As Durham Bulls manager John Tamargo walked to the mound in the ninth inning, Jason Hammel put the ball behind his back. Even though he had thrown 125 pitches, the right-hander wanted to finish the game.
Hammel watched from the dugout as Juan Salas got the final two outs to complete a no-hitter Sunday as the Durham Bulls defeated the Columbus Clippers, 4-1, at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
The no-hitter was the second in as many days in the Minor Leagues.
"He came out and said, 'You're at 125 (pitches) and we have to take you out. I told him 'I have at least 25 more,'" Hammel said. "I tried to hold the ball from him and make him fish for it. I really wanted to stay in."
Hammel might have if Columbus (40-51) hadn't put runners on the corners in the ninth. After getting the first out, Hammel hit Russ Johnson. Carlos Pena hit a grounder that skipped under the glove of first baseman Wes Bankston for an error. Right fielder Delmon Young also misplayed the ball for a second error.
Salas came on and threw a wild pitch that allowed Johnson to score. He struck out Mitch Jones and retired Terrence Long on a grounder to short, touching off a celebration.
The no-hitter was the second at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The first was on April 30, 1995, when Tommy Harrison and Earl Nelson combined for a 4-0 victory over the Prince William Cannons. At the time, the Bulls were members of the Class A Advanced Carolina League.
The last International League no-hitter was thrown on May 15, 2005, by Indianapolis' Ian Snell in a 4-0 blanking of Norfolk.
Hammel (4-8), who was 0-1 in two starts for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays earlier this season, struck out six and walked two in 8 1/3 innings to get his first win since May 8. He lowered his ERA to 4.45 before Salas picked up his second save.
The Bulls gave Hammel three runs to work with in the second. B.J. Upton lifted a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded and two runs scored when Columbus starter Jorge De Paula threw away a two-out grounder by Ben Zobrist.
Durham (45-49) added a run in the sixth. Elijah Dukes reached on an error by shortstop Caonabo Cosme, stole second, took third on a groundout and scored on Brent Butler's single.
"I caught myself a couple of times looking up at the box, just to realize what was going on," Hammel said, referring to the zero on the scoreboard where the number of hits was displayed. "I told myself to just keep going, one at a time. That's the golden rule."
Hammel credited his teammates with making several outstanding defensive plays behind him. Upton made a diving stop at third base in the third and came up throwing to nail Bronson Sardinha at first. Dukes also came up with two plays on which he had to charge in on fly balls in left field.
Dukes was charged with an error in the eighth on a fly ball off Sardinha's bat.
"Everyone had a hand in it," Hammel said.
Hammel most of all. His fastball touched 95 mph and his change-up was working. The curveball he has been working on with pitching coach Joe Coleman had the kind of bite he's been searching for since May.
"That ninth inning, I went out and the crowd was on their feet. Everybody was real loud and I was getting chills," Hammel said. "After we got that final out, I was flying onto the field. This is something pitchers look for all the time and it's so elusive, but we did it today."
The Nashville Sounds did it on Saturday night, when Carlos Villanueva, Mike Meyers and Alec Zumwalt combined on a no-hitter in a 2-0 whitewash of the Memphis Sounds.
Tim Leonard is a contributor to MLB.com.