Nicasio 3rd Pirate to toss immaculate frame

Right-hander first to accomplish feat in the Majors this season

Nicasio 3rd Pirate to toss immaculate frame

ST. LOUIS -- Juan Nicasio spun a slider down in the strike zone and away from Yadier Molina, saw home-plate umpire Dale Scott call it a third strike to end the eighth inning and walked off the mound, unaware he'd just etched his name into baseball's history books.

Nicasio threw an "immaculate inning" in the Pirates' 4-2 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Monday, a 1-2-3 inning of 1-2-3 at-bats that ended with him striking out the side on nine pitches.

List of nine-pitch innings

Nicasio is the third Pirates pitcher to strike out the side on nine pitches, the first since Ross Ohlendorf did so on Sept. 5, 2009, at PNC Park. The other Pittsburgh pitcher to toss an immaculate inning was Jeff Robinson against the Cubs on Sept. 7, 1987.

"Very joyful and grateful to be a part of that history. I just found out and it put a big smile on my face," Nicasio said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. "The truth is my focus is just hitting the zone. I'm glad to be a part of that history."

Nicasio's eighth inning was the first immaculate frame of the 2016 season, the first in Major League Baseball since Giants right-hander Santiago Casilla's perfect ninth inning against the Reds on May 17, 2015.

Nicasio was facing the middle of the Cardinals' order, but the matchup suited him well. The hard-throwing righty reliever lined up against three right-handed hitters -- Stephen Piscotty, Jhonny Peralta and Molina -- and he'd held opposing right-handers to a .195 average and a .609 OPS on the year.

Piscotty fouled off Nicasio's first pitch, missed at a 94-mph fastball and tipped the third back into catcher Erik Kratz's glove. Peralta took a fastball for strike one then whiffed at two sliders before heading back to the dugout.

Up came Molina, who took strike one, fouled off a 95-mph fastball and watched the 87-mph slider dive away from him for strike three.

"Just maintain my focus, make sure that I'm hitting my zone and getting my pitches where they need to be," Nicasio said. "And making sure I get out of there as soon as possible."

Nicasio was bumped out of the rotation last month, but he's made himself right at home in the bullpen, where he thrived for the Dodgers last season.

"He bought into the new role. He's pitching one or two innings. He's letting it eat," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's been good against right-handers all year. The left-handers, there's some things we're going to work with him on.

"The fastball played. The command played. Downhill angle for him as well. Since he's been out there, he's showed us some really good stuff."

On Monday, it was immaculate stuff.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.