Pena, 'pen combine on historic no-hitter
Mickey Pena's brothers summed up the Red Sox prospect's perfect outing the best.
"My two older brothers texted me, both sent me one-word texts. One said, 'Wow,' and the other said 'Sweet,'" Pena said. "They were listening, they were excited."
"I feel great, I'm really blessed to be a part of this. It's a wonderful organization, and we're going down in history as the first nine-inning no-hitter," Pena said, still trying to absorb the reality of his gem.
"It hasn't sunk in yet. I was told I made history, so it's still sinking in -- it's a wonderful feeling."
Pena was dominant through six innings in his sixth outing of the season. His only losing battle came after the sixth, when he tried to talk his way into remaining in the game a little longer.
"He wanted to go back out, but he would've only gone out for one more inning at most," said Greenville pitching coach Dick Such, who helped make the call for the bullpen to take over. "He would've been over 90, and he was at 83 already. Instead of taking him out in the middle of the inning, which I guess would have been a nice move, he could have tipped his cap to the crowd."
Pena, who understands the reality of long-term development and strict Minor League pitch counts, admitted he was dying to get back on the mound.
"I was actually kind of shocked when he came and gave me his hand, 'It's over, you're done,'" Pena said. "It caught me off guard, [but] especially after that strikeout in the sixth, I had a good feeling I was coming out. I didn't think my count was that high. I pulled Such aside and I asked him nicely, 'I want to go one more.' But that wasn't the case -- we're here to develop more pitches. Later down the road I'll have more pitches to work with. But overall, I couldn't be happier about it. I can only control what I can."
In the end, it didn't matter too much -- Cervenka bounced back from a string of rough outings, striking out five batters in two innings, and Lockwood fanned two more in the ninth to preserve the no-hitter. A walk in the eighth by Cervenka was the only blemish in what would have been a perfect game.
"It was really exciting no matter what level you are at," said Such, who pitched in the Majors with Washington in 1970. "To see something like that, it gets the adrenaline going. And it happened today."
Pena, a 21-year-old from Mission, Texas, had allowed just two runs combined in his previous three starts. Such said the left-hander pounded the zone Tuesday with his heater.
"He had an excellent fastball, located it very well, mixed in his other pitches," he said. "He kept repeating the fastball -- he was really in the zone today."
Pena watched tensely from the dugout before rushing the field with his teammates. Afterward in the clubhouse, his first phone call went to his mom.
"I called my mom as soon as I got in, and she knows baseball, but I don't know if she knows what a perfect game is," he said. "She said, 'Okay, good job.' But I'll fill her in later today."
Pena struck out one in the first, had two straight to end the second and whiffed two more in the third. He cruised through to the sixth, when he fanned Felix Marte, induced a grounder from Cory Brownsten and got Gerardo Reyes to pop out to second base for the final out on his 83rd pitch.
"My gameplan was like any other game -- pound the zone, angle the ball, get ahead, make no mistakes," he said. "Every pitch was on, my curveball was there, my slider was really good, I was throwing the change low and away where they can't make contact, and that made a big difference."
Such said he knew early on that Pena had the goods on the mound.
"It was each inning, it kept going, I kept watching him hit his fastball in the zone repeatedly and I knew he was able to work off that and he just didn't falter from that at all," Such said. "He didn't try to do too much, he kept pounding the zone low and away, and it was really exciting to watch."
Keury De La Cruz's leadoff homer in the fourth finally gave the Drive some breathing room, and it held up as the game's lone run. Rome starter David Filak struck out six and allowed the longball, holding Greenville to three hits over seven stellar innings himself. It was Rome's ninth straight defeat.
Cervenka took over in the seventh after allowing 10 earned runs over his previous 1 2/3 innings. A good outing now was important for more than just his ERA.
"It was awesome. I wondered if they felt any pressure. It looked like it, but Cervanka did a hell of a job in the seventh. He had that one walk, but it didn't really affect him. He did his job," Pena said.
"Hunter had his stuff, he was live today. He's got a really good arm, and he really attacked the hitters with all his pitches," Such said. "He had 27 pitches in two innings with five K's. The only flaw, we could have had a perfect game, but we had a walk. The runner didn't score, so it was a plus outing. He's struggled a little bit the last couple times out, and it was nice to see him step up and donate to the ballclub."
Lockwood pitched the ninth, striking out Reyes and Tony Mueller for the final two outs to finish the no-no.
"He came in, he had some pressure, and he did a great job keeping the ball down," Pena said. "He looked good out there."
It was the first no-hitter for Greenville since June 11, 2007 when Daniel Bard threw five hitless innings and Ryan Phillips pitched a perfect sixth in a rain-shortened, 5-0 victory over Kannapolis.
"It was amazing -- that's something I haven't been apart of in professional baseball," said Pena, who spent last season at Class A Short-Season Lowell. "My last no-hitter was freshman year of high school. To experience that again, it was great. Going out there [afterward], it felt good. It was surreal to me at first, but it's getting to me."
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com.