Astros pull Ronel Blanco after 7 hitless innings in his bid for historic 2nd no-hitter of the season

Ronel Blanco fell two innings short of MLB history on Sunday.

The Houston Astros starter pitched seven no-hit innings against the Detroit Tigers in a bid for his second no-hitter of the season. Astros manager Joe Espada then pulled him after 94 pitches with the no-hitter intact. The Houston bullpen allowed three hits and a run as the Astros went on to a 4-1 win.

Ronel Blanco didn't allow a Detroit Tigers hit in seven innings on Sunday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Ronel Blanco didn't allow a Detroit Tigers hit in seven innings on Sunday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Blanco pitched the first no-hitter of the 2024 season on April 1, a 10-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. He did so after spending his first two-plus MLB seasons primarily as a reliever. He threw 103 pitches, including 75 strikes in the no-hitter. It was his first career outing with more than six innings pitched. He has since been a regular in Houston's rotation and was two hitless innings on Sunday from becoming the seventh pitcher in MLB history to throw two no-hitters in a single season.

Johnny Vander Meer, Allie Reynolds, Virgil Trucks, Nolan Ryan, Roy Halladay and Max Scherzer are the only pitchers in MLB history to achieve the feat. Scherzer remains the last with no-hitters thrown against the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets as a starter for the Washington Nationals in 2015.

Blanco set the tone in the first, with strikeouts of Matt Vierling and Riley Greene to close the inning. He was perfect through 4 2/3 innings before issuing three consecutive walks in the fifth. He got out of the bases-loaded jam by inducing a flyout from Zachary McKinstry to end the inning.

He then helped his cause in the sixth with some glove work on a line drive back to the mound off Vierling's bat for the second out of the inning.

He induced two groundouts and a flyout in the seventh, and Espada had seen enough. Reliever Ryan Pressly took the mound for the eighth inning, and Josh Hader closed out the ninth, where he allowed the only Detroit run of the day.

Espada cited Blanco's pitch count for the season in his decision to pull him. Blanco has thrown six outings with 98 or more pitches, including four with 102-plus.

"Did I want him to be more efficient earlier and give him a shot? One hundred percent,” Espada said, per the Associated Press.

Blanco told reporters that he realized that he wasn't going to be allowed to pitch nine full innings because of his pitch count.

“I threw a lot of pitches and I wasn’t going to be able to finish it,” Blanco told reporters through an interpreter. “So, I just accepted it.”

Blanco finished his day with zero hits and zero runs allowed with three walks and eight strikeouts. He threw 65 of his 94 pitches for strikes and lowered his season-long ERA to 2.43. He came up short of history, but continued an outstanding first season as a regular MLB starter and Houston's best pitcher.