The only time Pedro Payano couldn't control where he wanted the baseball to go on Wednesday prevented him from making history.
A broken-bat bloop single in the eighth inning spoiled a no-hitter for the Rangers' No. 29 prospect, who was dominant for Class A Hickory in its 2-0 blanking of Greensboro at L.P. Frans Stadium. Payano recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts and walked two while going the distance for the third time.
"My command was great," Payano said. "I was throwing all my pitches for strikes. My changeup and curveball were very good, and I was just thinking, 'Let me go slow, pitch to contact and I can go late in the game.'"
Thanks to a pair of double plays, the 21-year-old right-hander faced one batter over the minimum and threw 99 pitches, 70 for strikes. He had not gone past five innings in each of his previous three starts due to high pitch counts.
"He just seemed to throw a first-pitch strike to every guy he faced," Crawdads manager Steve Mintz said. "Once he got strike one, he just went back to get the quick outs. I mean, to throw a shutout with under 100 pitches, that means you're really pitching ahead of the batters."
Payano threw 24 first-pitch strikes and lowered his ERA to a South Atlantic League-leading 0.38 after surrendering just one earned run over 24 innings.
"Jose Jaimes, our pitching coach, has just been trying to hone in on him and his pitches to help him read batters' swings and pitch to their weaknesses," Mintz said. "Basically, just work on repeating his delivery and making sure his hand is coming through each time on all the pitches to deliver each pitch like the same."
The New York City native retired seven straight batters before facing Isael Soto leading off the eighth. Soto got ahead, 2-1, before shattering his bat and floating a ball just over shortstop Yeyson Yrizarri's head.
"I tell you, if it wasn't for that darn blooper, it really would've been something special," Mintz said.
Losing the no-hitter didn't deter Payano, who induced a double play on the next pitch before and retired the last four batters, finishing with a six-pitch strikeout of Anfernee Seymour.
"In the last few starts, we were trying to keep his pitch count down so we can keep the guy for the whole season," Mintz said. "But obviously in that situation, we wanted to let him finish the game. If he didn't get that last batter, though, we wouldn't probably taken him out anyways because we pushed that pitch count to as high as we were letting it go. "
The shutout was the third for Payano, who also pitched a nine-inning gem on July 5, 2014 in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. It was also the second shutout of the season in the South Atlantic League, with Kannapolis' Tanner Banks tossing a four-hitter against West Virginia on April 20.
Chris Garia and Rangers No. 7 prospect Eric Jenkins provided the run support for Payano as each collected two hits and an RBI.