ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Ronel Blanco insists he wasn’t thinking about throwing another no-hitter for the Houston Astros. Just about else was as he kept retiring batters — all the way until a hard grounder got into the outfield for a single in the sixth inning.

“We thought he was going to go the whole way,” Astros reliever Ryan Pressly said. “And come sixth inning I was like, he’s going to do it again.”

Manager Joe Espada had similar thoughts, even though he already had decided that was going to be the final inning for Blanco in his bid to join Johnny Vander Meer for the Cincinnati Reds in 1938 with no-hitters in consecutive starts.

Six nights after throwing a no-hitter at home against Toronto in his first start of the season, Blanco held the Texas Rangers without a hit until Adolis García had a clean single up the middle with two outs in the sixth in Houston’s 3-1 win. Blanco then retired Evan Carter and was done.

“I really wasn’t thinking about that,” Blanco said through a translator about another no-hitter. “I was just trying to think about doing my best pitches to get the batters out.”

The 30-year-old Dominican right-hander has thrown 15 scoreless innings through his first two starts this season, allowing only one hit in the process.

Blanco is the first pitcher in baseball’s modern era (since 1901) to allow one or no hits over at least 15 innings in the first two appearances of a season, according to Stathead. The only other pitcher since 1978 with that kind of stretch over any two-game span was Max Scherzer, who allowed one hit over 18 innings for Washington in June 2015.

And since the expansion era began in 1961, Blanco is the first pitcher to throw 14 2/3 innings at the start of a season before allowing a hit, according to Elias Sports. Those 44 outs recorded are nine more than the previous mark that had been matched three times.

“It doesn’t really surprise me. I’m a believer that, you know, all the hard work that you do is going to pay off at some time or another,” Blanco said. “I knew that this was going to come, so not really surprised with these things that are happening in my career.”

Blanco made his big league debut with the Astros in 2022, and made his first seven starts last season. He has now pitched in 26 games overall.

While not unhittable in spring training, Blanco threw 15 2/3 scoreless innings in his five games before the Astros broke camp from Florida. He allowed six hits over that span.

“We always knew how good he is throwing strikes. He’s aggressive in the zone,” Espada said. “He’s tough. He’s not scared of challenging hitters. We knew that the makeup aspect of things, but the way he’s been able to pitch and navigate tough lineups, he’s been pretty impressive.”

The Rangers had 31 hits in the first two games of the series, and for the first time since 2018 had back-to-back games in which every batter in their starting lineup had a hit. The World Series champions finished with two hits against Blanco and three Houston relievers, and didn’t score until the ninth inning.

“He’s pitching his way into establishing himself as one of the starters,” Espada said. “And that’s what you do. You get an opportunity, you take advantage of it and you run with it. And he’s doing just that.”

After throwing 105 pitches in his no-hitter Monday night, Blanco had walked four batters and his pitch count was getting high already before going out for the sixth. Espada wanted to keep him around 90 pitches, which is right where he was after getting his final out.

“Not necessarily,” Blanco said when asked if he knew he was throwing his last inning even before giving up a hit. “But I knew that I had thrown a lot of pitches so I knew there was a possibility.”