Osbek Castillo and Hector Ambriz have become a formidable duo for the Missoula Osprey.
Five days after combining for a team record-tying 17 strikeouts, Castillo and Ambriz partnered on the Pioneer League's first no-hitter of the season Sunday as the Osprey blanked the Casper Rockies, 5-0, at Mike Lansing Field.
Castillo (4-0) issued a two-out walk to Austin Rauch in the first inning, then retired the last 16 batters he faced. He tied a league record by recording eight consecutive strikeouts, a streak that ended when Radames Nazario flied out to right field leading off the sixth.
Castillo, a 25-year-old right-hander who won a gold medal with Cuba at the 2004 Olympics, fanned 11, giving him a two-game total of 23. On Tuesday, he allowed only an infield hit over six innings in a 3-0 whitewash of Great Falls.
"That could have gone for an error," noted Osprey pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. "Today, he only threw 67 pitches. In terms of pitch count, he wasn't done. But we've got orders to follow. Ambriz is to pitch the same day Castillo pitches, and we want to get him 45 pitches."
While Castillo uses a curveball and a change-up to set up his fastball, Ambriz is a power pitcher who routinely hits 95 mph on the radar gun.
"He makes hitters look silly with his curve and change, and I come in with my fastball," Ambriz said. "I like to challenge hitters. I threw my fastball for strikes (today) and mostly, I just let the defense work behind me."
Missoula's defense didn't have a whole lot of work as the Rockies hit just two balls out of the infield.
"It's obviously a pitching coach's dream when you get to throw those two guys out there," Stottlemyre said. "It is so unique. You throw a guy in there who's basically an offspeed pitcher. He never lets hitters sit on one particular pitch. Then you have a power pitcher, with a power slider, who goes at hitters in a little different fashion. It makes it tough on hitters, especially in this league."
Ambriz set down the first six batters he faced before Nazario reached on third baseman Andrew Fie's throwing error to begin the ninth. Unfazed, the 22-year-old right-hander struck out Derek Kinzler and got Maruis Loupadiere to bounce into a game-ending double play.
Asked if he felt any added pressure coming in to a no-hitter, Ambriz said, "When you look at the scoreboard, you see all those zeros, there's always a lot of pressure."
The no-hitter was the first in the Pioneer League since Aug. 5, 2005, when Simon Beresford and three Helena Brewers relievers defeated the Billings Mustangs, 11-0.
Since moving into the starting rotation at the end of July, Castillo is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 26 innings.
"Should he not be here? Yeah," Stottlemyre said of the 33rd-round pick in this year's draft. "He's pitched his way out of this league. But we didn't know what we would get. He was kind of a sight unseen guy. He's going to have the opportunity next year to come into Spring Training and make a club at a much higher level."
Ambriz, who notched his second save, lowered his ERA to 1.53. He's unscored upon in his last four appearances, a span of 11 2/3 innings.
"Ambriz is someone the organization thinks very highly of," Stottlemyre said. "He'll have an opportunity over a full season to show what he can do at a higher level."
Missoula (14-8) opened the scoring in the fourth as Shea McFeely drew a one-out walk, stole second and come home on John Hester's single to left field.
The Osprey added some insurance in the seventh on RBI singles by David Christensen, Gerardo Parra and McFeely, who went 2-for-4.
Starter Yull Silano (3-5) was the hard-luck loser for the Rockies (7-14). He gave up one run on four hits in six innings with two walks and six strikeouts.
Daren Smith is a staff writer for MLB.com.