It was nights like this that tempted the Braves to give Yohan Flande another chance last winter.
Flande took a no-hitter into the sixth inning Thursday en route to his eighth win as Triple-A Gwinnett beat Norfolk, 4-1, at Coolray Field. He allowed a run on a hit and four walks, striking out five, over six frames.
The left-hander threw 49 of his 95 pitches for strikes and worked out of trouble, facing 21 batters in his 17th start for the Braves. It was Flande's first win since July 29, when he held Durham to three hits over 6 2/3 frames.
"I thought he threw he ball really well, changed speeds, kept the ball down, mixed his pitches well," said Gwinnett pitching coach Marty Reed, in his first season at Triple-A after working a pair of seasons with the Braves' Double-A affiliate in Mississippi.
The 2009 Futures Game All-Star worked a 1-2-3 first and got Josh Bell to hit into a double play before striking out Brendan Harris in the second for the the 500th strikeout of his Minor League career. He worked around a walk in the third, struck out Blake Davis to end a perfect fourth and whiffed Rhyne Hughes after issuing his third walk in the fifth.
"He was around the plate with everything. He was down in the zone, and if he was missing, it wasn't by much," Reed said. "He did a real nice job, [catcher] J.C. Boscan did a nice job calling the game. It allowed him to keep them off balance. He rolled some ground balls, and we had good defense as well. When you get that type of performance, a lot of things tend to fall into place."
Flande got Kyle Hudson swinging for his final strikeout to end a perfect sixth.
"Everyone knew it, nobody said anything about it," Reed said of the no-hitter. "I don't think he knew it, he's just focused on what he's doing. But it was fun to watch, very enjoyable."
Flande ran into trouble to start the seventh -- he walked Tyler Henson and then threw away a pickoff attempt to first. Blake Davis' blooper to center broke up the no-hitter, sending Flande to the dugout after 95 pitches. Gwinnett fans gave the southpaw a standing ovation.
The Dominican Republic native has yet to pitch seven innings in a game this year after lasting seven frames on six occasions last season in the Eastern League. Reed said it's less an issue with Flande's innings limit and more about getting everyone on the staff some work on the mound.
"It depends on where you are with the staff. If the other guys need to throw, we'll move a guy back because some guys need to throw," he said. "A lot of times we have guys go one inning at a time."
J.J. Hoover, rehabbing Peter Moylan and Jairo Asencio combined to allow one more hit over the final three frames to seal up the combined two-hitter. Harris' two-out RBI single in the seventh off Hoover was charged to Flande, the only run the Tides could manage.
Flande went 10-8 with a 4.38 ERA in 27 starts for Reading last year, but was released by Philadelphia. He signed with Atlanta in February, and in 31 appearances, the 25-year-old is 8-8 with a 3.88 ERA for the Braves. About half of his outings this year have been in relief, and Reed raves about the lefty's versatility and willingness.
"I love the guy," Reed said. "I think he's a very valuable pitcher for any staff and he can fill any role. He doesn't have a problem filling a role. He has no ego, he does whatever is best for the team. He'll pitch in relief, start, come back on short rest, do whatever you ask him. And he doesn't complain, just the consummate team player."
Why then, did the Phils give up on a then-24-year-old lefty?
"I don't know why they did," said Reed. "But when we did play Lehigh Valley -- and [Flande] spent many years in that system -- I noticed everyone came up and gave him a hug, they missed him. I don't know why they gave up on him, I dunno, but I'm glad they did."
Reed said he wouldn't be surprised to see Flande in the Majors at some point, but Atlanta has given no indication it might be this season.
"There are very few guys that are playing the game, that when they get out there, every guy is pulling for him," Reed said. "And in this case, you have that happening. He is such a tremendous person. In this kid's case, you gotta be around to see how hard he works, he's a tremendous human being.
A near no-hitter could go along way to getting Flande on the radar for a September callup, perhaps as a reliever or spot starter.
"I don't know what the plans are for him in the future, whether they call him up or not, but he's an extremely valuable guy to have in an organization," said Reed, who previously worked as the Dogders' Minor League pitching coordinator. "There's not a lot of guys who can do what he does and do it willingly. That's the way he is."