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Antone spins six perfect for Lookouts

Reds right-hander retires all 18 batters he faces on 71 pitches
Tejay Antone posted a 6-3 record and a 4.03 ERA over 17 starts for Class A Advanced Daytona in 2018. (Brian McLeod/MiLB.com)
May 9, 2019

When Tejay Antone wrapped up six perfect innings, it wasn't uncharted territory for him. The right-handed Cincinnati prospect tossed seven perfect frames last July for Class A Advanced Daytona. This time around and one level up, Antone retired all 18 hitters he faced and struck out four as Double-A Chattanooga defeated

When Tejay Antone wrapped up six perfect innings, it wasn't uncharted territory for him. 
The right-handed Cincinnati prospect tossed seven perfect frames last July for Class A Advanced Daytona. This time around and one level up, Antone retired all 18 hitters he faced and struck out four as Double-A Chattanooga defeated Tennessee, 5-1, at AT&T Field on Thursday. 

Antone (4-2) turned in his second straight six-inning scoreless outing and lowered his ERA to 2.84. He threw 71 pitches -- 49 for strikes -- and relied on hitters pounding his patented sinker into the ground. 
"Just kind of getting in the routine of things in-season," he said. "I've got a great defense behind me. I'm starting to trust my sinker more, and the defense is making plays behind me. As I go on throughout the year, I trust it more and more because I know the guys have my back out there."
Gameday box score
The Mansfield, Texas, native has yet to surrender more than three earned runs in a start this season. On Thursday, Antone punched out a batter in each of the first three innings before settling into a groove that relied on contact outs. His season high for strikeouts in a game is seven, set two starts ago against Biloxi. 
As a sinkerball pitcher, the 2014 fifth-round Draft selection has one theme running through his head on the mound.
"I try and and get all the ground balls," Antone said. "I wasn't punching out a lot of guys. The last inning, I went 3-0 to one guy and 3-1 to another guy, and you know what? I was just like I'm gonna throw a sinker down the middle and let 'em hit it."
And you know what? Tennessee couldn't hit the primary weapon in his arsenal as Antone got 12 ground-ball outs. It was the culmination of personal philosophy and execution. 
"It definitely takes time," the 25-year-old said. "You definitely have times where you're getting your ground balls and they're finding holes and there's nothing you can do about it. But then you have days like today when everybody is positioned perfectly and it works out for you.
"Ground balls were literally going straight to guys. I just throw the pitch and everyone does the work behind me." 
Lookouts righty Joel Kuhnel came on in relief in the seventh and allowed a leadoff homer to Roberto Caro to end the perfect-game and shutout bids in one fell swoop. That was the lone run of the game for Tennessee.
On July 10, 2018, Antone completed seven perfect innings before handing it to the bullpen -- also Kuhnel -- who completed a 1-2-3 eighth in that game before allowing three runs in the ninth. 
Was it déjà vu for the starter?
"A little bit. It was pretty similar to the previous one in Daytona. ... We did a great job as a staff. We all executed today. I was going to give [Kuhnel] a hard time, but I'll save it for another time," Antone added with a laugh. 
Kuhnel sat down the next six batters following the long ball and Alex Powers worked around a one-out walk in the ninth to seal the win for Chattanooga. 
The outing pushed Antone onto Southern League leaderboard in several categories. His .188 opponents' batting average and 1.03 WHIP rank eighth while the four wins are tied for second on the circuit. 
The righty was a high school teammate of Mets starter Noah Syndergaard. The two played catch with one another for a few offseasons earlier this decade. That practice has stopped as Syndergaard spends his winters elsewhere, but the 6-foot-4, 205-pound hurler gleaned plenty from Thor during those training sessions. 
"I really like his mound presence," Antone said. "For one, he's a very big dude. … He's got power, he's got sink on his fastball, and he can throw any of his pitches in any count for a strike. I want to be the same as him in that regard." 

With the game in the midst of a launch-angle revolution among hitters, Antone hopes he can capitalize on the fact there might be a place for sinkerball pitchers in big league rotations or bullpens. 
"It's definitely interesting," he said. "You have some front-office guys telling you to stick with it. ... I just have to remember what got me here and not change my ways. It either gets me to the Majors or it doesn't." 
One day after finishing a homer shy of the cycle, Reds 13th-ranked prospectTJ Friedl collected a pair of doubles, a sacrifice fly, a walk and two runs scored. Cincinnati's No. 10 prospect Jose Siri doubled, singled, walked and crossed the plate twice, while sixth-ranked Tyler Stephenson added a two-RBI single in the seventh. 
Cubs No. 9 prospectCory Abbott surrendered two earned runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out seven over 4 2/3 innings for the Smokies.

Chris Bumbaca is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @BOOMbaca.