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Inside the Bisons

With power sinker and powerful defense, T.J. Zeuch made Herd history on the mound

ROCHESTER – On the day after, the chatter still lingered around Frontier Field.

The Buffalo Bisons and Rochester Red Wings were prepping to play another huge game in the International League's North Division Tuesday night, but no one who was in the park on Monday will ever forget the virtuoso performance they saw on the mound.

Bisons right-hander T.J. Zeuch tossed just the second no-hitter of Buffalo's modern era of Triple-A baseball dating to 1985 in the Herd's 3-0 victory. It was a dominant performance by Toronto's No. 1 pick in 2016 as Zeuch induced 15 groundball outs and allowed just two runners to reach base.

"I knew it was going on the whole time but before every start I tell myself that I want to go out there and just get 21 outs," Zeuch, 23, said Tuesday while meeting reporters in the Herd dugout. "Once that 7th and 8th inning would roll around, I'd come back in the dugout and tell myself, 'You've got to get three more outs. Keep doing that and we'll be in a good spot.' "

The Bisons sure were. The 6-foot-7-inch Zeuch's power sinker and curveball were ultra-sharp as there were few hard-hit balls in the game by a Rochester team that started the night leading the IL in batting and second in runs.

It was the Bisons' first no-hitter since Bartolo Colon's gem at then-North AmeriCare Park in 1997 against New Orleans. Colon and Zeuch are the only two pitchers to accomplish the feat in the team's modern era of Triple-A.

In fact, it was just the Bisons' third nine-inning no-hitter since 1943. The only other one in that span was Dick Marlowe's perfect game against Baltimore in 1952.

"The most important thing was an unbelievable defense behind me," said Zeuch (4-2). "With 15 groundouts in that game, I couldn't have done it without the group of guys behind me. All the credit in the world to them making every play out there."

No play was better than the one made by center fielder Jonathan Davis with one out in the ninth inning off Rochester leadoff man Ian Miller.

Miller blooped a Zeuch pitch to center field and the no-hitter looked like it was gone. But Davis came sprinting in and made a headlong dive to corral the ball and save the gem.

"I told myself if I have to dive, I'm diving. He might get a triple but it's not going to be on the hand that I don't make the effort," Davis said here Tuesday. "It was pretty low but I kept running towards it and I could tell I had a chance and I caught it. It was awesome to be able to make that play for T.J. right there."

Bisons coach Devon White, the former Gold Glove center fielder for the Blue Jays, and manager Bobby Meacham both thought the no-hitter was gone, too.

"It was outstanding, just an outstanding play and I don't think the replay does it justice," said White, best remembered for his spectacular catch at the center-field fence in the 1992 World Series against Atlanta. "From our view, I didn't think there was any way to get there. He just got a break on it and that's something he's able to do all the time."

"As soon as he hit it, I was like, 'Ooooh,' because it was dropping in," Meacham said. "Then I saw him closer and I was in my mind thinking, 'Go for it,' and that was just a great catch."

Zeuch had already crossed 110 pitches and Meacham said Zeuch was coming out as soon the Red Wings got a hit. Zeuch initially thought that moment was at hand until he saw Davis' broad smile and series of fist pumps on his knees after he made the play.

"I turned around and I saw it still up there and I saw JD's eyes light up," Zeuch said. "He started sprinting and I knew right then he was going to catch it. He makes unbelievable plays like that on a routine basis. Being able to watch him play center field has been a blessing. It's awesome to have a guy that talent back there behind me where anything hit in the air is going to be caught."

Davis, who made a pair of SportsCenter specials earlier in the year for the Blue Jays, said this catch was even better than the spectacular diving grab he made May 29 in left-center at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays.

"You just feel so good about that type of play. It's so much bigger than yourself," Davis said. "My emotion wasn't because I made the catch, it was because of what was actually happening in the grand scheme of things. For it to be for a guy that I've played with in the past, a good guy and a good teammate, it was awesome to be a part of it."

With a reprieve given and one out to go, Zeuch immediately refocused and completed his no-hitter by fielding Drew Maggi's chopper to the mound and giving first baseman Jordan Patterson an underhand flip to the bag.

"It was a pretty fitting end. A groundball guy gets a groundball back to himself to finish it off," Zeuch said. "I kind of went blank when I caught it. The only thought I had was don't flip it over his head. After I flipped it to him, I went blank for a second. I forgot it was the third out until I saw him throw his hands up in the air and then I was overcome with emotion and excitement."

Zeuch worked well in his first game with catcher Beau Taylor, just acquired last week from Oakland.

"He did a tremendous job back there calling the game and learning on the fly how my stuff moves, how it plays with certain hitters," Zeuch said. "I can only think of one or two times where I shook off. ... There were times I want to throw this pitch and I'd look at the sign and it was exactly what he would call. All the credit to him for learning guys as quickly as he has."

There was one crossup in the ninth and Taylor took a fastball to his wrist before staying in the game. But he was sore when he arrived at the ballpark Tuesday and left to get X-rays. Might have been the only negative of the whole night.

"It was fun and exciting to watch, especially with not having to do much work in the outfield," Davis said. "Roemon Fields and I were running in and he was like, 'Hey man, he's dealing right now.' Sure enough, we kept going inning to inning and I was thinking, 'Man, he might do it.' "

When it was over, Zeuch said his phone "was blown up" with messages. He first called his wife in Pittsburgh and his parents in suburban Cincinnati.

"It was awesome to talk to them about that," he said. "My parents actually said they stopped talking to each other about the seventh inning. My mom stopped checking her phone, didn't want to do anything to jinx it. It was pretty funny to hear them get superstitious like that."

Zeuch, who didn't make his Buffalo debut this season until June due to a lat injury, has dropped his ERA from 4.92 to 3.84 with 15 scoreless innings over his last two starts.

"I feel that I finally got back to normal, feeling like my mechanics and delivery are back to where they were last year," he said. "Missing being on the mound for nine weeks like I was is going to be trouble for any pitcher. ... Now that I've finally gotten back to normal, I'm throwing more strikes and getting a lot of groundballs."

Blue Jays first-round pick T.J. Zeuch working on control after promotion to Bisons

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