When you're five games into your professional career, winning an argument with a manager is about as likely as getting a call to the Majors. Not that Kyle Helisek didn't have a valid argument to make on Wednesday night.
Helisek tossed six hitless innings in his third start in the Cardinals' system, striking out two before reaching his pitch count in short-season Batavia's 2-1 loss to Jamestown.
"I knew he wasn't going to let me go three more," Helisek said, referring to Muckdogs skipper Dann Bilardello. "He said I wasn't going to win the argument."
Helisek, the Cardinals' 30th-round pick last month out of Villanova, worked 1-2-3 innings in every frame but the third, when Juancito Martinez reached on first baseman David Washington's error. Helisek and catcher Jonathan Keener took care of that when the lefty picked off the Jammers' lone baserunner and retired the final 10 batters he faced.
For Helisek, a no-hitter came into focus around the sixth. By then, after four outings in which he hadn't gone more than 4 2/3 innings, his night was over.
"I think, to be honest, the sixth, when I got taken out after two times through the order, I'm thinking, 'Three more innings, nine more outs, I can do this,'" Helisek said. "And that's when I got the news I was done."
Helisek, like countless Minor Leaguers before him, took a seat with a no-hitter in progress. He handed the ball to Brandon Creath, who kept the gem intact in the seventh but gave up two hits in the eighth.
"As soon as I came in, Dann Bilardello told me right away," Helisek said. "I mean, I just kinda accepted it. It was early."
Helisek lost what would have been his second victory when Jamestown rallied for a walk-off win against Lee Stoppelman.
Win or not, it was a dominant effort by the Pennsylvania native, who said the deepest he took a no-hitter in college was about the eighth.
"I knew I was on a pitch count, but that's always in the back of your mind," Helisek said. "It's definitely hard to come out of that situation."
The 22-year-old, who pitched four seasons at Villanova, said he fed Jamestown a steady diet of heat after his curveball felt off in the bullpen.
"I threw a ton of fastballs. I knew in my bullpen I didn't love my breaking ball," he said. "I knew I had to keep my fastball low. Every pitch, I moved in and out and kept it low. It worked well for me today."
Only fastballs? Not quite, but in the New York-Penn League, sometimes that's all you need.
"I would say fastballs in and out, locating, and I mixed in a lot of changeups," Helisek said. "Our catcher, Keener, did a good job calling pitches, so that was really helpful."
Helisek's pick-off in the third was a case of Batavia guessing right. He threw to first and Washington fired to shortstop Alex Mejia for the tag.
"To be honest, after I saw my second baseman [Breyvic Valera] catch it, I put my head down and then heard the crowd cheer," Helisek said. "I got two pick-off calls from our catcher, so credit to him. He read that one and we got him, so it was good."
The outing will be another lesson in the Minors, something Helisek said he's adjusting to well since leaving Villanova ranked sixth in school history in innings pitched.
"It's been great, playing out here, and it's nice to go out and have a great defense behind you," he said. "For the most part, we're hitting well, so it's a great feeling. I've been really enjoying it, definitely learned a lot and it's only been a month and a half."
Jamestown trailed until rallying in the ninth. Martinez drew a leadoff walk, Cameron Flynn reached on a bunt and a groundout by Jesus Solorzano moved both runners into scoring position. Matt Juengel followed with a line drive to center field for a walk-off single.