Ronel Blanco Apr 1, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Ronel Blanco (56) walks off the mound after pitching a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Ronel Blanco surprised everyone Monday night.

The Houston Astros right-hander hurled a no-hitter in a 10-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. It would have been hard to find a more unlikely candidate for a no-no. The 30-year-old Blanco was making only his eighth career start. He didn’t make his MLB debut until age 28, and had below-par numbers last season, with a 4.50 ERA (5.99 FIP) and a 1.481 WHIP.

When the Astros originally signed Blanco in 2016, he was working at a car wash in the Dominican Republic. And he was only getting the start Monday because of injuries on the pitching staff.

No one would have ever guessed any of that were true as they watched Blanco mow down the Blue Jays. He struck out seven and allowed only two walks. His gem becomes the earliest in the season an MLB no-hitter has been thrown.

It’s only April but this is already a candidate for feel-good story of the year. To top it all off, Blanco’s mother, Maria, was at the game to give him a big hug afterward.

Astros fans were obviously ecstatic, but even Astros haters — and there are many of them out there — loved Blanco’s big night.

[Jeff Passan]

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.