Kyle Hart watched from the dugout as Daniel McGrath continued Double-A Portland's gem. At that point, the starter glanced at the scoreboard, then realized his team was closing in on a no-hitter. Three Red Sox pitching prospects -- Hart, McGrath and Adam Lau -- combined to hold the Binghamton Rumble Ponies
Kyle Hart watched from the dugout as Daniel McGrath continued Double-A Portland's gem. At that point, the starter glanced at the scoreboard, then realized his team was closing in on a no-hitter.
Three Red Sox pitching prospects -- Hart, McGrath and Adam Lau -- combined to hold the Binghamton Rumble Ponies hitless en route to visiting Sea Dogs' 2-0 win Thursday at NYSEG Stadium.
"Honestly, I kind of got lost in my head. ... I knew I walked a guy or two, I knew I had a couple of sloppy at-bats there, so it wasn't really on my radar until I saw the box numbers with McGrath [on the mound]," Hart said. "When he got out of that inning, I kind of perked up.
"To do it as a team is always really cool because it's so rare to do it on your own, especially this early in the season. ... It almost makes it more fun. I've never even come close in a nine-inning outing. You always get those rain-shortened ones or doubleheaders, but that doesn't even feel real. It's better with the combined teamwork involved. ... Doesn't happen every day, does it?"
Hart (1-3) was the catalyst behind the effort. He struck out six and walked one over 6 2/3 frames. The left-hander also hit Mets No. 2 prospectAndrés Giménez twice. After the plunking in the first inning, Hart combined with third-ranked Red Sox prospectBobby Dalbec to catch MLB.com's No. 55 overall prospect stealing at third base for the final out of the frame.
Gameday box score
"He just had a really quality four-pitch mix and exploited them," Portland pitching coach Paul Abbott said. "They had six lefties in the lineup and [he] exploited the matchups really well. Commanded his fastball really well, commanded the top of the zone really well, lived on the edges and he was able to tunnel his slider off of that."
The 26-year-old cruised by relying on his breaking pitch to keep the Rumble Ponies off balance, retiring 11 in a row after hitting Gimenez the first time. Hart issued his lone free pass of the outing to 16th-ranked Will Toffey with one out in the fifth. The University of Indiana product gave plenty credit to catcher Jhon Nunez for keeping him and the rest of the staff on track.
"I would say probably after the third or fourth inning, I realized that our plan was kind of working and to do my best not to stray from it," Hart said. "Ultimately, probably threw a few too many pitches there in the fifth, sixth, seventh innings before being pulled earlier than I wanted."
Hart hit Gimenez for the second time to lead off the seventh. The 19th-round Draft pick in 2016 recorded two more outs before giving way to McGrath, who retired all four hitters he faced to send the no-hit bid to the ninth.
"I didn't see any stress or any concern out of [McGrath and Lau] at all," Abbott said. "They stayed aggressive and stayed to their strengths."
In the ninth, Lau immediately made a stop up the middle off the bat of Braxton Lee for the first out of the inning. By that juncture, Hart was fully enveloped in the action. In fact, he practically hopped back on the mound himself.
"You almost want to call the pitches for him," he said. "You're like, 'I feel like I know what's going to get these guys out right now.' For him to come out in the ninth and watch him dominate and make every pitch he needed to make was fun to watch."
Lau didn't need much help. Toffey followed with a walk against the right-hander, but he struck out Gimenez and got Michael Paez to fly out to shallow right field for the final out, which set off a subdued celebration behind the pitcher's mound.
The 24-year-old's save was the best he's looked, according to his pitching coach. His fastball had life up in the zone.
"He didn't pitch defensively, to save [the no-hitter]," Abbott said. "He pitched to get it."
Abbott is no stranger to no-hitters. He threw a seven-inning no-no in 1988 for the Visalia Oaks, then the Twins' Class A affiliate. The 51-year-old completed 10 hitless frames later in his Minor League career, he said, only to be saddled with a no-decision. Pitching for the Mariners on Sept. 3, 2000 -- a game in which Rickey Henderson led off and Alex Rodriguez hit cleanup and his 33rd homer of the season -- Abbott took a no-hitter into the eighth against the Red Sox.
Joe Oliver was behind the plate that day. Oliver is now the Portland manager.
Thursday marked the fourth no-hitter in team history -- and first nine-inning no-no since Aug. 13, 2001 when Josh Beckett, Brandon Bowe and Aaron Scheffer completed the milestone -- and the second one Portland has celebrated in Binghamton's ballpark. Henry Owens tossed a six-inning no-hitter on April 3, 2014.
The Eastern League has become a hotbed for no-hitters through the first three weeks of the season. Of the five no-hitters in the Minors this year, three have occurred on the circuit, with Erie's Alex Faedo and Drew Carltonachieving the milestone Wednesday.
Luke Tendler drove in both runs for the Sea Dogs. He plated Dalbec twice, with an RBI single in the seventh and a sacrifice fly in the ninth.
Chris Bumbaca is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @BOOMbaca.