Red Sox pitching prospect Chih-Jung “C.J.” Liu threw a seven-inning no-hitter in Game 1 of Double-A Portland’s doubleheader against the Akron RubberDucks on Friday night.
Making his fifth start of the season for Portland on the road at Canal Park, Liu walked just two and struck out six over seven scoreless, no-hit frames. The right-hander took a bid for a perfect game into the bottom of the third before issuing a two-out walk to Connor Kokx. He then retired the next eight batters he faced before giving up another free pass to Kokx with out in the sixth.
Liu once again stranded Kokx at first base by recording back-to-back strikeouts of Julian Escobedo and Angel Martinez. He preserved the no-hit effort by sitting by inducing one groundout and two flyouts in a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
All told, Liu sat down 21 of the 23 RubberDucks hitters he faced on 91 pitches (48 strikes). With Stephen Scott handling catching duties, the 24-year-old hurler induced 12 swings-and-misses and earned the winning decision with the first complete game shutout of his professional career.
Liu becomes the second Sea Dogs pitcher in franchise history to throw a complete game, seven-inning no-hitter. Brayan Bello, who is now with the Red Sox, first accomplished the feat at Hadlock Field exactly one year ago Friday.
Through five starts with the Sea Dogs to begin the 2023 season, Liu has posted a 3.65 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with 29 strikeouts to 11 walks over 24 2/3 innings of work. Opponents are hitting just .216 against him.
A native of Taiwan, Liu originally signed with the Red Sox for $750,000 as an international free agent coming out Tainan City in October 2019. He was considered to be a switch-hitting two-way player at that time but has since been converted into a full-time pitcher. Liu did not name his pro debut until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and closed out the 2022 campaign with Portland after earning a late-season promotion from High-A Greenville.
Listed at 6-feet and 185 pounds, Liu throws from a three-quarters arm slot and operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a 93-95 mph fastball that tops out at 98 mph, an 80-82 mph changeup, an 83-86 mph slider, and a 78-80 mph curveball, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.
Liu, who just turned 24 in April, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 58 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks 24th among pitchers in the organization. He can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career later this year if he is not added to the Sox’ 40-man roster by the deadline to do so in November.
(Picture of C.J. Liu: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)