It was “Thrifty Thursday” at LMCU Ballpark, the home of Tigers High-A affiliate West Michigan, for a doubleheader between the Whitecaps and the Fort Wayne TinCaps (affiliated with the San Diego Padres), and, well, the Whitecaps were certainly thrifty in allowing hits.
In the day’s first seven-inning game, 24-year-old Beau Brieske allowed just two hits in a 5-0 shutout. But the Whitecaps weren’t done being thrifty: In the nightcap, four West Michigan pitchers combined for a seven-inning no-hitter as the Whitecaps won, 4-0.
Sandel De La Cruz, Michael Bienlien, Jared Tobey and Bryce Tassin shut down the TinCaps’ offense, allowing just four walks while striking out four. Eric De La Rosa doubled in the fourth inning to drive in two runs, giving the quartet all the run support they needed.
Although its seven-inning length makes it an unofficial no-hitter, at least according to MLB’s decree earlier this season, the achievement is the first no-no for the Whitecaps (29-33) since June 13, 2000, and they were perfectly glad to share it.
De La Cruz, primarily a reliever but making his third start this season, opened with 3⅔ innings. He walked the first batter he faced, Grant Little, but then retired the side on a strikeout (on which Little stole second base) and a pair of groundouts.
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In the second, the 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic was perfect, getting his three outs on a grounder to shortstop Gage Workman (the Tigers’ 2020 fourth-round pick), a foul pop-up to first and a swinging strikeout. The third inning was another story, however, as De La Cruz issued a leadoff walk, which turned a runner on third with one out after a botched pickoff attempt. But De La Cruz induced a grounder to Workman, who fired home to get the runner. De La Cruz finished the inning with a grounder to second. The fourth inning opened the way the third ended, with a pair of grounders fielded by Wenceel Perez at second. But when De La Cruz issued a two-out walk, manager Brayan Pena brought in Bienlien, who needed just five pitches to induce a fielder’s choice at second.
The Whitecaps then put up three runs in the bottom of the inning, on De La Rosa’s double and a wild pitch. Bienlien continued in the fifth inning, opening with a pair of swinging strikeouts on 3-2 counts. But the Tigers’ 24-round pick in 2019 went to one 3-2 count too many, walking Fort Wayne’s Reinaldo Ilaraza, who promptly stole second. But Bienlien escaped the inning with a grounder to third, and the Whitecaps added a fourth run on a single by Perez to score Parker Meadows in the bottom of the inning.
The sixth inning was Tobey’s, and the 25-year-old lefty from Wayne State used just 12 pitches to get through the inning, with a grounder to short, a flyball to left and a foul pop to third. Tassin’s work in the seventh was similarly straight-forward; the 24-year-old, a 31st-round pick in 2019 out of Southeastern Louisiana University took six pitches to get a fly ball to center, followed by liners to short and right field in two two-pitch at-bats.
After the game, 24-year-old West Michigan catcher Cole MacLaren tweeted out his excitement: “What a performance by those boys! Stoked I could be apart of it, one of the coolest achievements as a catcher.”
In addition to catching all seven innings against the TinCaps (28-35), MacLaren was busy at the plate, singling in the sixth inning and drawing two walks.
In the doubleheader’s opener, Brieske (the Tigers’ 27th-round pick in 2019 out of Colorado State) struck out nine and lowered his ERA on the season to 3.59, with 70 strikeouts in 57⅔ innings.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers’ minor leaguers combine on 7-inning no-hitter in High-A