"Sometimes when you get some offense early, you lay back and expect it to keep going the way you want it to," Popham said. "I just kept telling myself it was an 0-0 game and wasn't pitching any different."
That approach worked for the right-hander, who limited Class A Advanced Salem to one run on one hit over seven frames in the Indians' 6-1 victory. Popham faced just one batter over the minimum as he tied his career high for innings.
"I had fastball command to both sides of the plate, moving up and down in the zone," he said. "The slider was working and the change-up was working too. When you have three pitches working, it's going to be a good night."
The only batter Popham allowed to reach base actually touched them all. Daniel Butler hit a solo home run with one out in the fifth.
"I got behind in the count, then I got back even at 2-2," the 23-year-old said. "I threw a good inside fastball above the hands, but it was a good piece of hitting. He got his hands extended and took it for a ride. Kudos to him."
Selected in the 20th round of the 2008 Draft, Popham has bounced around Cleveland's Minor League system this year. He made one relief appearance for Triple-A Columbus and allowed 11 runs in 13 2/3 innings for Double-A Akron, but the Kentucky native has excelled with Kinston, lowering his ERA to 2.59 in nine games.
"Our organization is jam packed with pitchers," Popham said. "We've got a lot of great talent in the organization and they're trying to give good people opportunities. They gave me opportunities at Double-A and Triple-A a couple times. It's out of my hands, so it's hard to talk about. But wherever they need me to pitch, I'll be there."
Popham has spent most of the year in the bullpen, but after Kinston starter Giovanni Soto went down with arm problems, he filled the void as a starter. The Union College product has allowed just two runs over 13 innings in two starts for the K-Tribe.
"You can change your approach, but for me, in between starts when I'm not charting games in the stands, I sit in the bullpen," Popham said. "I like to approach it like another outing out of the bullpen. I try not to get too psyched up. Once you're on the mound, it's the same thing."
Reliever Tyler Sturdevant allowed one hit over two scoreless innings to seal the game.
The Indians were led offensively by Adam Abraham, who belted a pair of solo homers. Each of the first four hitters in the Kinston lineup recorded at least one RBI.