th round of the 2008 Draft. "I tried to triple up and throw another one away, but it got hammered. It hit me right in the palm and I saw it bounce down and I was able to get the out. If it hadn't hit my glove, or if it was on the right side, it was in center field."
There was nothing Doyle, or anybody else, could do about Toledo's first hit.
"I got ahead of Ciriaco 0-2 and threw a curveball in the dirt that he almost swung at," he said of the ninth-inning two-bagger. "I went to the same pitch again, but left it a little too up in the zone."
Ciriaco's double broke up the no-no and gave the Mud Hens their first runner in scoring position. Austin Jackson moved Ciriaco over to third base on a groundout, promting manager Joel Skinner to summon Anthony Carter from the bullpen.
Following batter Justin Henry broke up the shutout with an infield single, but Guez grounded into a double play to end the game. The last time Toledo were no-hit came back in 1977.
Doyle hopes his performance moved him one step closer to Chicago.
"I hope so," said Doyle, who has worked in a high school in Massachusetts over the last few offseasons. "Every time I play I'm trying to force someone make a decision. Hopefully the last couple starts have put me in a good spot. Now I just need the timing to work out.
"It's a combination of playing well and being in the right situation. Growing up, since I was four years old being a Major Leaguer baseball player has been my life goal No. 1. With Pawtucket being so close to where I live, the students realize that I'm close to being a big leaguer now."