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Some Notes On the Astros’ Ronel Blanco Throwing the 10th No-Hitter by a Pitcher from D.R. in MLB History

 Conor Liguori  |    Apr 3rd, 2024 7:42pm EDT

Ronel Blanco elebrates with Yainer Diaz of the Houston Astros after pitching a no hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park on April 01, 2024 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Houston Astros righty Ronel Blanco made just seven starts and 24 appearances in the first two years of his Major League Baseball career from 2022-23. However, the 30-year-old from Santiago, Dominican Republic, was nearly perfect on Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays.  

In a 10-0 win over Toronto at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Blanco threw the 10th no-hitter by a pitcher from the Dominican Republic in MLB history. He walked two and struck out seven in the best performance of his career.  

The other nine Dominican pitchers to throw an MLB no-hitter are Juan Marichal, Ramon Martinez, Jose Jimenez, Ubaldo Jimenez, Francisco Liriano, Ervin Santana, Edinson Volquez, Domingo German, and Blanco’s teammate Framber Valdez.  

There are two other essential things to note: Blanco’s no-hitter was the earliest by date in MLB history, according to STATS, and Blanco and Houston catcher Yainer Diaz became the third-ever pitcher-catcher tandem from the D.R. to achieve a no-hitter, according to MLB.com.   

According to Ryan M. Spaeder on X, Diaz became the first catcher in MLB history to have a multi-home run game in which he caught a no-hitter on Monday. He hit a solo home run off Bowden Francis in the bottom of the first inning and added another solo shot in the seventh off Genesis Cabrera.  

Blanco did not begin pitching until age 18 and signed with the Astros as an international free agent on April 27, 2016. Since 2016, Blanco has appeared at several levels of minor league baseball in the Houston Astros organization and played six seasons in LIDOM with the Estrellas Orientales.   

His numbers have never jumped off the page, and his pitch mix is standard. Blanco throws a four-seam fastball, changeup, slider, and curveball. On Monday, he threw his changeup 36 times, three more times than he threw his fastball.  

So, what made Blanco successful against a dangerous lineup like Toronto?  

For starters, he induced a lot of weak contact. The Blue Jays hitters could not time up his changeup, which Blanco spotted just below the zone. As a result, ground balls and weak fly-outs were abundant during his outing.  

That is surprising, considering Blanco ranked in the 12th percentile for ground ball rate in 52 innings in 2023. Additionally, all seven of his strikeouts came on his changeup.   

Secondly, he received some timely, slick defensive plays from his fielders.

Leading off the top of the eighth was Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk, who hit a hard one-hopper back to Blanco. The ball ricocheted off Blanco’s glove towards Jose Altuve’s defensive replacement at second base, Mauricio Dubon. Knowing Kirk is not a speedster, Dubon hustled to retrieve the ball and made a clean throw to Jose Abreu at first to catch Kirk, saving the no-hitter in the process.  

With one out in the ninth, first baseman Abreu dove to his right to prevent a rocket hit by Cavan Biggio from rolling into right field. He then made a seated overhand toss to Blanco, who covered first for the second out.  

Blue Jays first baseman and Canadian-Dominican Vladimir Guerrero Jr. grounded out to second base to complete the no-hitter, forever cementing Blanco’s name in MLB history books.  

If the 30-year-old from the Dominican Republic was not already in Houstons’ future rotation plans, perhaps he is now.