Astros’ Ronel Blanco Throws First No-Hitter in Major League Baseball This Season

Ronel Blanco has secured a special first…

The 30-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher, who made his first Opening Day roster, has thrown the first no-hitter in Major League Baseball this season.

Ronel Blanco Blanco struck out seven and walked two in the Houston Astros‘ 10-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night. Blanco, who didn’t play in the MLB until he was 28, was making just his eighth career start. He wouldn’t even be in Houston’s rotation if not for injuries to Justin Verlander and Jose Urquidy.

“It’s been a very long road traveled for me,” he said in Spanish through an interpreter. “A lot of ups, a lot of downs, a lot of falls, a lot of me getting back up. But I think all of that has been worth it for me to be able to get to this moment.”

He walked George Springer to start the game and again with two outs in the ninth.

When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. grounded out to end it, Blanco smiled broadly before raising his arms above his head just before being mobbed by teammates.

“I see it as a great blessing, a great blessing for me and my family,” he said. “With the arrival of my daughter I see it as a life-changing experience, and I dedicate this to my family and my daughter.”

It was the 17th no-hitter in Astros history and the first in the majors since Philadelphia’s Michael Lorenzen threw one against the Washington Nationals on Aug. 9 of last year.

Houston’s previous no-hitter came about a week before that one when Framber Valdez did it in a 2-0 win over Cleveland on August 1.

Kyle Tucker and Yainer Diaz each homered twice as the Astros won their first game of the season after losing four to the Yankees. Houston’s Joe Espada became the first manager in major league history to get his first win in a no-hitter.

“I couldn’t be any happier for the way today turned out,” Espada said.

The Astros are the fourth team in MLB history to get their first win of the season in a no-hitter, and the first since Boston’s Hideo Nomo pitched one against the Orioles in 2001. Nomo’s no-hitter that year came on April 4. That was the record for the earliest no-hitter by calendar date, according to Sportradar, but Blanco’s gem broke the mark by three days.

Blanco threw 105 pitches, averaging 93.6 mph with 31 fastballs and also throwing 36 changeups, 34 sliders and four curveballs.

Espada said the changeup was the key to Blanco’s success Monday.

“It makes the fastball and the slider that much better,” he said. “The way it comes out of the hand, it looks just like his fastball and hitters are committed to potentially swinging at a fastball and the ball just kind of falls in the zone. It’s a pitch that he’s worked really hard on and it paid big dividends tonight.”

Toronto manager John Schneider agreed.

“Really good changeup, it was almost like a split, slider combo,” he said. “Give him credit — that’s really hard to do. I know he hasn’t been starting much, but he was really good and his changeup was outstanding.”

Victor Caratini Agrees to Two-Year, $12 Million Contract with Houston Astros

Victor Caratini is catching a Texas-sized star

The 30-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball catcher has agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract with the Houston Astros, according to multiple reports.

Victor CaratiniCaratini can reportedly earn additional performance bonuses.

Caratini spent the past two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers and hit .259 with seven homers and 25 RBIs in 62 games this year as a backup to William Contreras.

Caratini is a .236 career hitter with 38 homers and 171 RBIs in seven major league seasons with the Chicago Cubs (2017-20), San Diego Padres (2021) and Milwaukee (2022-23).

Yainer Díaz is expected to be the Astros’ starting catcher next year, and the agreement with Caratini could mean Houston won’t re-sign Martín Maldonado. The 37-year-old has been with the Astros since 2019.

“I’ve been talking to Yainer once a week,” new manager Joe Espada said Monday. “We’re going to do some things in January leading into spring training to prep him for spring training. I don’t want us to get to spring training and start from scratch.

“So this is going to be starting right now having conversations about our staff, how to attack certain lineups, things that we know that we can help him with, receiving, throwing.”

Joe Espada to Reportedly Become New Manager of the Houston Astros

Joe Espada is about to make an astronomical rise…

The 48-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball coach and former Minor League Baseball player will reportedly serve as the Houston Astros’ new manager following Dusty Baker’s retirement.

Joe Espada,The team is turning to their longtime bench coach as they look to continue a record-setting run of seven consecutive American League Championship Series appearances, according to ESPN. An official announcement is expected Monday.

Espada has been on the Astros’ bench since 2018, a year after Houston won a World Series title that has since been tainted by the revelation of a sign-stealing scandal.

Espada had previously been a coach with the New York Yankees, and prior to that he had coached with the Miami Marlins following a nine-year playing career in the minor and independent leagues.

Espada remained with Houston after the firing of manager A.J. Hinch in the wake of the sign-stealing allegations and served as a vital member of the staff as it transitioned to Baker taking over.

Baker, who managed the Astros to the World Series title in 2022, retired following Houston’s loss to eventual champion Texas Rangers in the ALCS this season.

The Astros will return the core of their team that won the AL West this year. Left fielder Yordan Álvarez, second baseman Jose Altuve, right fielder Kyle Tucker, third baseman Alex Bregman and starters Justin VerlanderFramber Valdez and Cristian Javier are all under contract for next year, though Altuve, Bregman and Verlander all are set to hit free agency after the 2024 season.

The news of Espada’s hiring, first reported by USA Today, will go over well in the clubhouse, where he’s well liked. Espada is seen by players as a well-rounded coach whose leadership skills helped fill a gap with Baker.

Yuli Gurriel Claims American League Batting Champion Title

Yuli Gurriel’s career is in full swing

The 37-year-old Cuban professional baseball first baseman, nicknamed “La Piña”, hit a winning RBI single in the ninth inning, and the AL West champion Houston Astros headed to the postseason with a 7-6 win over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.

Yuli Gurriel,

Gurriel, the American League batting champion, hit .319 and became Houston’s second player to win a batting title after Jose Altuve in 2014, ’16 and ’17. Gurriel became the second Cuban-born big league batting champion following Tony Oliva in 1964, ’65 and 1971.

“It’s something really important,” Gurriel said through a translator. “I think everybody knows it’s a big deal, and it’s tough to win a batting title, so that means a lot. I was fine either way with playing today. … It turned out that I was able to be there in the end, so it all worked out.”

Gurriel, who entered in the ninth as a defensive replacement, singled to left off Lou Trivino (7-8) to score Jason Castro, who had singled starting the inning and took third on Yordan Álvarez’s one-out double.

Gurriel said he wasn’t prepared to hit on Sunday and hadn’t taken a swing all day before the at bat, but he had a positive mindset to get a hit.

“He didn’t sit on it,” said Houston manager Dusty Baker, who claimed he predicted to bench coach Joe Espada the previous inning that “Yuli is going to win this game. Walkoff.”

Oakland was 86-76, finishing nine games behind the Astros in third place.

Hernandez Named Miami Marlins Pitching Coach

Chuck Hernandez is making his triumphant return to the big leagues…

The 52-year-old Latino baseball coach has been hired as the pitching coach for the Miami Marlins by the team’s new manager Mike Redmond.

Chuck Hernandez

Hernandez has spent the past two years as an assistant coach at the University of South Florida. He previously served as the pitching coach for the Detroit Tigers in 2006-08 and for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2004-05.

Hernandez was a pitcher in the minor leagues from 1979-83, before a broken arm ended his professional pitching career.

The rest of Redmond’s staff includes hitting coach Tino Martinez, first base coach Perry Hill, third base coach Joe Espada, and bullpen coach Reid Cornelius.