Austin Cox was oh so close to history.The Royals' No. 21 prospect took a no-hitter into the seventh and final inning of Class A Lexington's 3-0 win over West Virginia in the nightcap of Tuesday's doubleheader. He ended up allowing one hit and one walk while striking out seven over 6
Austin Cox was oh so close to history.
The Royals' No. 21 prospect took a no-hitter into the seventh and final inning of Class A Lexington's 3-0 win over West Virginia in the nightcap of Tuesday's doubleheader. He ended up allowing one hit and one walk while striking out seven over 6 1/3 frames.
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With one out in the seventh, Power right fielder J.R. Davis lined a 2-1 pitch to right field, ending Cox's no-no bid. After the game, Cox said he didn't have all his pitches working for him right away.
"I didn't feel great in the bullpen about my stuff going into the game, and then after the first inning there were a couple of balls hit hard," he added. "I thought it was going to be one of those that you had to grind through because you don't have your best stuff."
Cox said he was having trouble locating his fastball inside on hitters but had a lot of success with his fastball away and his off-speed stuff. He credited batterymate Chase Vallot with calling a good game.
"Chase and I were on the same page tonight," Cox said. "He knew that I wasn't locating the fastball in as well as I would like to, so we started going to other stuff to get that inside established without having to go with my fastball, the slider, the curveball and really locating away. He was definitely working back there to get me that pitch and establish that inside pitch while I was hitting the outside corner as well as I wanted to."
Once the left-hander got things straightened out, he felt like he had special stuff.
After second-ranked Mariners prospectJarred Kelenic reached on an error with one out in the first, Cox retired 16 batters in a row before walking Charlie McConnell with two outs in the sixth.
He said it was in the fourth inning when he thought he had might be working on something special.
"I was like, 'OK, I have a shot here. I gotta stay focused and keep making my pitches,'" he said.
His teammates were giving him the silent treatment in the dugout as Cox closed in on a no-hitter.
"When I was going out there for the seventh," he said, "I knew they were into it and pulling for me."
Cox (3-3) nearly became the first Lexington pitcher to toss a no-hitter since Daniel Stumpf threw a seven-inning gem against Greenville on July 2, 2013.
Josh Dye relieved Cox after Davis' hit and, after Joseph Rosa reached on an error, retired the next two batters for his third save.
A fifth-round pick in last year's Draft, Cox lowered his ERA to 3.09 with the third scoreless outing in his last four starts. He's tied for seventh in the South Atlantic League with 59 strikeouts against 18 walks over 54 1/3 innings.
After Cox finished April with a 4.12 ERA, he worked on improving his focus, trusting his stuff and fine-tuning his curveball.
"I found my curveball of late," he said. "It kinda got slider-ish on me in the last month, I think, and we really worked on getting as close to that 12-6 action as we could."
After a standout 2018 season at Mercer University, the 22-year-old left-hander made his pro debut with Rookie Advanced Burlington last summer and compiled a 3.78 ERA in 33 1/3 innings.
The Legends scored the only run Cox needed on an RBI single by Kyle Kasser in the fifth. Vallot provided insurance with a two-run homer in the sixth.
West Virginia won the opener, 5-4, as Kelenic, MLB.com's 42nd-ranked prospect, homered for the second straight game. Afterwards, he was promoted to Class A Advanced Modesto, taking with him a .303/.391/.564 slash line with 10 homers, 26 RBIs and 31 runs scored in 49 games.
Shlomo Sprung is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @sprungonsports</a