Tyler Cloyd has pitched in the Majors each of the past two seasons, but his greatest professional achievement to date might have been accomplished in the highest tier of the Minors on Wednesday.
The Cleveland farmhand came within one hit batsman of pitching the second perfect game in Columbus history as the Triple-A Clippers no-hit the visiting Louisville Bats, 13-0, at Huntington Park.
"This one will be in my book for a while," Cloyd said. "We'll celebrate tonight and take it a little bit into tomorrow, but realize we have a job that still has to be done and we have to move on from here.
"I tried not to think about [the perfect game] too much. It started to take effect probably in the sixth or seventh. Looking at the scoreboard you start thinking about it, you try not to. I knew I just had to go out there and do what I always do. I've done it many times, my pitches were working, so just throw a quality pitch and let them get themselves out and these guys made some great plays behind me."
It was the second no-hitter in the International League this season. Durham's Mike Montgomery and Brad Boxberger blanked Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 5-0, on April 26. There have been five perfect games on the circuit. Columbus' Justin Germano accomplished the feat for the Clippers on July 26, 2011, the last time it was done.
Selected by the Phillies in the 18th round of the 2008 Draft out of Bellevue East High School in Bellevue, Nebraska, Cloyd struck out six batters -- five swinging -- induced 10 ground-ball outs and six through the air. The other four outs came via popups (two) and lineouts (two).
Cloyd faced the minimum 27 batters and needed just 89 pitches to complete his nine-inning no-hitter. The only batter to reach base against Cloyd was second baseman Donnie Murphy, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the ninth. But Tucker Barnhart hit into a double play and Hernan Iribarren lined out to second base to seal the no-no.
"It's going to happen," Cloyd said of hitting Murphy. "Obviously I wish it didn't. You have to calm yourself down and take a little moment off the mound and realize there's still a job that has to be done. Three outs that I have to be getting for us to lock up the win."
Columbus catcher Luke Carlin said the ball clipped Murphy on the wrist, right above the bat knob. Carlin said he set up inside and Cloyd just missed his spot. He also admitted Murphy was leaning over the plate a little, but wasn't looking to get hit by the pitch.
"It was very exciting to watch," Columbus skipper Chris Tremie said. "From the beginning of the game, he was throwing the ball very well, and as the game progressed, he was a pleasure to watch. He did a great job moving the ball in and out and keeping it down. He was very effective.
"Obviously it was a little bit disappointing that the ball ran up and in [to hit Murphy]. But he did a great job getting the ground ball on the next batter. Outstanding. A great-pitched game. ... It was pretty special to watch."
Tyler Cloyd improved to 9-5 in the International League with Wednesday's victory. (Joe Santry/Columbus Clippers)
Few balls were hit hard against the 6-foot-3 right-hander, but his defense did come up with a couple big plays to preserve his gem, the most important of which was made by third baseman Giovanny Urshela in the eighth.
With one out, Thomas Neal lined a ball that looked destined for extra bases down the left-field line. But Urshela made a diving backhand play to snare the would-be hit and threw Neal out at first base with time to spare.
"We've got great guys out there on defense and they did what they do best and they played 'D' behind me really well," Cloyd said. "Urshela's play pumped me up. You know they're behind you every day, but that showed me they were more behind me tonight and that helped out tremendously."
The 27-year-old worked quickly on the mound, but his own teammates conceivably could have iced him when they batted around in a five-run eighth. Cloyd was on the bench for almost 30 minutes while his team padded the lead.
In 22 International League games this year -- including 21 starts -- Cloyd, claimed off waivers by the Indians on Oct. 2, 2013 and re-signed two months later, is 9-5 with a season-low 3.91 ERA. He's struck out 92 batters over 132 2/3 innings and issued 24 walks.
"Tyler was stoic the whole time," Carlin said. "His discipline and focus was awesome. ... It was no surprise he did what he did. Gosh, it was so close.
"He has been throwing the ball really well his last few starts. Today he hit my glove every time and he did a great job commanding all his pitches. He threw a four-seamer, sinker, cutter, curveball and changeup. And if you look at the defensive plays made behind Tyler, they were perfect. The defense was on."
Cloyd, who pitched past the seventh for just the third time this season, had two previous complete games this year. He scattered four hits over five innings in a rain-shortened complete-game shutout against Gwinnett on June 5. He previously went the distance, allowing three runs on seven hits over nine innings in the Clippers' 19-3 rout of the Bats on May 31.
Columbus first baseman Jesus Aguilar smacked a homer, a double and plated four runs. Urshela added a two-run homer and catcher Luke Carlin contributed a solo shot, his third of the year.
Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB.