Stormy weather was the only thing able to slow down Stephen Locke on Monday.
The left-handed Angels prospect had a no-hitter going through five innings before rain ended Class A Cedar Rapids' 10-0 rout of Peoria, effectively sealing a brief no-hit performance. It was the third scoreless outing in four starts for Locke.
"I guess the rain kind of cheapens it, but I'm still pretty excited," said Locke. "It's pretty cool."
The 24-year-old, handed a four-run cushion in the first inning, struck out two and walked one, facing 16 batters before the skies opened.
"I wasn't striking people out, and I didn't have my best stuff today," Locke said. "But guys were making good plays behind me."
Locke pointed to a key play in the third inning when, with one out, Charles Thomas crushed a ball to deep left. Kernels left fielder Richard Cates made a leaping catch at the wall to prevent a potential extra-base hit.
"Cates made a good play jumping against the left field wall," Locke said. "I threw a 1-0 changeup and he hit a ball pretty deep, but Cates tracked it back and jumped and caught it against the wall."
A couple innings later, with an Iowa thunderstorm rolling in, Locke realized he may have lost his chance at finishing off the scheduled seven-inning game. The second game of Monday's doubleheader was postponed.
"When the clouds started rolling in, you thought about a rainout," he said. I noticed [the no-hitter] and wanted to get through the last two innings and avoid a rain delay or a cancellation like this. "But otherwise I wasn't really aware of it, I was more worried about keeping guys off."
When the one-hour, 22-minute rain delay finally ended, Locke picked up his fifth win of the year. Most of his family and friends following along from home hadn't even realized the no-hitter was official due to the delay.
"I got a message from couple of friends and my dad wanted to know what was going on," said Locke. "I think they didn't know the game was over, they don't want to jinx it or whatever. [My teammates] kept their distance until it was canceled."
The Tampa, Fla. native has been making progress in his second season in the Minors -- he has not allowed a run in three of his last four outings, including two eight-inning gems against Peoria and Wisconsin. Locke, 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA in eight outings, hasn't allowed a run against the Chiefs in 13 consecutive innings.
"I was moving my fastball in and out, throwing the change when I was ahead and my cutter in to righties," he said. "I wanted to keep them from cheating on my fastball away."
Locke was selected by the Angels out of the University of Florida in the 22nd round of the 2009 Draft and made his Minor League debut last summer with Rookie-level Orem in the Pioneer League, winning six of his 15 appearances (14 starts). He began the 2010 season in extended spring training before moving up to the Midwest League, debuting on May 25 against Peoria.
"I knew it would be a matter of time before I got in a groove," he said. "It's different down there, it's like practice games. You can step up and focus a little more with fans and a real lineup and real team. I've been working on hard, just want to give my team a chance to win."
The Kernels lineup did its part in that regard, scoring four in the first and six more in the fifth. Matt Long and Jeremy Cruz each drove in three runs and Michael Wing hit a two-run homer in the fifth. Cedar Rapids was without its star player, Michael Trout, who played in Sunday's All-Star Futures Game.
"No one was really talking to me about [the no-hit bid], I guess everyone knows not to mess with a guy when he's got a good game," Locke said. "They kept me hot, I was getting stretched out and my arm wrapped up for an hour into the delay. When it hit the hour mark, our pitching coach Brandon Emanuel told me I was done. They didn't want to push it."