Ronel Blanco throws no-hitter for Houston Astros - earliest no-no in MLB history

Ronel Blanco, who did not make his major league debut until he was 28 years old, made history in his eighth career start, pitching a no-hitter for the Houston Astros in a 10-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night in Houston.

Blanco, 30, was a surprise addition to the Astros' rotation as this season began, necessitated by a shoulder injury to ace Justin Verlander. But he dazzled a Toronto lineup all night with a devastating changeup, and finished off the gem by getting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to ground to second base for the final out.

That sent the Minute Maid Park crowd of 27,285 into a frenzy and finished the 17th no-hitter in franchise history, including playoffs. It was also the earliest no-hitter in Major League Baseball history, the April Fools' Day gem besting Hideo Nomo's 2001 no-hitter for Boston by three days.

Ronel Blanco delivers a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park.
Ronel Blanco delivers a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park.

And it capped an epic week for Blanco, who spent Tuesday morning witnessing the birth of his second child, a girl, and then in the afternoon had a dominant exhibition start for Houston against their Class AAA club - a 10-strikeout outing that nailed down a roster spot.

Safe to say he made the most of his opening.

Blanco struck out seven and walked just two Monday, daring the Blue Jays to offer at his changeup by throwing it 36% of the time. The Blue Jays were not up to the task, and Blanco completed the shutout in 105 pitches.

Meanwhile, Kyle Tucker hit two home runs as Houston won its first game in five tries this season after a season-opening four-game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees.

Joe Espada also found his name in the history books - the Astros' rookie manager is the only person in major league history to earn his first career win via a no-hitter, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The unlikely elements of this feat dovetail with Blanco's humble roots. He did not sign a professional contract until he was 22, ancient by amateur standards in the Dominican Republic. His bonus was just $5,000 and, as The Athletic reported, he was working at a car wash at the time.

Yet Houston and its former special assistant, Oz Ocampo, specialized in unearthing unlikely finds. Current Astros ace Framber Valdez was 21 when the Astros signed him, for a $10,000 bonus, out of the Dominican.

Blanco hasn't reached Valdez's level, but has matched one of his accomplishments - the lefty threw the most recent no-hitter for the Astros, in August 2023 against Cleveland. Now, Blanco has one of his own, capping an epic week and a stunning rise.

"I couldn't believe it," he told Space City Home Network after the game, noting he did not believe the no-hitter was a possibility until he went out for the ninth inning.

"I'm just so happy he went out and did that, because he's such a hard worker," Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña told reporters.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ronel Blanco of Houston Astros throws no-hitter vs. Toronto Blue Jays