Former WSU pitcher Adam Conley continued his strong start to the 2016 MLB season on Friday night when he tossed 7 2/3 innings of no-hit ball against the Milwaukee Brewers before being pulled by manager Don Mattingly after 116 pitches.
Unfortunately, the Marlins' relievers couldn't close the deal, giving up a hit to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Miami would eventually allow three runs but hold off the Brewers, 6-3.
Conley, a former second round draft pick, is one of the Marlins' prized young players at 25 years old -- and Mattingly simply wasn't willing to take a chance on Conley throwing another 20 or 30 pitches to try and close the deal.
"It was easy right there," Mattingly said. "I knew he couldn't finish. We weren't going to let him finish. ...
"This kid has a chance to be really special so there's no way, at this point in the season, that we're going to let him go to 130. We know we have a long season and we feel like we have a chance to go somewhere. He's going to have to be a part of that so we have to protect him."
Conley hadn't thrown more than 100 pitches in any of his first four starts and had a high of 106 pitches last season, so he was already well beyond where he had gone before as a big leaguer.
"I never like coming out of the game no matter what the circumstances are, but considering where I was at the in the game and everything, I knew what was going on," Conley said. "I knew coming into the eighth I was already at about 100 (pitches)."
While the opportunity to close out a no-hitter is rare -- hence the booing by the hometown Brewers fans when Conley was pulled -- the consensus seems to be that Mattingly made the right call. This, from ESPN.com's David Schoenfield:
Was it the right call? I think so. It's early in the season. Conley had walked a batter in both the seventh and eighth innings and while his stuff and velocity still looked good, Mattingly and pitching coach Juan Nieves had to factor the walks into the decision and consider maybe Conley was starting to tire. ... Only two starters threw 130 in a game last season: Mike Fiers with 134 in his no-hitter, and Clayton Kershaw with 132 in a September complete game against the Giants.
On the season, Conley is now 1-1 with a 3.67 ERA in 27 innings pitched with 28 strikeouts and 12 walks.
Conley's name factors prominently in the WSU record book. He started his career as a reliever, and is third in single season saves (12) and fourth in career saves (13). He then transitioned to the rotation for his junior year, and finished his career ninth in career games pitched (70).
After being drafted in 2011, he spent the next four-plus seasons climbing the minors before making his major league debut last year and going 4-1 with a 3.76 ERA.