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Houston Astros’ Ronel Blanco throws first no-hitter of 2024

Apr 1, 2024, 8:57 PM | Updated: 10:06 pm

Ronel Blanco...

Ronel Blanco of the Houston Astros celebrates after pitching a no-hitter on April 1, 2024. (Logan Riely/Getty Images)

(Logan Riely/Getty Images)

HOUSTON (AP) — Ronel Blanco put a bow on a remarkable week.

In a span of seven days, the Houston right-hander welcomed a new daughter, made his first opening day roster — and then threw the first no-hitter in the major leagues this season.

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Blanco struck out seven and walked two in the Astros’ 10-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night. The 30-year-old, who didn’t play in the majors until he was 28, was making just his eighth career start. He wouldn’t even be in Houston’s rotation if not for injuries to Justin Verlander and José Urquidy.

“It’s been a very long road traveled for me,” he said in Spanish through a translator. “A lot of ups, a lot of downs, a lot of falls, a lot of me getting back up. But I think all of that has been worth it for me to be able to get to this moment.”

He walked George Springer to start the game and again with two outs in the ninth. When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. grounded out to end it, Blanco smiled broadly before raising his arms above his head just before being mobbed by teammates.

“I see it as a great blessing, a great blessing for me and my family,” he said. “With the arrival of my daughter I see it as a life-changing experience and I dedicate this to my family and my daughter.”

It was the 17th no-hitter in Astros history and the first in the majors since Philadelphia’s Michael Lorenzen threw one against the Washington Nationals on Aug. 9 of last year.

Houston’s previous no-hitter came about a week before that one when Framber Valdez did it in a 2-0 win over Cleveland on Aug. 1.

Kyle Tucker and Yainer Diaz each homered twice as the Astros won their first game of the season after losing four to the Yankees. Houston’s Joe Espada became the first manager in major league history to get his first win in a no-hitter.

“I couldn’t be any happier for the way today turned out,” Espada said.

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The Astros are the fourth team in MLB history to get their first win of the season in a no-hitter, and the first since Boston’s Hideo Nomo pitched one against the Orioles in 2001. Nomo’s no-hitter that year came on April 4. That was the record for the earliest no-hitter by calendar date, according to Sportradar, but Blanco’s gem broke the mark by three days.

Blanco threw 105 pitches, averaging 93.6 mph with 31 fastballs and also throwing 36 changeups, 34 sliders and four curveballs.

Espada said the changeup was the key to Blanco’s success Monday.

“It makes the fastball and the slider that much better,” he said. “The way it comes out of the hand, it looks just like his fastball and hitters are committed to potentially swinging at a fastball and the ball just kind of falls in the zone. It’s a pitch that he’s worked really hard on and it paid big dividends tonight.”

Toronto manager John Schneider agreed.

“Really good changeup, it was almost like a split, slider combo,” he said. “Give him credit — that’s really hard to do. I know he hasn’t been starting much but he was really good and his changeup was outstanding.”

The Dominican righty sailed through the game and didn’t need too many big plays from his defense, although with one out in the ninth, Cavan Biggio hit a grounder to the right side. First baseman Jose Abreu fielded it diving to his right and then, while still on the ground, threw to Blanco covering first for the out.

“The play had to be made,” Abreu said. “That’s the only thing I was thinking about.”

In the eighth, Alejandro Kirk hit a ball that Blanco deflected, and it rolled away from him. Mauricio Dubón, who had just entered the game for Jose Altuve at second base, charged in and grabbed it before making the throw to first to retire Kirk.

Blanco had never pitched a complete game as a professional and hadn’t pitched more than six innings.

The Astros tagged Toronto’s Bowden Francis (0-1) for 10 hits and seven runs in his first major league start.

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