Last night was a good one for the farm system, despite the 2-3 overall record, as two of the higher-ceilinged pitchers in the Cubs organization combined to throw 11 hitless innings. D.J. Herz notched his first professional victory, while Max Bain pitched six full innings for the first time in his career. The two combined for 15 strikeouts. All was well in A-ball.
Oh, perhaps I’ve buried the lede: the Low-A Pelicans completed their first no-hitter in nine years.
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) June 24, 2021
It was a four-pitcher effort, with Herz getting the first 15 outs, Jeremiah Estrada adding 2.2 brilliant innings, Bailey Reid grabbing an out, and Danis Correa finishing the 5-0 victory. Also big credit should go to catcher Pablo Aliendo, who not only scored the game’s first (and ultimately decisive!) run, but whose work blocking pitches behind the plate really stood out.
What a performance from these four.
16 combined strikeouts.
— Myrtle Beach Pelicans (@Pelicanbaseball) June 24, 2021
The funny thing about watching D.J. Herz’s and Max Bain’s starts back later, as I did last night: neither guy was at the top of the game they’ve showed this year. Which I mean as a compliment, because developmentally, what a huge thing to be able to succeed despite it.
“It’s weird, I don’t think I had my best stuff tonight,” Max Bain told me on the phone last night. The two did pitch around seven combined walks, getting some help from their catchers with three caught steals and pitching out of big spots. Herz had runners on second and third with just one out in the fourth inning, for instance, but battled through the trouble with back-to-back strikeouts.
Bain would hit 98 on the stadium gun (a number he thinks is probably a little high) in the sixth inning, but pitched 94-96 consistently throughout the outing. “I probably had more [pitches] in me if the situation would have called for it,” Bain said about getting 18 outs for the first time. “We were pretty successful with a fastball-dependent gameplan tonight.”
Herz, on the other hand, increased his curveball usage as the game went on last night. The Columbia Fireflies lineup threw 8 right-handed hitters against him, but it did not prevent the southpaw from throwing the hook repeatedly low-and-inside to righties. It was specifically an effective way of changing his look during the second time through the order.
Bain was able to notch at least one strikeout with all four pitches, throwing a lot of curveballs in the first inning before going to the slider as his preferred secondary for the rest of the game. Bain says he switched sides of the rubber a few weeks back, which helps his confidence in throwing the breaking balls. And while last night was still too many walks (3), in a season with too many walks (24 in 38.2 IP), Bain did show good feel with the fastball on the gloveside corner.
Remarkably, last night was Herz’ fourth no-hit start of the season, though the first three were finished after just 8, 11, and 12 outs respectively. Herz was more efficient in this one, with six batters ending their at-bats in two pitches or less. I’m less concerned with the walks last night, as two are were to the first three hitters and two were in the fourth inning after lengthy at-bats. Both seem like solvable problems.
These are two guys where the season ERAs do not tell the right story, even after the big help that last night provided in that column. For Herz, one outing derailed his season numbers, which I think are better represented by his .133 average against. For Bain, there was also one really bad outing, but he’s also struggled to finish hitters off (particularly with runners on base). Whether it’s the life on Herz’ fastball or the polish of Bain’s well-thought and diversified arsenal, these guys have impressed the Cubs front office a lot more than those numbers might suggest. And last night is only going to add to those good vibes.
— Greg Huss (@OutOfTheVines) June 24, 2021