“All of my pitches were working. It was just one of those days.” — Red Barons pitcher Jeremy Cummings
The date: Sept. 3, 2006
The place: Frontier Field (Rochester, N.Y.)
The situation: As the Red Barons prepared for the 2006 postseason, and the last stretch of games that incarnation of the franchise would ever play, Jeremy Cummings took the ball with two goals. One, to get himself ready for his postseason start. Second, to get his statistics in order.
The Rochester Red Wings were in the same boat. The Wings had sealed the IL’s Wild Card spot, and that meant they’d be taking on the Red Barons in the first round of the playoffs as soon as their season-ending series was over.
The lead-in: Long before first pitch, Cummings had done the math.
He entered the game with a 4.24 ERA, a number not quite palatable to the veteran right-hander who pined to finish the season with a sub-4 ERA. So, he weighed the scenarios and carried the ones and determined that, if he could throw 8 1/3 scoreless innings, he’d get where he wanted to be.
It was a lofty goal, he knew. What he didn’t realize, though, is how memorable that night would become. How he’d never remember the 2006 season as the one where he walked away with an ERA in the 3.9s.
The moment: Thirteen batters into his outing, Cummings walked Red Wings third baseman Terry Tiffee.
When Tiffee jogged to first, Cummings knew something felt different. He knew no Red Wings hitter, to that point, had gotten to where Tiffee had. But after walking Kevin West to put runners on first and second with just one out, Cummings faced real trouble for the first time all night. For the first time, his hope for shutout ball seemed to be teetering.
“He had good command and worked ahead of a lot of guys,” Tiffee said. “It seemed like when you got into box you were already down 0-2.”
But after Alex Romero rapped into an inning-ending double play, something else started to settle in: It might not just be a shutout Cummings could pitch that night.
He cruised through the sixth and seventh, and Cummings thought some more about his drive to get below 4.0.
“After the (seventh),” he said, ” I was saying, ‘Four more outs.”
Meanwhile, the Red Barons had been busy hitting lefty Glen Perkins and the Rochester bullpen hard. Carlos Leon and Gary Burnham both had four hits. Jim Rushford had three. Brennan King and Josh Kroeger had two apiece. That’s 15 hits among the Red Barons’ top five hitters. They built a 5-0 lead.
With some room for error, Cummings could go for broke. Forget four outs. He wanted six.
In the eighth, Cummings plunked West, then got another double play to escape the inning.
He went to the ninth on the verge of history. No Red Barons pitcher had ever thrown a nine-inning no-hitter, and Cummings got within one out before he walked Andres Torres. But Cummings pumped a pitch past veteran Gil Velazquez for a strikeout to seal the historic effort.
“I can’t really describe this emotion,” Red Barons catcher Jason Jaramillo said. “We were on the same page all night long. He was just phenomenal. The tempo was just incredible.”
For what it’s worth: When Cummings walked off the mound that day, his ERA stood at 3.93.
HISTORY BEHIND THE MOMENT
Cummings’ feat still ranks as the only nine-inning no-hitter in the 30 years of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre baseball. But in the IL, where seven-inning doubleheaders are frequent, it’s not as if no-nos have been completely absent from the team’s history.
During the IL North Division championship season of 1992, big Ben Rivera threw the first, a seven-inning domination of Pawtucket at Lackawanna County Stadium, a seven-inning win. The following year, right-hander Tyler Green allowed a run, but the Ottawa Lynx couldn’t manage a hit against him in a no-hit victory in the first game of an Independence Day doubleheader.
In 2004, another tall right-hander, Robert Ellis, no-hit Louisville in the opener of a twinbill.
There have been four-no hitters in team history, and strangely, none have occurred since the Yankees moved their Triple-A affiliate to PNC Field for the 2007 season. In fact, there have been five one-hitters thrown in team history, as well. And only one of those — Chad Green’s impressive showing at Gwinnett on July 14, 2016, was thrown by a Yankees prospect.
Lefty Pat Combs (Aug. 19, 1989), right-hander Andy Ashby (July 22, 1991), southpaw John Burgos (Aug. 19, 1991) and 21-year-old Brett Myers (April 25, 2002) all did it for the Red Barons.
Cummings, meanwhile, threw 137 pitches in his no-hitter. No pitcher has thrown more for the franchise since. With the Red Barons trailing the first-round series against Rochester two games to one, Cummings took the mound again looking to extend the series at Lackawanna County Stadium.
Unfortunately, a merely tremendous effort in which he allowed one run on six hits in seven innings wasn’t enough. Rehabbing left-hander Francisco Liriano and Perkins combined to shut out the Red Barons on one hit, a single by Josh Kroeger. Rochester won the game, 2-0, and the series, 3-1. The season was over and, sadly, so were the Red Barons. Cummings goes down in history as the last Red Barons starting pitcher at Lackawanna County Stadium.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE