Houston’s Blanco throws the first no-hitter in the majors this season in a 10-0 win over Toronto

Houston Astros starting pitcher Ronel Blanco, center, celebrates with Jeremy Pena, left, and Mauricio Dubon, after throwing a no hitter in a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/Kevin M. Cox)

HOUSTON — Ronel Blanco put a bow on a remarkable week.

In a span of seven days, the Houston right-hander welcomed a new daughter, made his first opening day roster — and then threw the first no-hitter in the major leagues this season.

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Blanco struck out seven and walked two in the Astros’ 10-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night. The 30-year-old, who didn’t play in the majors until he was 28, was making just his eighth career start. He wouldn’t even be in Houston’s rotation if not for injuries to Justin Verlander and José Urquidy.

“It’s been a very long road traveled for me,” he said in Spanish through a translator. “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.”

He walked George Springer to start the game and again with two outs in the ninth. When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. grounded out to end it, Blanco smiled broadly before raising his arms above his head just before being mobbed by teammates.

“I see it as a great blessing, a great blessing for me and my family,” he said. “With the arrival of my daughter I see it as a life-changing experience and I dedicate this to my family and my daughter.”

It was the 17th no-hitter in Astros history and the first in the majors since Philadelphia’s Michael Lorenzen threw one against the Washington Nationals on Aug. 9 of last year.

Houston’s previous no-hitter came about a week before that one when Framber Valdez did it in a 2-0 win over Cleveland on Aug. 1.

Kyle Tucker and Yainer Diaz each homered twice as the Astros won their first game of the season after losing four to the Yankees. Houston’s Joe Espada became the first manager in major league history to get his first win in a no-hitter.

“I couldn’t be any happier for the way today turned out,” Espada said.

The Astros are the fourth team in MLB history to get their first win of the season in a no-hitter, and the first since Boston’s Hideo Nomo pitched one against the Orioles in 2001. Nomo’s no-hitter that year came on April 4. That was the record for the earliest no-hitter by calendar date, according to Sportradar, but Blanco’s gem broke the mark by three days.

Blanco threw 105 pitches, averaging 93.6 mph with 31 fastballs and also throwing 36 changeups, 34 sliders and four curveballs.

Espada said the changeup was the key to Blanco’s success Monday.

“It makes the fastball and the slider that much better,” he said. “The way it comes out of the hand, it looks just like his fastball and hitters are committed to potentially swinging at a fastball and the ball just kind of falls in the zone. It’s a pitch that he’s worked really hard on and it paid big dividends tonight.”

Steer hits grand slam in 10th, Cincinnati Reds beat Philadelphia 6-3

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Spencer Steer hit a grand slam in the 10th inning to lift the Cincinnati Reds to a 6-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night.

Steer clubbed a 2-1, 91 mph fastball off Connor Brogdon (0-1).

“Feels good,” Steer said. “Nice to do something positive for the team. I like being in those situations. It was just a really cool moment. I was just happy to come through for the squad.”

Bryce Harper was hitless again in his return to Philadelphia’s lineup after an off day. He was in his usual spot, batting third and playing first base, after being off in Sunday’s 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves. He went 0 for 5 with two strikeouts, falling to 0 for 11 with five strikeouts in three games.

“It’s always timing with him,” Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson said. “He’ll get it.”

Harper represented the tying run at the plate in the 10th when Tejay Antone (1-0) struck him out with runners on second and third.

Reds manager David Bell decided against intentionally walking Harper and bringing the go-ahead run to the plate.

“Of course,” Bell said when asked if he thought about walking him. “He’s a great hitter. At some point, you have to trust your guys. You don’t ever want him to come to the plate, but tonight we were able to get it done.”

With pinch-runner Bubba Thompson starting the 10th on second base, Brogdon walked Will Benson and Jonathan India. He started Steer with two balls before a called strike made the count 2-1. Steer lined the next pitch over the wall in left-center field.

“You can’t leave a ball there to a big-league hitter,” Brogdon said.

The game was played on a cool, drizzly night that felt much colder than the game-time temperature of 52 degrees. The weather is expected to be even colder and wetter on Tuesday night in the second contest of the scheduled three-game series.

Thomson said he didn’t consider resting Harper on Monday but made no promises for Tuesday.

The 31-year-old Harper is in his first full season playing first base after reconstructive elbow surgery forced him to move from right field.