Hudson Valley Renegades pitcher Angel Yepez didn’t allow a hit over six innings last night as the Tampa Bay Rays farm team held on to beat the Staten Island Yankees 7-5.
“He was in an unbelievable rhythm,” said Renegades pitching coach Brian Reith told MiLB.com. “He walked the leadoff man in the second, and then he just caught fire and retired the next 15 in a row. It was great to see.”
Yet just when those of us in the stands were starting to think about the possibility of watching a no-hitter, Hudson Valley manager Tim Parenton already knew we weren’t going to watch Yepez try to complete one. He had reliever Diego Castillo warm up in the top of the seventh while his team was hitting.
And Castillo came in to pitch the bottom of the seventh, yielding a hit to Griffin Gordon to spoil the bid and three runs to the Staten Island Yankees to get them back into the game.
Yepez, who did earn his first victory of the season for his efforts, threw just 63 pitches – 42 for strikes. But the 20-year-old prospect had not pitched more than five innings this season and pitched just 72 2/3 innings over 19 appearances with the Venezuelan Summer League Rays and Gulf Coast League Rays last year. A complete game performance just wasn’t in the cards.
My friend Greg couldn’t understand why Yepez wasn’t allowed to stay in until he gave up a hit or finished the game. I’d assumed a pitch count much closer to 100 (unlike major league stadiums, there’s no pitch tracking info on the scoreboard at Richmond County Bank Ballpark), or I would have been wondering the same thing.
But as the Tom Verducci column I linked last week pointed out, baseball has changed. The idea of starting pitchers throwing complete games is antiquated. Shutouts are more of a novelty than a measure of a pitcher’s dominance in 2015. No-hitters are probably on their way to becoming even more of a rarity than they already are.
And that’s a shame. You can show me all the numbers you want to prove that it’s better to send out a reliever for that third or fourth trip through the batting order — I know you’re right. But I miss watching starting pitchers facing that challenge.
Barring an organizational mandate to pull him at a certain pitch count, I would have sent Yepez out to start the seventh inning last night. And I would have let Johan Santana pitch just as long as Terry Collins did on June 1, 2012.
But let’s hand you the lineup card and put you in the dugout: when would you take the ball away from a pitcher working on a no-hitter?