Knights' Rienzo fans 11 in no-hitter
You might as well start calling Chicago White Sox pitching prospect Andre Rienzo "Santa Claus."
On the day Triple-A Charlotte hosted its "Christmas in July" promotion, it was Rienzo who sent fans home with a gift they will remember for years.
The Knights right-hander struck out a career-high 11 batters while no-hitting the visiting Indianapolis Indians in the first game of Thursday's doubleheader.
"I looked up at the scoreboard a couple times and saw 'Christmas' and I said, "What's going on?" Then I figured it out," Rienzo said. "I didn't know about this.
"I will remember today forever, for sure, man. It doesn't happen every day. This will be with me forever. A no-hitter? It's a great feeling."
It was Charlotte's first no-no since Carlos Torres threw a five-inning perfect game against the Pawtucket Red Sox on June 18, 2009. The last nine-inning no-hitter by a Knights pitcher was by Tetsu Yofu on Aug. 1, 2004 against Durham.
The Brazilian product issued four walks, uncorked one wild pitch and threw 69 of 112 pitches for strikes. It represented the sixth time in 20 starts that Rienzo -- Chicago's No. 10 prospect -- threw 100 or more pitches, but the first time he surpassed 110.
His gem, which took just one hour and 40 minutes, marked his seventh career complete game and fourth shutout.
"I threw a curveball, a changeup, a fastball and a cutter," Rienzo said. "My cutter helped me a lot, behind in the count, to start an inning or to start a batter. I started the first inning with a walk, then I made an adjustment.
"[Catcher] Bryan Anderson called a good game and the defense played a good game. [The no-hitter] doesn't happen if I don't have my defense behind me. This isn't about me, it's about the defense and Bryan Anderson."
While his no-hitter might not have been predicted, the signs have been there for the past month that he's in perfect midseason form.
Rienzo has a 1.64 ERA in his past 10 starts, and he entered Thursday's tilt having gone eight or more innings in two of his previous three contests, all with Anderson behind the plate.
He did not allow any Indians batter to reach third base, and only two of them successfully made it to second -- one on a walk and wild pitch in the third inning, the other on consecutive errors in the sixth.
He fanned two batters in the second, fourth and sixth innings and one each in the third and fifth. Finishing with a flourish, Rienzo struck out the side -- all swinging -- in the seventh to complete his no-no.
"I know I had 11 strikeouts, but I was trying to get them to hit it so I could stay longer on the mound. I was trying to get ground balls. Shortstop, second base, first base, there was not just one guy [who made plays defensively], they all did great.
"Honestly, before last year or two years ago, I loved to strike out guys and I tried to do it all the time. But I've learned more about pitching. Strikeouts are good, but too many strikeouts take you off the mound. You get ahead 0-2 and you throw a curveball in the dirt and they don't swing, it's a ball. If you throw another ball in the dirt and they don't swing again, then it's two balls."
Signed by the White Sox as a free agent on Nov. 17, 2006, Rienzo is in his seventh year of pro ball. The 6-foot-3 farmhand is 37-26 with a lifetime 3.50 ERA, but 2013 represents his first full year at Triple-A.
On Thursday, Charlotte first baseman Mike McDade was 3-for-3 and scored the game's only run on a single by Andy Wilkins.
Indianapolis starter Stolmy Pimentel (2-3) allowed one run on six hits while striking out three batters over six innings in the complete-game loss.
Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB.