Tuesday, June 09, 2015

4 no-nos in 4 years

Matt Cain in 2012, Timmy in 2013 and 2014 and Chris Heston tonight at Citi Field

Here's Alex Pavlovic for CSN Bay Area --

A right-hander who is only in the rotation because of two injuries, Heston became the 17th Giant to throw a no-hitter and the first Giants rookie to do it in 103 years. Heston allowed just three baserunners — all were hit by pitches — got 14 outs on the ground and struck out 11 in a 5-0 masterpiece that was one of the easiest no-hitters you’ll ever see.

“It’s definitely a little hard to believe,” he said a few minutes after capping the night by striking out the final three hitters he faced. “I was just blessed to get called back up here early in the season. To fill in and do good things is pretty cool.”

Heston was a godsend in April, replacing the injured Matt Cain and turning in an ace-like stretch of starts. It’s been up and down for him since, and with Cain and Jake Peavy on rehab assignments, there was some question entering Tuesday’s game about how long Heston would remain in the big leagues. The only question now: What will the Giants have to do to make sure the 27-year-old still has a rotation spot?

In his 12th big league start, Heston threw his first no-hitter at any level. Every no-hitter is remembered in part for the defensive plays that save the feat, or the moves managers pull to make life easier for a pitcher chasing history. Not this one. The hardest-hit ball was a grounder to the hole at short in the eighth that wasn’t difficult by Brandon Crawford’s standards.

“He was nasty tonight,” Crawford said. “When he’s on, he’s one of the best pitchers I’ve played behind. And that includes some pretty good pitchers.”
The list includes Cain and Tim Lincecum, who have teamed with Heston to give the Giants four no-hitters in four seasons. Bochy maneuvered in the previous ones, making defensive changes and having pitchers secretly warm up in the batting cage. On Tuesday, all Bochy had to do was make sure Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez got loose in the covered bullpen when Heston hit the first batter of the ninth.
“He was going to test me,” Bochy joked. “I said, ‘Well, what’s going to happen if he hits the first three?’ It was a lot easier with the fact that we had the lead, and he helped with that.”
Heston’s two-run single in the fourth gave him his first career RBIs and padded the lead. He cruised before that hit (his first of two) and after, getting at least one out on the ground in every inning and striking out a batter in seven of his nine frames. 

Bochy and catcher Buster Posey (who caught his third no-hitter) have been here before, and both said it was around the fifth that they noticed Heston might take a run at putting his name in the record books. 
“For one reason or another, this one had a different feel to it,” Posey said, noting that Heston was hitting both sides of the plate with his sinker, throwing his off-speed pitches wherever he wanted and getting a ton of movement on his fastball. 
Posey said Heston shook him off just once in 110 pitches, and the two sailed along in unison, getting closer and closer to the ninth. While the Giants stayed with tradition and ignored Heston, this chase was unlikely to bother the rookie. Heston is as cool as they come. Before starting on the night of the World Series ring ceremony, Heston looked out at the field and told a reporter, simply, “I’m ready to rock.” Before his first start in New York, he chatted with backup catcher Andrew Susac, getting tips on how to attack recent call-ups Susac had seen earlier this season in the Pacific Coast League. 
Heston has never shown nerves in the big leagues, but even he wasn't fully immune as the 27th out neared. 
“It starts to creep in there and you try not to do more than you want to do,” he said. “You try not to do too much.”
To help with the nerves, Heston found a distraction. He apologized to Duffy and Nori Aoki, who lost an RBI during that eighth-inning blunder.
“These guys play way too hard to take that stuff away from them,” Heston said. 
Duffy hoped the moment simply allowed Heston to relax a bit. 
“He had the presence of mind to think about that,” Duffy said, shaking his head. “He wasn’t completely spinning.”


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