There may have been a zero under the St. Lucie Mets' hits column at Joker Marchant Stadium on Saturday night, but it was a struggle from start to finish for Rick Porcello.
Porcello combined with two relievers on a seven-inning no-hitter as the Lakeland Flying Tigers defeated the Mets, 4-1, to earn a split of their doubleheader.
The 19-year-old right-hander, who wasn't born the last time the Flying Tigers pitched a seven-inning no-hitter, walked two, struck out one and gave up a run in his 19th professional start.
"Throughout the game, my legs were getting out a little quick," he said. "It was a battle to keep the ball down. For giving up no hits, I felt like I was battling throughout the
The battle began immediately as Porcello started the game by walking Ezequiel Carrera, who moved up on a groundout and stole third. After Lucas Duda also walked, Victor Mendez lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.
"I was definitely struggling to find myself," said Porcello, who was selected by Detroit with the 27th overall pick in the 2007 Draft. "I was going after it a little too quick, trying to blow it by guys. Our pitching coach, Joe Coleman, told me to slow everything down."
Porcello said he continued to "fight [himself] to throw strikes" but retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced. The only baserunner during that stretch was Peeter Ramos, who reached on third baseman Michael Bertram's throwing error leading off the third.
Despite pitching 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and fifth, Porcello turned the ball over to Robbie Weinhardt.
"He didn't have his best stuff tonight. He was fighting himself to get ahead and throw strikes," Flying Tigers manager Andy Barkett said. "This is a learning process, this is about player development as well as winning. ... He'd given us five good innings, he needed to get out and learn what he was doing right and what he was doing wrong."
Weinhardt, a 2008 10th-round pick, struck out two and pitched around another error in the sixth to preserve the no-hitter.
"As I stepped on the mound, I looked at the scoreboard. That's when I realized we had no hits allowed," said the Oklahoma State product, who has not given up an earned run over 17 innings in the Gulf Coast and Florida State leagues.
The no-hitter, he added, did not alter his approach as he tried to protect a three-run lead.
"The mentality of just throwing strikes and getting outs is there," Weinhardt said. "You just want to come in and get guys out as quick as you can."
Cody Satterwhite finished off the gem. After retiring Josh Thole on a groundout, he walked D.J. Wabick, then struck out Jason Jacobs and got Luis Rivera to line out to first base.
There was surprisingly little celebration on the field after the Flying Tigers' first no-hitter since April 14, 1989 and first seven-inning masterpiece since Duane James beat Daytona Beach on July 18, 1984.
"I really wasn't even thinking about the no hits, I was more concerned about us winning the game," Porcello said. "That was more on my mind than anything else."
That attitude is a direct reflection of his manager's philosophy.
"Our focus as a team is to beat the opponent," Barkett said. "No-hitters are great and three-run homers are great, too. But we [tell the players], 'Put together the best possible game, then you look at the scoreboard at the end of the game.'"
That said, Barkett is as impressed as anyone by Porcello, who has won his last three starts, is unbeaten since June 1 and ranks fourth in the FSL with a 2.91 ERA -- all in his first season as a professional.
"To be 19 years old and be doing what he's doing in this league is incredible," Barkett said. "He's a special kid, a special talent. He's learned how to pitch to win, and that's what you look for in the big leagues.
"His stuff will develop. He's ahead of schedule in terms of his development. ... If you can get that out of the way with the stuff he has, you have something special on your hands."