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Great Moments in Dragons History
The Dragons First 9-Inning No-Hitter
On May 20, 2017 at Day Air Ballpark, the Dragons hosted the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The Dragons starting pitcher that night was ace left-hander Scott Moss, who would be selected to pitch in the Midwest League All-Star Game one month later. Moss had been strong all season for the Dragons and entered the game on May 20th with a 2.20 earned run average. He was on a roll, having allowed one run or less in each of his last four starts.
Moss did not start the night in a manner that would have caused anyone to predict what would follow. He walked the first batter of the game, then hit another batter with a pitch later that inning. Moss benefited when a Bowling Green runner was thrown out trying to steal third base. Three men reached base in a shaky first inning, but none of them collected a base hit, and the Hot Rods came away without a run.
“Moss was six-foot-six, and like many taller pitchers, he had some days when it took him a few innings to get his mechanics right, so sometimes he struggled to find his command in the early part of his outing,” recalled Dragons broadcaster Tom Nichols. “That night, he was not sharp in the first inning, but he got through it without giving up a hit, and as the game moved along, he started getting better.”
Moss hit the lead-off batter in the third inning, but then retired the next three hitters. By that time, the Dragons had taken a 1-0 lead when Hector Vargas drove in Cassidy Brown from second base with a single in the second. The Dragons scored again in the bottom of the third on an RBI double by Tyler Stephenson to lift their lead to 2-0.
In the fourth inning, Moss issued another walk and then hit another batter, but escaped the jam without allowing a hit or a run. At that point, those watching the game were thinking more about holding the two-run lead than a no-hitter. Moss then had an easy fifth inning, striking out two of the three batters he faced.
In the bottom of the fifth, Dragons pitching coach Derrin Ebert did his nightly television interview with Nichols and Jack Pohl on the broadcast on Dayton’s CW. They kidded him about the superstitions of talking about a no-hitter in progress.
“We were starting to notice that Bowling Green did not have a hit, and we tried to ask Derrin about it without really saying it,” Pohl said. “Everyone in a baseball dugout is very superstitious. We were laughing about it, not really sure whether to talk about it. But it was starting to become a point of attention.” After Moss retired the side in order again in the sixth, the focus on a possible no-hitter was front and center.
“I knew there was no chance that Moss was going to throw the full nine innings because his pitch count was already rather high,” Nichols said. “The question was, how long would he pitch, and who would replace him? At the same time, Jack and I basically tossed the whole superstitious nature of not talking about a no-hitter out the window. Our responsibility was to our viewers, and it was our job to make sure everyone knew what was happening. I remember the next day, a couple guys in the locker room were kidding me about talking about a possible no-hitter on the TV broadcast, and my response was, ‘When the time comes when I can control what happens on the field by what I say on the broadcast, you let me know, and we will never lose another game from that point forward. Until then, I am going to talk about the things that the listener wants to know.’ So from that point, we were all over the whole no-hitter theme.” Through six innings, Moss had not allowed a hit, but he had thrown 84 pitches, about the limit for a Dragons starter. The message was sent to the bullpen to get a new pitcher ready. The pitcher selected was a surprise, and part of the eventual drama of the night.
Right-handed reliever Carlos Machorro had been with the Dragons for several days after being brought in from extended spring training in Arizona, but he had not yet appeared in a game. He probably would not have pitched in this game either if not for the fact that everyone else in the bullpen had seen heavy usage in recent days, and the coaches needed to get a look at Machorro.
“I remember looking on the roster and seeing Machorro, a guy we hadn’t even seen, and having no idea what to expect from him,” Pohl said. “He was basically a mystery man. But here he was, on the mound, trying to keep a no-hitter going.”
Nichols had the same thought as he identified Machorro throwing in the bullpen.
“Number one, Carlos went on to have a very good year that summer, but he did not have the kind of stuff at that time that would lead anyone to think that he was about to have a dominant outing,” Nichols said. “He was a guy that did not make our club out of spring training and was brought to Dayton because we needed another arm. He did not throw particularly hard at that time. The coaches didn’t even know what to expect of him…he had been with us for days and was never put into a game. So I thought, ‘Well, maybe if he can give us one inning and keep the no-hitter going, great, then we can get someone else in there.’ But Carlos, I am sure, was really pumped up to go into his first game under those conditions, and he was unhittable when he came in the game.” Machorro struck out the first two batters he faced in a Dragons uniform in the top of the seventh, and then got a ground out to end the inning. He went back out for the eighth inning and struck out the first batter in that frame, then retired the next two to preserve the no-hitter through eight innings. “That was one of the most amazing parts of the whole game,” Pohl said. “You had a player come in to pitch that no one knew anything about, his own coaches had not seen him pitch, and he was a big part of the outcome.”
In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Dragons got veteran Brian Hunter active in the bullpen. Meanwhile, Machorro and Moss were standing side-by-side in the dugout.
“I said, Scott, do you realize we have a no-hitter going,” Machorro said, recalling the game years later. “He told me to shut up, that you don’t talk about those things, and I said I was sorry.”
Machorro had retired all six batters he faced, striking out three. Hunter entered the game to try to close out the first nine-inning, no-hitter in Dragons history.
Hunter was one of the team’s leaders, a vocal, strong personality. He was also one of the oldest players on the team, a mature competitor who was the perfect player for the moment. He retired the first batter on an easy fly out to center field, then recorded a strikeout for the second out. 26 of the 27 outs were now in the books. The Dragons needed one more.
Hunter faced the Hot Rods #5 hitter, Rene Pinto, who was 0 for 2 with a walk in the game. Hunter made a good pitch and got Pinto to hit a bouncing ball to the left side of the infield. Dayton third baseman John Sansone moved to his left a few steps, fielded it cleanly, and fired across to first base to get Pinto and complete the no-hitter.
“It goes to show you something about sports, and especially baseball,” Pohl said. “Every game may not be a great game, but every game has the potential to be something you will remember for years to come. This game fit that description. Who would have expected when we came to the ballpark that night that we’d watch something that had never been done in 18 years of Dragons baseball.”
The game was momentous for Nichols, who was in his 30th year as a Minor League broadcaster.
“Believe it or not, that was my first no-hitter call,” he said. “You would never have predicted that game to be the first. You had a pitcher over the first few innings that struggled to get the ball where he wanted it, but you might say Moss was effectively wild. He put five men on base in the first four innings with walks or hit batters. But he did not allow a hit. And then you had a mystery pitcher in Machorro come in the game who threw the ball like a big leaguer. And by the time we got to Hunter, it was the perfect storm. You just felt super confident that he could get those last three outs. I was just worried about a little dribbler up the third base line that we could not make a play on. But Hunter closed it out, and the players rushed the field. A no-hitter celebration is special because there is that sense of relief that has been building for innings, and the feeling of accomplishment. It was very memorable.”
Because of the fact that the TV broadcasts are played inside the Dragons locker room throughout the game, it is likely that many of the player participants knew as the contest progressed that the Dragons had never experienced a nine-inning no-hitter before that night. For every player who was a part of it, they could share Jack Pohl’s thoughts. You never know what you will see when you come to the ballpark each night.
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