TRENTON – After spending most of the first half of 2019 on the IL with an elbow strain in early spring, Thunder right hander Brian Keller made history on Thursday evening by firing a seven inning no-hitter against the visiting Altoona Curve. The 2-0 Trenton victory in game one of a shortened twin bill marked the second no-hitter for the franchise this season and the sixth overall in their history. It was the eighth in the Eastern League this season; the first of the seven inning variety.
“Just about everything [was working],” admitted Keller. “The cutter and change-up especially. Fastball command was pretty good and then me and Navi [Navarreto] behind the plate; he was calling all of the right things and doing everything the right way.”
Just 37 days after Deivi Garcia, Domingo Acevedo and Daniel Alvarez combined to complete the feat, the 25-year old Keller was near perfect; a leadoff walk in the second inning to DH Logan Hill was the lone blemish to his line.
Altoona nearly shattered Keller’s historic bid with two outs in the fifth inning when first baseman Jerrick Suiter roped a hot shot down the third base line. Recently promoted infielder Max Burt dove sharply to his right at the hot corner and rose to his feet in time to catch the hustling Suiter by a step at first base. Knowing many memorable no-hitters and perfect games come with a patented game-saving defensive play in the late stages, Keller was certain that was one of them in the moment.
“That is the point that I knew that it was going to happen,” admitted Keller. “I always said that there was always that one play in a perfect game or no-hitter that keeps it alive and fires everybody up and that was it.”
Efficiency was paramount for Keller – he needed just 70 pitches to navigate through one over the minimum. The 2016 39th-round draft selection had command of his entire four pitch arsenal and pounded 76 percent of his offering for strikes (53).
“That was huge,” Keller said. “Getting ahead, staying ahead, getting guys to get out on soft contact and when you get the opportunity, put them away with a strikeout.”
Keller improved to 3-1 with a 2.32 ERA in seven starts for Trenton since being added to the roster on June 23. Eastern League opposition thus far has hit .197 against him.
“This was definitely a standout performance,” said Keller.