Cole Sulser enjoyed watching his teammates throw a no-hitter two nights ago, so much so that he almost repeated the feat Tuesday.
Pitching in the Scrappers' first game since the combined no-no, Sulser fell three outs short of throwing Mahoning Valley's second no-no in three days in the Scrappers' 2-0 win over Auburn.
"It was great to watch a couple days ago. Our pitchers were fantastic, they were all spot on," he said. "But obviously, today was a little different."
Sulser, who exited after allowing a leadoff single in the seventh, came withing one inning of tossing the 30th no-hitter of the 2013 season. Kerry Doane came on and worked a perfect seventh for his second save, sealing the combined one-hit shutout in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader.
"All my pitches were working, my catcher [Martin Cervenka] was on the same page, so I felt very comfortable doing what I needed to do," Sulser said.
Sulser (3-2) was perfect for six innings, striking out 10 in his final start of the regular season. Wilman Rodriguez singled to left to start the seventh, ending the bid for the third no-hitter in Scrappers history.
"It was a slider outside, he hit a ground ball between third and short," Sulser said. "It was well-hit, it was an infield single, but he got a good part of the bat on it."
The righty said he quickly second-guessed his pitch.
"You rethink the pitch you threw, you try not to, but you think, 'I should have done this,'" he said. "But overall, I was very happy with how I was throwing. That's how it goes."
Luis Gomez, Carlos Melo and Doane combined to no-hit Batavia on Sept. 1, but Mahoning Valley's game at Auburn on Monday was rained out and pushed to Tuesday. Sulser said witnessing that game made it hard to ignore what he was putting together Tuesday.
"To see a full nine-inning no-hitter was fantastic. Our pitchers and defense were fantastic, one of those days where you love to watch," he said. "It felt great going out today. We were all playing well, I thought we had a chance to do it again, but I'm still very happy."
Sulser said he realized in the sixth that he had the no-hitter cooking.
"At that point, I tried not to think about it, just go out there and pitch the rest of the game and not overthink it," he added.
Sulser's gem lowered his ERA to 1.83. Drafted by the Indians in the 25th round of this year's Draft out of Dartmouth, Sulser has appeared in 15 games with Mahoning Valley. Although his last win came more than a month ago July 30, he has pitched effectively in just about every outing -- the California native has allowed two runs or fewer in nine of his last 10 outings.
Tuesday's win marked Sulser's second straight 10-strikeout performance after fanning no more than five in his previous outings.
"Overall, I've really enjoyed my season, I feel happy about it," he said. "There are some things I need to work on and go over with my coaches, but I think overall I improved as the season went on. I've had a good time, just hoping from here I can continue to improve and hopefully have more success."
With 20 strikeouts in two games and a near-perfect outing, what's on the to-do list for Sulser at this point?
"I know I need to work on my consistency with my slider and my curveball," he said. "Throwing both of those consistently and where I want them, those are the two main things. And finishing my pitches."
Sulser got run support in the fifth when Claudio Bautista knocked home Josh McAdams with a single, and the Scrappers added a second run an inning later when McAdams singled home Nellie Rodriguez with two outs.
Auburn starter Chris Young held the Scrappers to one hit over three innings before Cory Bafidis (2-1) was charged with both runs -- one earned -- on four hits over two frames to suffer his first loss.