Brandon Moore wasn’t thinking about throwing a no-hitter or even beating the Ironbirds when he walked out to the mound on Sunday — the Brooklyn starter was just trying to keep down his lunch.
The lanky right-hander was so sick he actually threw up in the bullpen before taking the hill. And he didn’t have his best fastball as he labored through the first game of a doubleheader on a sunny day in the oppressive heat. But Moore kept Aberdeen guessing and finished with the first no-hitter in Cyclones history — albeit a seven-inning performance, since games in twin bills are shortened.
“My fastball command wasn’t there, so I was behind in a lot of counts,” said the hurler. “I was sweating a lot all game and I wasn’t feeling too good.”
Good thing he didn’t say anything about it to his coaches.
Relying on his slider and change up and a steady supply of water provided by rotation mate Collin McHugh, the 23-year-old kept racking up zeroes — even if it took a while for anyone to notice.
Only a few Ironbirds managed to hit balls out of the infield, but Moore, who hadn’t pitched in 12 days due to a sprained ankle, walked two batters and hit one early, so he and his teammates didn’t realize anything special was going on until near the end.
“Right before the sixth inning, I realized what was up, but I tried to focus on spotting my fastball,” said Moore, who had to sit on the bench for 20 queasy minutes before the final frame as the Clones scored three insurance runs to take a 5-0 lead.
After getting two quick outs and walking his third batter on a slider over the outside corner, Moore induced a groundout and was mobbed by the team. He finished with six strikeouts and stayed under his 100-pitch ceiling, though pitching coach Rick Tomlin refused to disclose the exact count. (“I’ll buy you a clicker if you want,” he told reporters.)
The Cyclones have actually had a longer no-hitter — Miguel Pinango came within one out of a nine-inning no-no in 2002.
Pinango still hasn’t made it to the bigs, but maybe Moore will do better — the fans back at Keyspan seem to have high hopes.
Instead of yelling, “Hey, number 10, sign my program,” kids — and adult autograph-hounds — have been asking Moore to sign mint condition rookie cards. A 2008 14th round pick, Moore was the first player drafted in 38 years from Indiana Wesleyan University, a National Christian College Athletic Association school.
Despite a 5-2 record and a 2.39 ERA at the break, Moore was passed over for the all-star team, but he says the no-hitter wasn’t his revenge.
“I didn’t do it for that,” he said.
Pedro Lopez agreed that Moore, who now leads the league with two shutouts and is third in WHIP at 0.87, deserved to go. “He’s done a tremendous job,” said the manager. “He gives you so many different looks, he makes it real hard to sit on one pitch.”
Informed of Moore’s pregame puke, Lopez just chuckled.
“He should make that his game preparation,” the skipper said. “Maybe we should get everybody to do it.”
Since joining the team over the break, second baseman Jordany Valdespin and third baseman Richard Lucas have settled into the second and third spots in the batting order. They hit a combined .328 through Wednesday. … Bullpen ringers Jake Goldberg and Manuel Oliveras gave up no runs and just two hits over their first six innings. … Closer Michael Powers tied the Cyclones record with his 15th save of the season on Tuesday. … Lefty pitcher Chris Hilliard was called up to Brooklyn on Tuesday from Kingsport, where he had a 2.83 ERA. … Reliever Erik Turgeon had a medical emergency on Friday and returned to New York for tests. The Cyclones aren’t sure what’s wrong, but they’re hoping he’ll be back with the team soon. … All-Star outfielder Luis Rivera hit .333 with four RBI over his last seven games prior to Thursday. … Despite its dominant starting rotation, Brooklyn is fourth in the league in team ERA at 3.12. The hated Staten Island Yankees lead with a 2.46 mark, so get ready for some duels if they meet in the playoffs.
Zeke Faux is a sports columnist for The Brooklyn Paper. His last name is pronounced “Fox.”