Sacramento right-hander Norwith Gudiño, lefty Conner Menez, righty Tyler Cyr, righty Trevor Gott, catcher Joey Bart, and pitching coach Garvin Alston are immortalized in River Cats’ history.
The four pitchers combined to throw the Sacramento River Cats’ first ever nine-inning no-hitter, defeating the Salt Lake Bees 4-0 on Friday, Sept. 3, with a 105-pitch, 15 strikeout shutout.
“I think we all kind of did the same thing: Attack the zone. Attack. Attack,” Cyr said. “The ball bounced our way and now you know, it’s a no-hitter. It was awesome.”
Due to poor air quality caused by the Northern Calif. Wildfires, the River Cats had two games canceled the series prior, essentially pushing the probable pitchers back two days.
This allowed Gudiño and Alston a little extra time in the bullpen.
The work paid off big time. The 25-year-old, who was starting just his fourth game for the River Cats, commanded the strike zone from the beginning with his fastball and splitter, punching out nine of the 12 batters he faced through 4.0 perfect innings.
“Gudiño has been putting in the work,” Alston said postgame. “The one thing he hasn’t had all the time he’s been here, is his split-finger, and today he had it. We made some slight adjustments in his last bullpen, and it was really, really good. What ended up happening is he was able to find it early. That’s his swing-and-miss pitch, which is outstanding.”
Although dominant, the plan was never for Gudiño to go all nine. He was not stretched out for a complete game effort. Gudiño’s work was not done, however, as he became his three relievers’ no. 1 fan.
“Before the game, I was thinking this will be the day,” Gudiño said. “So when I finished the fourth and Menez came in to pitch, I was feeling the connection … I was like ‘OK throw that pitch! You got it! Keep it going!’”
Alston came into the game with the plan of starting the right-handed Gudiño, flipping the vantage point with the lefty Menez, then using his right-handed arms for an inning each to finish off the game.
Much like the game, the plan was flawless. Bart quickly adapted to every change, and his game-calling never missed a beat, playing to every pitcher’s strength.
“What people fail to realize is Joey, and this last two months, and his game-calling ability, has been outstanding,” Alston said. “The calls he’s making, whether they get a hit or not, he’s calling the right pitches. That’s why I’m so proud of him.”
Bart, MLB Pipeline’s No. 16 and the Giants’ No. 2 prospect, humbly redirected all the praise toward his pitchers.
“All the credit goes to those guys and the way they came out tonight,” Bart said. “I’m glad they trusted me. We did our homework, and we felt like we had a good game plan coming into it, and we executed it.”
Menez piggybacked off Gudiño, and picked up where the righty left off. He kept hitters off-balance with his slider and fastball, striking out three in 3.0 innings to earn the win.
“I was just trying to stick to my game plan, throw strikes, get ahead on hitters, and try to put them away,” Menez said. “I have been working really hard on my mechanics lately and everything kind of came together tonight.”
When Menez finished off the seventh with back-to-back strikeouts, it put the River Cats in unfamiliar territory. One that Bart, nor any of the pitchers, had experienced in their professional careers, and the franchise had not seen since the early 2000s.
Although a few efforts got close, the only other no-hitter thrown in River Cats’ history was a seven-inning gem tossed by lefty Micah Bowie on May 1, 2001 against Tacoma. For reference, the River Cats’ starting designated hitter this past Friday was Heliot Ramos, born Sept. 7, 1999.
“Once Menez finished his last inning, I was like ‘Wow, we’ve got something cooking here,’” Alston recalled. “That was it. It just felt right today.”
While Alston, Menez, Bart, and Gudiño were aware of the history at stake, Cyr was just focused on doing his thing.
“At that moment in time, I really wasn’t [aware of the no hitter] until I was done pitching and had the opportunity to look at the scoreboard, and realized what was going on,” Cyr said. “At that point, you just want to remain focused and make sure you’re not invading anyone’s space.”
Gott, an experienced late-inning arm who entered the game with a 2.37 ERA, 23 strikeouts, and two saves in 19.0 innings at Sutter Health Park, was the perfect choice to finish off history, striking out two before getting the final out on a ground out to shortstop Mauricio Dubón.
“I just went in and pitched my game,” Gott said. “Gudiño really set the tone early, with nine strikeouts in 4.0 innings. Conner, that’s the best I’ve seen him this year, and Cyr did his thing. I just wanted to go in, close it out, and spend the least amount of time on the field as possible.”
The team celebrated on the field and left for the clubhouse. The six responsible for history waited to take a photo, as the postgame fireworks lit up the sky.
“I can barely talk right now,” Bart said as the fireworks went off. “The way these guys have been grinding all year ... I’ve been grinding all year. For us to put that together, it was a lot of fun. It means a lot.”