TinCaps' Cantillo flirts with history

Padres No. 30 prospect carries no-hit bid into seventh, whiffs nine

Joey Cantillo had never pitched more than six innings in a start before Wednesday's outing. (Fort Wayne TinCaps)

By Andrew Battifarano / MiLB.com | June 26, 2019 4:30 PM

In what's already been an impressive first full year as a professional, Joey Cantillo has raised his game in June. On Wednesday, he took it even further with the best start of his career.

The No. 30 Padres prospect carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, eventually allowing two hits with nine strikeouts over a career-best eight scoreless innings, leading Class A Fort Wayne to a 9-1 victory over South Bend at Parkview Field. It was his sixth scoreless start with the TinCaps this season. 

Video: Cantillo gets his ninth strikeout for Fort Wayne

"[South Bend] was really aggressive yesterday and they're a good hitting team, so I took that into account," Cantillo said. "From pitch one, I think me and Blake [Hunt] were being really aggressive and pounded the zone and taking into account that they swing early. So I was mixing stuff early and pounded the zone early."

Cantillo got a brief cup of coffee on the circuit last season with one start of 3 2/3 innings at the end of the year. But back with Fort Wayne in 2019, the southpaw has been sharp in nearly every outing since the calendar flipped to May. 

Gameday box score

After posting a 6.94 ERA in four April starts, Cantillo has posted sub-1.00 ERAs in both of the following months. In June, the Hawaii native is now 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA to go along with 30 strikeouts in 25 frames. 

Working with TinCaps pitching coach Matt Williams, Cantillo said he was able to right the ship and turn his season into the success that it's been. 

"He did a good job, we kind of sat down and looked at what was happening," Cantillo said. "It wasn't really physical stuff, it was more just between the ears. Things taking off thinking too far ahead and things spiraling out of control. So I think it was big on the mental side of things of controlling what I can control and really just one pitch at a time."

With 14 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings under his belt coming into the start, Cantillo raised that number to 22 2/3 with eight zeros against the Cubs. He pounded the strike zone from the outset, throwing 63 of his 88 pitches for strikes. He faced three over the minimum and only saw the ball leave the infield four times. There have been times where Cantillo has shied away from using his curveball, but he used it a handful of times Wednesday to change the pace against the Cubs.

"Being aggressive was big, first-pitch strike and throwing it with intent was huge," he said. "A lot of fastballs in there -- in and up. They're going to be successful if I'm throwing it with intent and all I've got with those pitches. The team made good plays behind me, so it was all around a good game."

Cantillo cruised through the first six innings of the outing, only seeing two runners reach base after they were plunked. It was in about the fifth inning when the 19-year-old realized he had a chance at some history. But soon after that frame, he thought he might be finished for the day. 

"I think after the fifth inning I kind of knew it, knew what was happening," Cantillo said. "To be honest it was after the sixth inning I thought I was done and I went out there for the seventh and actually got two more innings. I mean, the biggest thing for me is I try to tell myself one pitch at a time, not getting caught up with two, three pitches ahead."

Back out in the seventh, Cantillo retired No. 30 Cubs prospect Andy Weber with a groundout to second before No. 7 Chicago prospect Brennen Davis broke through with South Bend's first knock -- a two-strike single to left. Tyler Durna singled up the middle to put runners at first and second, but the 2017 16th-round pick got consecutive outs to wade through trouble. 

2019 MiLB include

In uncharted waters in the eighth inning, Cantillo handled the frame with more dominance, setting the side down in order to close the book on his career day. Being on a run that's seen him give up just three runs over the last two months, Cantillo said he's just trying to soak in the moment without thinking too far ahead. 

"It's always fun, I think kids, teenagers, 19, 20-year-olds -- we lose the fact that baseball's a game and it's fun," he said. "And guys forget it out there. We got people watching, we got stats, we want to move up, we want to be so great. But we have to remember, hey, baseball is fun, have fun out there and obviously take things one pitch at a time out there."

Agustin Ruiz collected two hits, including the TinCaps' biggest of the afternoon: a fifth inning grand slam for his fourth roundtripper of the year.

Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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