Jokisch’s no-no a night Rafael Lopez will remember

Tennessee Smokies catcher Rafael Lopez caught his first no-hitter Tuesday night. Photo Courtesy: Amy Smotherman Burgess/NEWS SENTINEL

By: Matthew Osborne

It’s not everyday a catcher calls and catches a no-hitter.

Tuesday night, Wellington, Fla. native Rafael Lopez caught Eric Jokisch’s no-no in Jacksonville, a night that he will never forget. The former Florida State Seminole even went into detail about the last five batters Jokisch faced.

Lopez said he realized that Jokisch had a no-no going in the fifth inning, but it wasn’t until the end of the eighth and Danny Black’s strikeout that he felt that they had a good chance.

It was  all because of a high and inside change-up.

“He [Black] hadn’t seen anything other than a fastball the whole game,” Lopez said about the situation going into the eighth-inning at-bat. “So we started him on a cutter away, count ended up getting 2-2 and I honestly think I closed my eyes and put change-up down, looked up at him and he was throwing it. I think we got him up and in and the guy swung right underneath it.”

According to Lopez, that at-bat had been the talk of clubhouse concerning the no-no. But the defense in the ninth inning has been the talk for everyone else.

Lopez didn’t think Christian Villanueva and Javier Baez’s plays to help secure the no-hitter were possible. In fact, he swore off the no-no twice.

Rafael Lopez, making a play familiar to the plays made Tuesday evening, has been the Smokies' primary catcher this season. (Photo courtesy: Roger C. Hoover)

Rafael Lopez, making a play familiar to the plays made Tuesday evening, has been the Smokies’ primary catcher this season. (Photo courtesy: Roger C. Hoover)

To lead off the ninth, Issac Galloway hit a rocket to third base.

“I thought it was over,” Lopez said of Galloway’s at-bat. “With Villa, when he hit it to third, I was looking to left field. I thought it was over then and Villa made a great play. I was like ‘Alright, this is going to happen.’”

Then, Chris Gutierrez stepped to the plate. The third baseman hit a shot past Jokisch, but Baez made a diving catch to secure the out, a catch Lopez did not think was made.

“[Gutierrez] knubbed one off his handle up the middle and I thought ‘It’s over now, no way he is getting to that’, dives underneath it,” Lopez said of Baez. “I thought he dropped it because he laid there so long. I guess he was in awe he got there to it and preserved the no-hitter.”

The next batter was a man who had made it to Miami this season. Derek Dietrich dug into the box, with relief pitcher Pete Andrelcyzk on deck.

“When he came up, Jokisch actually wanted to intentionally walk him,” Lopez said about facing Dietrich. “I was like, ‘No way, I’m not standing up. You can throw balls.’ We even had him 2-0 and he wanted me to stand up and walk the guy. I was like ‘Throw two more balls off the plate, I’ll set up way outside.’”

Lopez and Jokisch retired Andrelzyck on a ground out to third and insanity ensued. A dog pile began on the pitcher’s mound and a water bucket was involved.

But Lopez was not the first player to meet his pitcher on the bump, instead he stood back and took it all in.

“We all went out to Jokisch,” Lopez said. “On the way out there, I was so excited. I think I just stood there for a couple of seconds before I ran out to the mound, just in awe. Watching everyone run in from the bullpen, to see them coming. It was just one of those moments I won’t forget. It was just as awesome moment for me as it was for him. “

Everyone talks about the pitcher and the defensive players who make the spectacular catch after a no-hitter, but the perspective of the player behind the plate is a special one too.

“You have the same view as the fans,” Lopez said about catching and calling the game. “I’m facing the same direction as the fans. For me, to see the whole field like I do every game, but something special happen like that, it’s just awesome. Every play made, there were a lot of plays made in the outfield as well to preserve the no-hitter. I don’t really know how to explain it other than it was just awesome.”

While Rafael Lopez may never catch another no-hitter, he will not forget the one he caught on August 6th, 2013.

To stay current with all the latest news, follow Smokies on Radio on Twitterand like the Smokies on Radio Facebook page. Matthew Osborne is a beat writer for the Smokies Radio Network. You can follow Matthew on Twitter here: @themindoftheoz

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Categories: 2013 Smokies Feature

Author:Matthew Osborne


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