Astros spot-starter Ronel Blanco delivers stunning no-hitter vs. Blue Jays

The Astros rolled over the Blue Jays in a 10-0 win Monday in Houston

This was unexpected.

Houston Astros reliever Ronel Blanco got a spot start against the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday. He finished with the first no-hitter of the 2024 season in a 10-0 Houston win.

A third-year major leaguer primarily with relief experience, Blanco had never thrown more than six innings in an MLB game. He pitched nine stunning innings Monday in the eighth start of his MLB career.

“It’s been a very long road traveled for me,” he said in Spanish through a translator, via The Associated Press. “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. ... I see it as a great blessing, a great blessing for me and my family. With the arrival of my daughter, I see it as a life-changing experience, and I dedicate this to my family and my daughter.”

With two outs in the ninth, Blanco walked George Springer for only his second baserunner allowed all night. Then he induced a groundout from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to secure the unlikely no-hitter.

Blanco's night got off to an inauspicious start when he walked Springer to lead off the game. But then he retired 26 consecutive batters before walking Springer again in the ninth. Outside of those walks, he was perfect.

He also got some clutch defensive help in the ninth. Cavan Biggio smoked a ball toward first base with one out, but José Abreu was there to make the play and record the second out of the inning.

Blanco finished the game with 75 strikes on 103 pitches. He tallied seven strikeouts and two walks. The no-hitter was the 17th in Astros franchise history. Blanco was on the mound Monday only because of injuries to starters Justin Verlander and José Urquidy to begin the season.

The win is the first for the Astros after a four-game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees to open the season. It's also the first career win for rookie manager Joe Espada, who took over for the retired Dusty Baker this past offseason.

Blanco's catcher, Yainer Diaz, helped power the offense with two home runs in the victory.

"[It was an] impressive performance," Astros manager Joe Espada said, via ESPN. "We needed that. Blanco stepped up and gave us an incredible performance."