Craig Muschko appears to have found a comfort zone in the Daytona Cubs' starting rotation.
Two days shy of his 24th birthday, the converted reliever combined with three former bullpen mates to toss Daytona's first no-hitter in nearly 13 years as the Cubs blanked the Dunedin Blue Jays, 4-0, in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader at Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
"It felt amazing," Muschko said. "Everything was working out good and all the pitchers behind me threw well and the catcher [Mark Reed] called a great game. Everything fell into place."
Muschko, who was selected by Chicago in the 22nd round of the 2007 Draft, worked primarily as a starter in his final season at La Salle University before making 56 relief appearances over the next two years between the Arizona League and Class A Peoria.
The 6-foot-2, 192-pound right-hander made all but four of his first 23 outings this year out of the Cubs' bullpen before joining the rotation on a full-time basis on July 23.
In his last five starts, Muschko has yielded three earned runs over 25 innings while striking out 21. Perhaps most impressively, the Philadelphia native has issued only four walks during that stretch, including one during Saturday's gem.
"I was a starter my whole life. I feel comfortable on that routine," said Muschko. ". I would say not walking batters [has been the key to my success]. I have a really low walk count and I feel like I'm getting ahead [of hitters] and making them put the ball in play."
Muschko retired the first eight batters before issuing a two-out walk to Moises Sierra in the fourth. He got Jesus Gonzalez on a flyout to right field before turning the game over to the bullpen.
Chris Siegfried (1-0) worked around a throwing error by third baseman Marwin Gonzalez in the fifth and Oswaldo Martinez got through the sixth, despite issuing a leadoff walk to Sean Shoffit and uncorking a wild pitch.
In the seventh, David Cales induced three consecutive groundouts, the second of which knocked his glove to the ground before he recovered the ball and threw out Jonathan Jaspe, to cap Daytona's first no-hitter since Kerry Wood and two relievers pitched one against Vero Beach on Aug. 24, 1996.
"It looked like he got a little glove on it, but the ball fell pretty much underneath him," Muschko said of Cales' key play in the seventh.
Cales, who wasn't aware of what he'd done until he reached the dugout, took great pride in finishing off the Minors' second no-hitter in as many days and third this week.
"After the game, they came up and said you threw a no-hitter together," Cales revealed. "I said, 'Oh, really? That's awesome.'
"So much goes through your mind when you get put in line with those great names, like Kerry Wood," he added. "These are only once-in-a-lifetime chances. I can't put into words how good this feels."
Oklahoma City's Luis Mendoza fired a nine-inning no-hitter against on Friday night in the Pacific Coast League and Cory Rasmus tossed a seven-inning gem for Danville of the Appalachian League on Tuesday.
Daytona dropped the nightcap, 3-2.