You'd never know it, but Brandon Moore didn't have a good feel for his fastball on Sunday.
That didn't stop the 23-year-old Mets prospect from hurling the first no-hitter in Brooklyn Cyclones history, though. He gave up three walks and hit a batter while striking out six IronBirds hitters at Aberdeen's Ripken Stadium. The Cyclones won the seven-inning doubleheader opener, 5-0.
Moore (6-2) said Sunday's game was probably the best he's ever thrown "because it was a no-hitter," but added it was far from the easiest.
"My fastball command wasn't really on. So it wasn't really my best in that way," he said. "It was something I had to focus on. I worked through it, though."
Relying on his off-speed pitches, the right-hander got outs in tricky spots.
"My changeup was working really well," Moore said. "I was able to keep it low all game. And my slider was right on too. I could go to that and get strikes whenever I needed to."
Only once did Abeerdeen get a batter to second base. After Moore struck out the first two batters of the second inning, he lost control and plunked Richard D'Oleo. The left fielder managed a stolen base, but Moore closed the door by whiffing Garabez Rosa.
His Brooklyn teammates praised him between innings on the bench, but they didn't talk about the no-hit bid. When he was on his way to the mound in the sixth inning, he realized what was going on.
"It wasn't until right before the sixth that it occurred to me," said Moore. "It just sort of vaguely crossed my mind, and then I pushed it out and just tried to focus on spotting my fastball. Because once I start thinking about it, I always screw it up."
Teammate and fellow 2008 draftee Collin McHugh (7-2, 2.96 ERA) offered a subtle but crucial form of support, Moore said.
"It was very hot. This was my first day game. ...McHugh kept bringing me water -- he was keeping me relaxed."
Having picked up two strikeouts in the sixth, Moore was eager to get back to the mound and finish the game.
"When I'm having quick innings, I'm always more confident," he said. "I always want to just get right back out there and keep throwing."
With temperatures in the upper-80s, though, Moore was happy with the break a Cyclones rally provided him in the top of the seventh. Four hits, a sacrifice bunt, a hit batsman and a throwing error netted Brooklyn three runs in the inning and offered Moore some extra time to cool down.
"It was really, really hot. So I was enjoying every minute I had on the bench. Also, it was great to get the run support, because you never know what can happen in the last inning of a ballgame."
The first two Aberdeen batters in the seventh lofted fly balls to left and right fields respectively, and Moore worked carefully to Steven Bumbry. After fouling off a fastball and working the count full, Bumbry walked. Moore felt he'd been squeezed, though.
"Two of those pitches were sliders on the outside edge. I thought they were strikes -- I thought I struck him out looking, but I just didn't get the call," he said. "I guess maybe I was overthrowing my fastball a little [in that at-bat], but my sliders were right where I wanted them.
"I was a little mad about that, but I was able to get the next guy."
D'Oleo, the next batter, knocked a dribbler to second base to end the game.
Moore, the Mets' 14th round selection in the 2008 Draft, spent most of last season in the Rookie-level Appalachian League with Kingsport and then posted a 9.00 ERA over eight appearances with Brooklyn.
This year, he's shown he's at ease against New York-Penn League competition -- even before Sunday's game, he was in the top 10 in ERA. Most of all, he says he's excited to be a part of this Cyclones team.
"I love playing in Brooklyn. They say it's the closest you can get to playing in the big leagues without playing in the big leagues. I love this. The fans are the greatest, and this is a really close-knit group of guys."
The Cyclones entered Sunday's doubleheader four games ahead of the Staten Island Yankees in the McNamara Division with 16 games left on the Brooklyn schedule, and Moore's biggest focus is a team goal, not a personal one.
"I want to win out," he said. "I want us to win the championship. This team getting a ring -- that's what we all want. That would be the greatest. That's our goal."
Of course, Moore isn't immune to a little personal glory, and he was thrilled to learn that he'll go down in the annals of Brooklyn history as the first Cyclones pitcher to throw a no-hitter.
"I did not know that," he said. "That is awesome."