It has been a long time since the Cleveland Indians have thrown a no-hitter, but the same cannot be said for their High-A Lynchburg Hillcats affiliate. Over the weekend. right-hander Shao-Ching Chiang fired a complete game nine-inning no-hitter in a 3-0 victory by the Hillcats over the Winston-Salem Dash.
The no-hit effort also earned him the Carolina League’s Pitcher of the Week honor on Monday.
It was the first weekly award in the six-year professional career of the 23-year-old righty from Taiwan, who signed with the Indians late in September of 2011. It also ended his long winless drought, as he had gone 0-6 over his previous nine starts, dating back to a win at home against Salem on May 28.
Chiang was certainly on his game at City Stadium, needing only 106 pitches to complete the nine-inning gem, the first nine-inning no-no for the franchise since 1992. He started the game with an extra day of rest after his start on Friday was postponed by rain.
There were never any questions about the possibility of a perfect game for Chiang as Winston-Salem’s Bryant Flete started the game reaching on a throwing error by first baseman Sicnarf Loopstok, but three straight ground ball outs from Chiang got him out of the inning.
He recorded his first of seven strikeouts on the day to start the second before walking Brady Conlan, who would be one of just three base runners to reach against him. After a force out for the second out, Chiang picked off Sam Dexter, getting the runner into a run down before he was tagged out by second baseman Sam Haggerty.
The sinker ball pitcher got three straight groundouts in the third and struck out a pair in the fourth around a strikeout of the Dash’s new outfielder Eloy Jimenez, one of the players acquired by the parent Chicago White Sox from the Chicago Cubs in the Jose Quintana deal.
Chiang hit Conlan with one out in the fifth, but he would go on to retire the final 14 batters in order. His first out in the air did not come until the top of the sixth on a fly to Ka’ai Tom in center. He followed that up with a strikeout to end that inning and two more to start the seventh before getting his final strikeout of the game for the second out in the eighth.
The Hillcats gave him a lead to work with in the bottom of the fifth, when Gavin Collins singled to start the inning and advanced to second on a passed ball. After a pop to short by Tom, Loopstok reached on an error to put runners on the corners and Connor Marabell walked to load the bases. Martin Cervenka put the Hillcats on the board with a sacrifice fly that turned into a double play, but not before Collins scored to give Lynchburg the lead.
The Hillcats added two more in the eighth. Loopstok walked but was caught stealing. Marabell followed with a triple to right and he would score on a throwing error by the second baseman Flete. Cervenka and Jodd Carter each walked and Cervenka moved to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a groundout by Haggerty for the third and final run of the contest.
Having faced just two over the minimum and with his no-hitter still intact, Chiang returned for the ninth. Luis Alexander Basabe lined to shortstop Willi Castro for the first out and Flete grounded to second, the 15th ground ball out of the game from Chiang. With one batter standing in his way of history, Zack Collins scorched a liner at a shifted Castro on the right side of the infield, and Chiang’s All-Star teammate snatched the ball from the air with a leaping grab to secure the win.
Chiang struck out seven, walked one, and hit one man. He retired 15 batters on grounders and allowed just two fly balls out of the infield and two balls lined to the shortstop Castro on both sides of second base.
“Man, my heart definitely sank there for a second,” shared Lynchburg pitching coach Rigo Beltran after the game about Collins’ shot to Castro for the final out. “He hit it right where no one usually would be. But we’ve employed the shift on Collins lately and that was the reason the ball was caught. I thought it was a hit when he connected, but it went straight into the spot where [Castro] was. It was very impressive.”
The personal feat and the award are two of many highlights in Chiang’s season, including working as the starting pitcher for the Northern Division in the Carolina League All-Star Game in June. The no-hitter was the Hillcats’ first as an Indians affiliate and the first for the High-A club since throwing back-to-back no-hitters in June of 2014, when the team worked with the Atlanta Braves.
Chiang becomes the third pitcher for the Hillcats this season (Triston McKenzie in May and July; Shane Bieber in June) to receive a Pitcher of the Week honor. The recently traded Thomas Pannone was named the league’s Pitcher of the Month in April. Infielder Haggerty took home a Player of the Week award on the position player side for his play in the final week of April and the outfielder Carter did the same two weeks ago.