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Re: 2009 Pittsburgh Pirates Season Thread
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There are impressive debuts, then there is what Hunter Strickland did in front of a crowd of 1,296 at Appalachian Power Park on Monday night.
The 20-year-old prospect from Zebulon, Ga., who was acquired from the Boston Red Sox as part of a deal for Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche on July 22, wasted little time making the deal look justified as he stayed perfect through the first 41/3 innings and didn't give up a hit in six innings of work. He combined with reliever Diego Moreno on the first no-hitter in West Virginia Power history in a 4-0 victory over the Charleston RiverDogs.
It was the fourth straight win for the suddenly streaking Power (16-13).
"Going out there and finding a rhythm, that's basically it," said Strickland. "Charleston is a great team, but I just found a rhythm today and just kind of stuck with it and came out with success."
Strickland (6-4) impressed everyone, especially his new manager.
"Wow, what can you say," said Power manager Gary Green. "[Strickland] pounded the strike zone, he was down, he worked both sides of the plate and threw a good changeup. It was pretty impressive."
Strickland mixed a devastating changeup while sporting precision accuracy with the fastball, to baffle the Charleston bats.
"That's the reports we got on him," said Green of Strickland. "He pounded the strike zone with his fastball down, he could go to both sides of the plate, and he had a pretty good changeup and, boy, that's what we saw tonight. That's a pretty good debut."
Strickland wasn't exactly a stranger to South Atlantic League baseball coming into Monday night's game. The right-hander was 5-4 for the Greenville Curve, including a victory in a June 20 contest against the Lexington Legends, which clinched the Southern Division first-half title.
The newest Power pitcher has also enjoyed success against Charleston. On May 28, Strickland gave up just one hit in five innings in a no-decision for Greenville against the RiverDogs, and earned a victory on June 30 after giving up five hits and three runs in five innings.
But so far, he has found the transition to West Virginia fairly easy.
"The guys welcomed me the first day I got here," said Strickland. "It's been home ever since."
And as for his sparkling debut?
"I didn't really think about it," said Strickland of the no-hitter. "I just kept going out there and battling, and then we had a little bit of luck. So it worked out good."
He finished Monday's game with five punchouts and was just a Jeremy Farrell error at third base and a hit batsman away from being flawless in his first start for West Virginia.
The performance of flame-throwing Moreno may have been just as impressive as that of his teammate. Moreno entered the game to start the seventh inning and tossed three perfect frames, ringing up three strikeouts en route to preserving history for the Power. The reliever picked up his fourth save, and dropped his season ERA to 1.80.
"They both threw it well," said Green. "He pounded the strike zone, too, throwing 94 or 95 [miles per hour] most of the night. But the most important thing was both were able to command their fastball tonight."
As for West Virginia's offense, which was held hitless through the first two innings, it was finally able to lend Strickland support in the bottom of the third.
Danny Bomback worked a rare walk off RiverDogs starter Trent Lare (3-3) to lead off the inning (Lare entered the game with 38 strikeouts and only three walks), followed by a Josue Peley single up the middle. After a sacrifice bunt by Adenson Chourio, Starling Marte ripped a liner over leftfielder Taylor Grote, driving in both runs. Marte later advanced to third and scored on two wild pitches.
"We got the ball up a little bit, the big thing was Chourio getting the bunt down, number one," said Green. "We got a couple guys on base, he gets the bunt down to get the runners over, and then [Lare] makes a mistake to Marte and Marte hits it for a double. [Lare] didn't give up much, either."
Despite the uncharacteristically rocky third inning, Lare was who came into the game sporting a gaudy 1.07 ERA and was holding opposing hitters to a .164 batting average, was sharp through the rest of his night. Lare (3-3) went 62/3 innings while giving up three runs on three hits and two walks and striking out eight.
Making the performances of Strickland and Moreno even more impressive is the fact that they were facing arguably the toughest hitting lineup in the league. Charleston (13-18) came into the game with 915 hits on the season, tops in the Sally League. But the 'Dogs had been extremely hot lately, averaging eight runs and 15 hits per game during the first five games of their current road trip.
"It's even more impressive against a team like that," said Green. "It was good pitching and defense. That's how the game should be played."
The teams will continue the four-game set tonight as the Power looks to staff ace Rudy Owens (10-1, 1.75 ERA) to continue its momentum. Charleston will counter with Cory Arbiso (3-6, 3.23 ERA). The game is scheduled for 7:05.