Smokies combine on second no-no of 2022
The Tennessee Smokies had to wait nearly nine full years between their last two no-hitters. The wait for their next wasn’t even two months. Starting pitcher Anderson Espinoza set the tone, and relievers Samuel Reyes, Bryan King and Nicholas Padilla combined to go the rest of the way as Double-A
The Tennessee Smokies had to wait nearly nine full years between their last two no-hitters. The wait for their next wasn’t even two months.
Starting pitcher Anderson Espinoza set the tone, and relievers Samuel Reyes, Bryan King and Nicholas Padilla combined to go the rest of the way as Double-A Tennessee no-hit visiting Rocket City in a 2-0 win on Tuesday night.
“It’s the second go-round for us, so we had a little bit of work with it,” Smokies pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea said after his team accomplished its second no-hitter of 2022. “It’s one of those things where you don’t really say it [is in progress]. You go with the superstitions. Everybody kind of has an idea of what’s going on, but nobody wants to say anything. Once that final strike or final out gets made, you let it all out.”
Espinoza was the one to get things started on Tuesday. The 24-year-old right-hander carved through Rocket City’s lineup with five stellar innings, striking out seven and walking just one.
“We really challenged him to be a little more aggressive in the zone,” Vermilyea said. “His last couple games, he’s shown that. He only had the one walk tonight, and he’s really trying to challenge guys in the zone, throw his slider a little harder, and that was definitely the pitch that was on for him today. He’s another one of those guys who is just putting in the work day-in and day-out on the side. It’s nice to see it come to fruition.”
Once ranked as high as No. 25 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects List in 2017, Espinoza missed the 2017-20 seasons after undergoing two Tommy John surgeries and the global pandemic. Now in his third professional organization, he made his Major League debut earlier this year and has impressed his pitching coach.
“He’s been around for a while, but he basically missed four years of playing,” Vermilyea said. “He missed four years where you kind of learn how to pitch and learn who you are as a pitcher. He missed some really big years for himself, so he’s really kind of just learning how to pitch now and trying to do it at the Double-A level. He’s had his high moments, and he’s definitely had his low moments. He hasn’t let that get to him, and he still comes to the park every day with a growth mindset, trying to get better every day. It’s just nice to see him put together five strong innings and start off a no-hitter.”
IT'S ANOTHER NO HITTER! Like it, share, LOVE IT!#Cubs #SmokiesBaseball #WeKeepReceipts pic.twitter.com/yVldAZdmaG— Tennessee Smokies (@smokiesbaseball) June 29, 2022
Reyes followed Espinoza’s lead and struck out three while walking one over two innings. King worked around a walk in the eighth, striking out a batter and inducing a double-play to send the effort to the ninth where Padilla finished the feat with the help of a new offering.
“We challenged him to learn a new pitch,” Vermilyea said. “He brought it right out into the game right away, and I think he threw six or seven of them. It goes to show you the hard work that he put in to close this out.”
The new offering is a slider that Padilla was eager to debut.
“We just activated him today off the [development] list, and his first two pitches were it,” Vermilyea said with a laugh. “I wasn’t expecting him to bring it out that quick, but he actually ended the game with it.”
Tennessee’s combined no-hitter matched its accomplishment from May 11, a 5-0 win over Montgomery.
“It’s all about attacking guys in the zone and being aggressive with your stuff. Usually the more strikes you throw, the more success you’re going to have. You don’t want to help guys out by falling behind and letting guys get on, so it’s all about attacking the zone, going to your best stuff more often.”
Tuesday’s game surpassed even May’s in one category: the win over Rocket City clocked in at one hour, 57 minutes, 14 minutes faster than the win over Montgomery last month.
“Any time a game’s under two hours, that usually means that you’re pitching well, so as a pitching coach, I like that,” Vermilyea said.
Tyler Maun is a reporter for MiLB.com and co-host of “The Show Before The Show” podcast. You can find him on Twitter @tylermaun.