Brewers' No. 9 prospect Jimmy Nelson combined with relievers Dan Merklinger, R.J. Seidel, Darren Byrd and Brandon Kintzler on a no-hitter Thursday in the Stars' 3-1 win over Chattanooga.
It marks the second no-hitter in the Southern League this season -- Pensacola's Daniel Corcino and Wilkin De La Rosa combined on one June 16 -- and the 13th in Minor League Baseball. It was the Stars' first no-no since June 2, 2008 when David Welch achieved the feat over seven innings.
The back-to-back pitching performances had the team's starter in awe after the latest accomplishment.
"That was pretty impressive," Nelson said. "That's definitely two of the better games I've ever seen as far as not allowing solid contact."
Thursday's no-hitter, which included the allowed run and 11 walks, required five pitchers because Nelson was returning from a month-long trip to the disabled list due to shoulder fatigue.
The 6-foot-6 starter was only allotted 65 pitches for his outing and exited after 64 in the fourth inning. Nelson struck out four and walked four, and he took note of the opposing measures of his outing.
"I mean, you know the [no-hitter] is there when you leave," he said. "But I was more focused on getting better command of all my pitches. I was OK tonight, but I have to make sure that I don't shoot myself in the foot with bad command next time."
Accuracy woes continued to plague Stars hurlers one inning later. Merklinger issued a walk to Matt Wallach to open the fifth before retiring the next two batters consecutively. However, the 26-year-old southpaw issued three straight two-out walks to bring in Wallach for the Lookouts' only run of the evening. Seidel entered and forced C.J. Retherford to line out to escape the bases-loaded jam. But the righty gave up two additional walks in the sixth.
Although the night ended on a happy note, that stretch still irked Huntsville pitching coach Chris Hook.
"I was disappointed about it," he said. "We had some lefties and some [switch-hitters] coming up for their side, so we went with Merklinger to try to get them out. He had some issues throwing strikes, which you never like to see. R.J. was able to get the huge out in the fifth, but he fell into the same pattern too. On my end, I'm not real happy about that, but we were fortunate to get the outs when we needed them."
Byrd allowed one walk in the seventh, but pitched a perfect eighth to preserve the no-hitter. Finally, Kintzler, who has 16 games of Major League experience but was designatede for assignment by the Brewers last month due to arm injuries and poor performance, set down the side in order in the ninth.
Those last three innings helped settle Hook's feelings about the night as whole.
"You could see they took it upon themselves as a challenge," he said. "You could see the intensity on their faces. Obviously, they want to get those nine outs and finish up the win, but there was a little something extra too.
"Kintzler got a little pumped. You could see the big leagues in him. Sometimes, those guys don't care when they're at the lower levels, but he had a little bit extra emotion."
The most walks allowed in a Major League no-hitter was also 11 -- Blue Moon Odom (nine) and Francisco Barrios (two) combined for the White Sox on July 28, 1976. The most by an individual was Jim Maloney's 10 in a 10-inning no-hitter for the Reds on Aug. 19, 1965.
But does Hook think the high walk count dampens his team's feat? "To me, it does," he said. "The most gratifying thing really is beating a good Chattanooga team and taking the series. But that being said, sometimes you have these things happen in an ugly way, and this one had a capital 'U'."
Still, the Stars pitching staff has allowed only one hit in the past 18 innings -- something that Hook credits to the Brewers trade of Zack Greinke that brought Jean Segura, Ariel Pena and Wednesday's starter Johnny Hellweg to the Brewers and the Stars.
"Sometimes, you get a lift when you get new players, and these guys have been a big help," Hook said.
Either way, with just over a month left on the Southern League schedule and the Stars only four games back in the North Division, this run couldn't have come at a better time.
"It shows we have the ability and the pitchers in our repertoire to handle anything right now," Nelson said. "We can shut down a lot of teams. There are always going to be times when things are going well or when you're struggling. But it's great when everything's coming together this late."