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Great Moments in Mets Minor League History: The Gaby Hernandez no-hitter

Gaby Hernandez throwing a no-hitter to clinch a South Atlantic League playoff berth was a great moment in Mets minor league history.

Mr. Met (Port St. Lucie)
Port St. Lucie
Chris McShane

A graduate of Belen Jesuit Preparatory High School in Miami, Florida, the Mets drafted Gaby Hernandez in the third round of the 2004 MLB Draft. A highly touted pitcher and hitter who was a force for the Wolverines, helping lead them the state 3-A finals in 2003, Hernandez’ future was clearly on the mound; his fastball sat around 90 MPH and could touch 94 MPH, he flashed an above-average changeup, he possessed an inconsistent curveball that had potential, but more than anything, he had the poise and self-confidence of veteran, rather than an 18-year-old. He agreed to a $480,000 signing bonus and was assigned to the GCL Mets to begin his professional career. Appearing in 10 games- 9 starts- for the Gulf Coast League squadron, Hernandez posted a 1.09 ERA in 49.2 innings, allowing 25 hits, walking 12, and striking out 58. He was given a late-season promotion to the Brooklyn Cyclones and appeared in a single game for them, scattering two hits over three innings, walking none and striking out six.

Ranked the Mets’ 4th best prospect going into the 2005 season by Baseball America, the organization decided to put the right-hander on an aggressive developmental track. While most expected the Mets to keep Hernandez in extended spring training and assign him to the Cyclones when their season began in June, they instead assigned him to the Hagerstown Suns, their Low-A affiliate at the time. Turning 19 that May, he was one of four player born in 1985 on the 2005 Hagerstown Suns; Jose Coronado, born in April, was the youngest, followed by Hernandez, June baby Mike Carp, and December baby Carlos Gomez.

The Suns had a strong first half. They started the season off with a seven-game winning streak and went 16-7 in April. They followed that up with a 17-12 May before slowing down slightly at the beginning of June, going 8-9 through June 18. With their win over the West Virginia Power on the 18th, the Suns needed just one more win to qualify for the 2005 South Atlantic League playoffs. Scheduled to pitch on Sunday the 19th- Father’s Day- was Gaby Hernandez.

The right-hander began the Sunday afternoon matinee by getting shortstop Alcides Escobar to ground out and second baseman Hernan Iribarren to fly out. Center fielder Will Lewis reached on an error, but left fielder Joshua Brady popped up to end the inning. In the second, he got third baseman Tony Festa to ground out, struck out DH Carlos Corporan, and got first baseman Grant Richardson to fly out. In the bottom of the inning, Grant Psomas walked and later scored on a James Burt double, giving Hernandez a 1-0 lead.

The right-hander began the third inning by getting catcher Clay Blevins to pop out. He followed that up by striking out right fielder Adam Mannon, his second strikeout of the game, and got Escobar to fly out to end the inning. He set the Power down in order in the fourth, recording his third strikeout. He quickly recorded two outs in the fifth, recording a fourth strikeout, and seemed poised to have another 1-2-3 inning, but lost Grant Richardson to a base on balls. Richardson did not spend much time on the basepaths as he got Clay Bevins, the next batter, to ground out to second to end the inning.

As Hernandez took the mound for the sixth, the crowd at Hagerstown Municipal Stadium began buzzing louder in anticipation. The right-hander was about to go through the West Virginia lineup twice and had not yet allowed a hit. Sure enough, he set the Power down in order that inning, Hernan Iribarren striking out for Hernandez’ fifth strikeout. They went down in order once again in the seventh, with Joshua Bradley striking out for the right-hander’s sixth strikeout.

After getting Carlos Corporan and Grant Richardson, Hernandez lost Clay Bevins to a walk, the second he issued that afternoon. With a runner on first, he got the next batter, Adam Mannon, to pop out to short to end the inning. The crowd of 2,301- roughly 50% capacity for tiny little Hagerstown Municipal Stadium- came to their feet in appreciation, knowing that Gaby Hernandez needed three more outs to throw the 3rd no-hitter in Hagerstown Suns history and the 103rd no-hitter in South Atlantic League history. They would not be easy outs though, as the three best West Virginia Power hitters were due up in the ninth.

The first batter he faced in the ninth was Alcides Escobar, who came into the game hitting .292/.327/.387. The shortstop would ground out to third base for the first out. The second batter he faced in the ninth was second baseman Hernan Iribarren, who came into the game hitting .336/.397/.456. Iribarren would fly out to center for the second out. With eight-and-two-thirds no-hit innings under his belt, the only thing standing between Hernandez and destiny was center fielder Will Lewis, who came into the game hitting .315/.389/.463 and was one of the few batters to have reached first base. Lewis would fly out to left to make the third out.

He needed only 115 pitches to complete the game, which took a crisp two hours and fifteen minutes.

With the final out, not only did Gaby Hernandez throw a no-hitter, but the Hagerstown Suns clinched a playoff berth. Because the Suns and the Lexington Legends both ended the first half with a 42–28, the two teams met in a special one-game playoff to determine who would be the South Atlantic League Northern Division First Half champions. Coincidentally, Hernandez took the mound for this important game as well, which the Suns won 9-4. They would go on to beat the Delmarva Shorebirds in the semifinals but would lose to the Kannapolis Intimidators in the finals.

Hernandez himself would end the 2005 season with a 2.43 ERA in 92.2 innings, allowing 59 hits, walking 30, and striking out 99. He would’ve undoubtedly been highly ranked in the Mets’ minor league system for the 2006 season, but he was traded to the Florida Marlins along with outfielder Dante Brinkley in exchange for Paul Lo Duca. He climbed up the Marlins’ minor league system, at one point being ranked their third best prospect by Baseball America. At the 2008 trade deadline, the Marlins sent him to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for veteran reliever Arthur Rhodes.

Despite being close to a call-up to the major leagues with the Marlins and the Mariners, Hernandez never received one. His stuff stalled in the upper levels of the minors, and the right-hander was far too critical of himself when he pitched poorly, creating a negative feedback loop that almost turned his failure into almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the later portion of his career, he would pitch for the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. His last stint in organized ball came in 2012, when he played for the Mobile BayBears. In the years since, he played for the Gigantes de Carolina in the Puerto Rican Winter League, the Navegantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League, the Charros de Jalisco in the Mexican Winter League, the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League, the Canberra Calvary in the Australian Baseball League, the EDA Rhinos in the CPBL, the Joliet Slammers of the Frontier League, and the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League. His final season as a professional came in 2017 with those Blue Crabs. He had something of a renaissance in that final year and he left baseball with as strong an ending as he had a beginning. In 141.1 innings in his final season, the 31-year-old Hernandez posted a 2.80 ERA, allowing 122 hits, walked 39, and struck out 150.