PHOENIX - There are so many superstitions that dugouts adhere to during a no-hitter. If there are similar superstitions for a reliever no-hitter, Ray Black didn't know about them.
In fact, Black didn't even know he had thrown nine consecutive hitless innings until he returned to the clubhouse after an 8-1 win over the Diamondbacks and checked his phone. It's a little harder to keep track when the dominance comes over three weeks, not three hours.
But Black won't be able to fly under the radar anymore. Bruce Bochy made a subtle but substantive change on Thursday night, using Mark Melancon in the sixth and Black in the seventh, with the Giants holding a 3-1 lead. Afterward, Bochy did not shy away from a role change.
"That's why I used him when I did," Bochy said of Black.
It appears the rookie is now in the late-innings mix. It also appears he's fully ready for the challenge. After giving up a three-run homer in his MLB debut, Black has thrown 9 1/3 hitless innings. He struck out two Thursday: Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock.
It isn't just that Black is putting up hitless frames. It is how he's doing it. The first batter he faced Thursday was Goldschmidt, and Black got ahead in the count before dotting a 99.4 mph fastball down and away, right on the corner of the strike zone. Goldschmidt feebly waived at it.
Black said his mentality was simple: "Challenge him."
"He's a great hitter. Guys like that, you've got to give credit," he continued. "But when you're out there you're competing and have to trust your own stuff as well. When a guy like that steps in the box, you can't be too timid. Pay him great respect, know who he is, but at the end of the day, it's about competing."
Pollock swung through a slider in the same spot, giving Black his bullpen no-hitter.
When Steven Souza popped out, Black had his ninth consecutive scoreless appearance. He had an ERA of 81.00 after his big league debut but it's all the way down to 2.79.
"He's got confidence with his breaking ball and he's getting it over any time, and of course he's got the big fastball," Bochy said. "He's pitching with a lot of confidence."
--- Black is the first Giants reliever with 9 1/3 hitless innings since Yusmeiro Petit went 12 1/3 hitless in 2014.
--- Madison Bumgarner beat the Diamondbacks for the first time in two years and one month. He threw 70 pitches in the first three innings, but survived long enough to let the offense break through. He helped, of course, with an RBI single.
A couple days ago, I asked Andrew Suarez if he had told Bumgarner that he had more hits than him. Suarez said no, but he might on this road trip. I hope he did it quickly. In the game story, Bumgarner talks about why this night was gratifying.
--- The big pre-game news was a stunner. Pablo Sandoval is having season-ending hamstring surgery next week. But there were other tidbits that got lost in the shuffle. Brandon Belt is still 8-10 days from returning, Bochy said. Jeff Samardzija threw a light bullpen session and will do so again in a few days. It seems he is still weeks away from being an option. Hunter Strickland faced hitters at the minor league facility and is just about ready, but the Giants cannot activate him until Aug. 18 because they put him on the 60-day DL.
--- Given the way Brad Ziegler's debut went, it's unlikely he'll use the bullpen cart again. But Ziegler did become the first Diamondback to use it, and it was awesome.