O'Sullivan pitches Triple-A no-hitter
Seventh-inning walk prevents bid for perfection
Hours earlier and thousands of miles away, the crowd at the Metrodome gave a standing ovation to Mark Buehrle, paying homage to the White Sox left-hander's perfect streak, which was halted at 45 batters.
Salt Lake's Sean O'Sullivan might not have been perfect Tuesday, but he came pretty darn close.
So when the 21-year-old right-hander triumphantly put out No. 27 in the books, capping the first nine-inning no-hitter in Bees' history, the crowd at Sacramento's Raley Field got to its feet for a tribute of its own.
O'Sullivan struck out seven and was a walk away from perfection as Salt Lake stifled the River Cats, 2-0.
For O'Sullivan, an Angels prospect who was making his first start since returning from a stint in the Major Leagues, Tuesday's game was about a different kind of angel. He lost his grandmother, Rose, on Sunday night and pitched the game in her honor.
"I was going out there, throwing this one for her," said O'Sullivan, whose bid for perfection was marred only by a leadoff walk in the seventh. "And I think I did a pretty good job of that."
All night, the burly 6-foot-2, 230-pounder dominated the Cats. He spotted his low-90s fastball, up and down, in and out, mixing in a smattering of changeups and breaking balls to cruise through the 122-pitch effort.
"Guys kept telling me the real struggle will be when you go back down to the Minors to get really focused for the games," said O'Sullivan, who went 3-0 with a 3.72 ERA in five Major League starts. "You really got to dig deep and find a way to get yourself amped up.
"My whole [mind-set] right now is to just keep giving them a reason to bring me back up. And I had a little extra focus in me tonight because of my grandma."
That extra oomph cemented O'Sullivan a permanent place in Salt Lake history. The last time a Bees pitcher flirted with perfection was 1999, when Frank Rodriguez tossed seven hitless innings in the first game of a doubleheader. O'Sullivan became the second Pacific Coast League pitcher to toss a no-hitter in less than a month, following Colorado Springs' Brandon Hynick, who threw a perfect game on June 30.
"You've got to tip your hat," River Cats manager Tony DeFrancesco told the Sacramento Bee. "Everything was working for him. ... We hit maybe two balls hard the entire night. You've got to give the guy credit."
O'Sullivan was quick to point out that Tuesday's performance wouldn't have been possible if not for some defensive wizardry.
In fact, it was while watching center fielder Brad Coon's incredible basket catch in the fourth inning that O'Sullivan noticed all the zeros on the scoreboard.
"It always seems like one great play happens during one of these games," he said. "I was just trying to stay focused. I came into the dugout [following that inning], said a little prayer and just kept throwing. And guys kept making plays."
And somewhere, Rose is smiling.
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.