Lyons tosses first Palm Beach no-no
The 23-year-old threw the Cardinals' first no-hitter in the nine-year history of the Class A Advanced franchise, facing just one batter over the minimum in a seven-inning 10-0 shutout of the Fort Myers Miracle to salvage a split of Monday's doubleheader.
"I probably didn't notice it until the fifth inning, kind of where the game got to the halfway point," the St. Louis lefty pitching prospect said. "I realized that with it being a seven-inning game with only six outs left it could happen. Nobody said anything to me about it during the game, but I heard a few of them say after that they had been talking to each other about it.
"After Little League ball I can't remember ever having [a no-hitter]. I didn't have one in high school or college, so this is a first."
But Lyons (6-3) isn't the first Cardinals pitcher to throw at least seven no-hit frames this season. Joe Kelly, who is currently pitching for Double-A Springfield, took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in back-to-back starts against Brevard County on May 24 and Dunedin on May 31. Arquimedes Nieto also took his no-hit bid into the eighth on July 23.
On Monday, Lyons was able to finish what he started. He retired the first 11 batters he faced at Roger Dean Stadium before walking Angel Morales with two outs in the fourth inning to break up his perfect-game bid. He struck out a career-high eight batters and lowered his Florida State League ERA to 4.20.
"I would like to have that one back," Lyons said. "I didn't think much of it at the time, I was more annoyed at the two-out walk. Me and my catcher [Robert] Stock were on the same page all night and we were mixing things up and keeping them at bay."
The Oklahoma State product got Oswaldo Arcia to fly out to center field to strand Morales on first and he was perfect the rest of the way, setting down the side in order in each of the final three innings.
"[Oswaldo] Arcia caught me by surprise," Lyons said of the final out that sealed his place in history. "It was the first pitch to the last hitter and he came out swinging. When I saw [shortstop Ted] Obregon come in and get the ball, I didn't know what to think. Then my teammates all bombarded me on the mound. It all happened so fast.
"This game has to be right up there. It's the only one where I haven't given up a hit. I had some good games in college, but this is the best of them."
Selected in the ninth round of the 2010 Draft, Lyons chose not to pitch last year. He started his professional career out of the bullpen at the start of this season before moving into the rotation in June.
The transition has been relatively straightforward for the left-hander, although he admits he is still growing into his new role. He has won his last four decisions and is 4-1 with a 3.86 ERA since moving from the 'pen.
"I had tendinitis and elbow soreness in the latter half of my college season last year and I was in no hurry to sign. I knew I needed time off and I wanted to rehab," he said.
"We worked into it slowly and I'm fine with it now. My last few outings in the bullpen were maybe three innings each and then my first start was four innings, so we built up to it. I was more of a starter than a reliever in college, so I'm pretty comfortable with it."
The Texas native, who made 21 relief appearances before moving into a starting role, allowed four runs on eight hits in a 10-4 win over the Charlotte Stone Crabs in his last start Aug. 3, and he surrendered five runs on seven hits and two walks while fanning four in a 6-5 win over the Lakeland Flying Tigers on July 28. On Monday, the difference was his command.
"I've had some ups and downs, but I'm trying to find my rhythm and finish strong. This outing was all about location. Against [Charlotte and Lakeland], I threw everything for strikes, but not quality strikes. Tonight, I was to pitch at the knees on both sides of the plate and I wasn't missing over the middle of the plate.
"I threw a two-seam, four-seam, change-up and curve and they were all working. I could throw them all for strikes and pitch the hitter differently every time. That is what made me effective."
Lyons' complete game marked the third time a Cardinals pitcher has gone the distance this season.
Left-hander John Gast allowed a run on six hits in the Cardinals' 5-1 win over the Brevard County Manatees on May 22, and Eric Fornataro yielded one run on three hits and a walk in a seven-inning 5-1 victory over the Jupiter Hammerheads on June 27.
Palm Beach had been the victims of a no-hitter twice before. Andrew Miller, Peter Andrelczyk and Corey Madden combined on the league's last no-hitter in a 4-0 win on May 6 last year and Daytona's Carmen Pignatiello and Jared Blasdell no-hit the Cardinals on July 18, 2003.
In the first half of Monday's twinbill, Oswaldo Arcia smacked a grand slam to help the Miracle to a 7-2 victory.
Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com.