Matt Buschmann came to Modesto on Friday with the Stockton Ports to grab a workout and left with a shot at history.
The 30-year-old righty, placed on the disabled list after one start with Triple-A Sacramento with an elbow strain left after six no-hit innings in what became a 5-2 Ports victory at John Thurman Field.
Modesto remained in its season-long slide with its seventh loss in eight games and stands at 10-26 in its struggle to emerge from the team’s worst start in 10 seasons as a Colorado affiliate.
In other words, it was far from an opportune time for the Nuts to have to face a veteran pitcher such as Buschmann, who has pitched in 237 games at every level of the minors, but never in the majors.
“He could throw his slider any time he wanted for a strike - in any count, in any situation, and he did,” said Modesto manager Don Sneddon. “He knew how to pitch and you could see that. He has the full package and demonstrated why he’s at the level he’s at.”
Oakland is Buschmann’s third organization, having been signed initially by San Diego in 2006 out of Vanderbilt. The A’s grabbed him as a free agent in the offseason from Tampa Bay and assigned him to Sacramento, where he was removed midway through his second start.
On Friday, he showed no signs of discomfort or – perhaps more important – signs of being afraid to throw without fear of reinjury.
“I feel great,” said Buschmann, who will be rejoining the RiverCats for his next outing. “In the last start, being the first one for me in a couple weeks, I was rusty. Tonight I had no mental setbacks as far as worrying about my arm. I knew my arm was there so I could just concentrate on competing. Tonight was good for mental and physical reasons.”
He left with a 4-0 lead, having thrown 78 pitches. Yes, the no-hitter remained in play, but there was no way a Triple-A was going to stay in the game just to notch a gem in High-A.
“I made a joke about going back out for the seventh, and about how this might have been my last chance to throw a no-hitter, but there was no talk about it,” Buschmann said. “I know this team has struggled a little and I’m glad I gave them an opportunity to win.”
He was reminded that even had he thrown a no-hitter in the California League, chances are that he wouldn’t have made the SportsCenter highlight reel, despite his connections. Earlier this year Buschmann married ESPN anchor Sara Walsh.
“That would have been my one chance for her to get me on SportsCenter, but obviously, no,” he said.
Modesto starter Ben Alsup (0-4) allowed one earned run during Stockton’s four-run fourth inning, which was fueled by an infield throwing error and a fly ball lost in the 8 p.m. dusk that fell in front off right fielder Derek Jones for an RBI single.
“We’re not playing the best defense right now and it was a bad break when the ball got lost at that time of night,” Sneddon said. “Jonesy catches that ball 99 times out of 100, but when you’re not playing good ball as a team those things tend to happen.”
Modesto scratched out a run in the seventh against Ports reliever Jonathan Joseph, as Jones singled and scored when Francisco Sosa bounced a double off the wall in left. Sosa had two of the Nuts’ five hits, all collected after Buschmann left.
“Last year with the Rays was a great opportunity for me to show that I could pitch in Triple-A and that opened up some avenues,” Buschmann said. “The A’s are giving me a chance to reach the big leagues.”