Jeanmar Gomez stepped off the mound Thursday afternoon and tried to block out what over 6,000 people were collectively thinking and whispering about.
"I really tried not to think about it," said Gomez. "Thank God that everything worked out."
Gomez threw the first perfect game in Akron history, striking out eight for his fourth win as the Aeros blanked the Trenton Thunder, 3-0, in Trenton.
Gomez (4-0) lowered his ERA to 0.31 with the effort, the first perfect game in Minor League Baseball since Guillermo Moscoso spun one for Class A Short-Season Oneonta on July 15, 2007.
Gomez, a 6-foot-4 Indians prospect, battled emotions, nerves and a determined Trenton lineup in front of 6,344 fans. It was the first nine-inning perfect game in Waterfront Park history and the first-ever perfect game the Thunder were ever involved in.
"I didn't want my emotions to take over," Gomez said through a translator, Aeros pitching coach Ruben Niebla. "I was nervous with one out to go, so I had to step back and take a deep breath."
Gomez was mobbed in the middle of the infield by his teamates after he got Justin Snyder to fly out to left to end the ninth inning.
"It was such an unbelievable thing," said Aeros catcher Damaso Espino. "Everyone was jumping on top of each other screaming and [Gomez] is at the bottom of the pile with tears in his eyes, loving every minute of it."
Gomez was pretty happy with his performance before the huge pile of purple jerseys swamped him after the ninth.
"I felt good out there, and had good command of all my pitches," said Gomez, the first Akron pitcher to toss a no-hitter since Chad Durbin and Oscar Alvarez combined to do it in 2003.
Gomez, a 21-year-old right-hander, admitted he thought the perfect game was lost in the ninth when leadoff man Kevin Smith blooped a pitch to left.
"Right off the bat, I was sure it was going to fall in," he said.
Akron left fielder Matt McBride, however, came up with a game-saving diving catch to rob Smith and keep the no-hitter intact.
"He came in out of nowhere and caught it," said Gomez. "That was exciting, but I had to be sure to stay in control of my emotions."
The Caracas, Venezuela native held himself together for two more outs to seal the perfecto. Jose Gil struck out swinging for the second out, his eighth strikeout of the afternoon.
Niebla said the Aeros were steering clear of their starter once the no-hitter came into focus.
"Around the sixth inning or so, I started to notice guys gravitating away from him (as is customary in baseball superstition)," Niebla said. "After the fifth, I even started leaving him alone, not saying a word and just giving him a fist bump after each inning."
Gomez's slider got stronger as the game progressed, one of the reasons behind his eight strikeouts.
"In the early going, I didn't have a good slider, but it got better and better as the game went on and became a weapon," said Gomez. "And I am very thankful that my teammates made a lot of great plays."
His teammates also provided just enough support at the plate as a third-inning error, Carlos Santana's sacrifice and Carlos Rivero's RBI single game him plenty of cushion.
"He had great command of the fastball, and was getting a lot of swings and misses as the game went on," said Niebla. "He got a lot of first-pitch strikes, and put hitters on the defensive. That's a good combo, when you have command and the hitters keep swinging and missing."
Gomez has clearly found the right combos lately -- he struck out eight and allowed four hits over eight shutout innings in his previous start, a win over Altoona on May 14. The righty has not allowed an earned run in his last 24 innings over three starts for Akron.
Gomez mastered Trenton on Thursday without overextending himself too.
"Going into the ninth inning he had only thrown 87 pitches, so we knew he was going to get a shot," said Niebla. "I was nervous from the sixth inning on, but I kept my composure."
It was the most strikeouts for Gomez since he fanned nine over five innings in his season debut on April 10, 2008 against Frederick. The outing was perhaps his best effort since he held Class A Hickory to one hit over seven frames on May 1, 2007 for Lake County.
Gomez's numbers -- and perfect game -- will open plenty of eyes in Cleveland. He signed with the Tribe as an undrafted free agent on April 4, 2005 and has worked his way up from the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League to Double-A in five seasons.
He led Class A Lake County with 11 wins and 140 2/3 innings pitched in 2007 before going 5-9 with a 4.55 ERA in 27 starts for Class A Advanced Kinston last year.