Mets' Tapia spins 5 2/3 hitless frames

Sand Gnats starter fans six, allows one unearned run in win

Domingo Tapia has struck out 29 batters over 32 innings. (Savannah Sand Gnats)

By Ashley Marshall / Special to | May 10, 2012 7:27 PM ET

Mets right-handed prospect Domingo Tapia was in uncharted territory when he came out of the dugout for the sixth inning having still not surrendered a hit.

Ironically, it may have been that wait on the bench while his team batted around that cost the Mets' No. 12 prospect a shot at history.

Tapia did not allow a hit over 5 2/3 innings in the Class A Savannah Sand Gnats' 7-2 win over the host Hickory Crawdads on Thursday. He allowed an unearned run, struck out six batters and walked three.

He also hit a batter and threw a wild pitch, but things could have been much different if he didn't have to watch his team send nine to the plate before he went back to the mound.

"For me, it was just another good outing," Tapia said through manager Luis Rojas. "It was above average. I used mostly my two-seam and four-seam and mixed in my changeup. I have never been involved in a no-hitter before."

Tapia worked around first baseman Brian Harrison's throwing error in the first inning, and he hit Jeremy Williams with two outs in the second before retiring the next nine batters he faced.

Third baseman Dustin Lawley's throwing error allowed Jordan Akins to reach base with two outs in the fifth when Tapia looked likely to record his third consecutive 1-2-3 inning, but he struck out Trever Adams to preserve his no-no bid.

The only blemish on Tapia's ledger came in the sixth frame.

"I was a little bit gassed out," Tapia said. "My pitch count was up to 90 and that was my limit."

Christopher Grayson and Rougned Odor drew walks on both sides of Luis Sardinas' strikeout to put runners on first and second. Hanser Alberto hit into what could have been an around the horn inning-ending double play, but second baseman T.J. Rivera threw away the relay after recording the forceout, allowing Grayson to score Hickory's first run.

Tapia then threw a wild pitch and walked Zachary Cone, bringing an end to his night, despite having the no-no still intact. Marcos Camarena replaced Tapia, and he retired Kellin Deglan on a popup to strand the two inherited runners at the corners.

The Sand Gnats then lost the no-no when Jeremy Williams singled to left field to lead off the seventh against Camerena. "His performance was outstanding," Rojas said of Tapia. "He was pounding the zone and they were aggressive against him because they had seen him before at our home.

"Before the sixth inning, we thought that he would actually go out in the seventh. He was only at 63 pitches. But we scored three runs in the top of the sixth and he was sat down for a good 30 minutes. When he came out, he didn't have the same feel."

The outing lowered his ERA to 3.94 and improved his record to 3-1. Over 32 innings this year, Tapia has allowed 26 hits and seven walks while striking out 29 batters.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Tapia has allowed two runs or fewer in four of his six starts, and he has pitched at least five innings in every game except one. Entering Thursday's contest, he had not walked more than one batter in any of his previous five outings.

"I want to keep working with the grips on my secondary pitches on a daily basis," said Tapia, signed by the Mets as a non-drafted free agent prior to the 20009 season. "My goal right now is to improve my breaking ball, especially my slider. I feel comfortable throwing my changeup and two-seam."

Tapia's one forgettable outing came on April 26 in West Virginia, where he allowed eight runs on eight hits and a walk and failed to make it out of the second.

Last year between short-season Kingsport and Brooklyn, Tapia -- who has hit 99 mph with his power fastball and 89 mph with his changeup -- was 6-5 with a 3.38 ERA with 36 strikeouts and 16 walks in 56 innings.

Rojas said the sky is the limit for the 6-foot-4 hurler, who does not turn 21 until December.

"He can be a starting pitcher in [the Mets] rotation. Throwing at the speed he does with that movement and the development of his secondary pitches, he can go through the lineup three times and not have any problems. When you have the God-given stuff like he has, you can survive at any level.

"Right now, he is in the middle of the process and getting the feel for controlling the tempo of the game and developing his slider. But everything else is on schedule."

On Thursday, first baseman Brian Harrison plated three runs and third baseman Dustin Lawley was 3-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI.

Right-hander Camarena struck out four batters and allowed one unearned run on three hits and a walk over 2 1/3 innings of relief, and Jeffrey Walters pitched a perfect ninth to complete the victory.

Hickory starter Luke Jackson (2-3) gave up five runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out nine batters over 5 2/3 innings in the losing effort.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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