AKRONMoments after throwing his final pitch in the ninth inning and watching it settle into the glove of left fielder Matt McBride, Akron righthander Jeanmar Gomez braced himself.
As he turned back around toward home plate, catcher Damaso Espino came hurtling toward him, tackling the Indians righthander at the conclusion of Double-A Akron’s 3-0 victory at Trenton Thursday afternoon at Waterfront Park.
It didn’t take long before the rest of the Aeros players came sprinting out to the mound as well, everyone ending up in a pile on top of Gomez, who had just thrown the Aeros’ first perfect game in franchise history.
“It was such an unbelievable thing,” Espino said. “Everyone was jumping on top of each other screaming and (Gomez) is at the bottom of the pile with tears in his eyes, loving every minute of it.”
Gomez zipped through the Thunder lineup in each of the nine innings. He efficiently retired all 27 batters he faced, needing just 87 pitches to do so.
“He had very good fastball command, throwing 75 percent of his fastballs for strikes,” Aeros pitching coach Ruben Niebla said. “He threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 27 batters, so he was ahead of everyone all afternoon. Then his slider got better as the game went on, so they couldn’t just sit up there looking fastball.”
Although Gomez, through interpreter Espino, admitted he was well of aware of what was happening from the first inning on, he admitted to be taken aback by the enormity of accomplishing such a rare baseball feat.
“I just keep thanking God for this beautiful day,” said the 21-year-old native of Venezuela who signed with the Indians in 2005.
In addition to the perfect game, Gomez became the third Aeros pitcher to notch a no-hitter, but the first to accomplish the feat solo. The team’s last no-hitter came July 7, 2003a combined effort by starter Chad Durbin and reliever Oscar Alvarez.
“Around the sixth inning or so, I started to notice guys gravitating away from him,” Niebla said. “Even I started leaving him alone, not saying a word and just giving him a fist bump after each inning.”
Gomez retired eight Thunder batters via strikeout, 10 others flied out and nine grounded out. Only two plays came close to threatening to break up the perfect game. The first was a rocket down the line right at third baseman Jared Goedert in the third inning.
“At the time I didn’t think much of it because it was so early in the game,” Goedert said. “But as the game went on I thought, ‘Man, I’m so glad I caught that ball!’ ”
The second was enough to even put a scare in Gomez, as he nervously watched a hard fly ball to left field for the first out of the ninth eventually caught by a diving Matt McBride.
“I was just trying to get a good jump on it,” McBride said. “I would have gone all out and done anything I could to get that ball, even if it was 15 feet away.”
In 29 innings since joining the Aeros from high Class A Kinston, Gomez has allowed just nine hits while striking out 27 batters, going a perfect 4-0 in four starts with a minuscule 0.31 ERA. Over his last six starts, Gomez has allowed just one run while striking out 36 batters, owning a 0.21 ERA over his last 42 innings combined.