Anthony Ranaudo is eager to put last season behind him. But he was happy to be back home on Saturday night.
The Red Sox's No. 17 prospect retired the first 13 batters he faced and ended up recording a career-high nine strikeouts over six two-hit innings as Double-A Portland beat Trenton, 6-0.
Ranaudo (3-0) did not issue a walk for the first time in four starts this season. He faced two batters over the minimum, throwing 61 of 89 pitches for strikes.
Kyle Roller ended the New Jersey native's bid for a perfect game with a one-out triple in the fifth. Ranaudo bore down, fanning Yankees No. 4 prospect Slade Heathcott and getting Neil Medchill to fly out, stranding the runner at third.
"From the beginning, I had pretty good command of all my pitches, so I tried to stay aggressive, knowing that Trenton is a pretty free-swinging team," Ranaudo said. "From the beginning, I had good command of my curveball and I was able to throw it for strikes and was able to use it as an out pitch. And I was able to use the changeup to keep guys off-balance."
Asked about his strikeout total, Ranaudo pointed to pitch No. 1.
"I think it was my fastball," he said. "I commanded it early pretty well. Later on, in some counts I was able to elevate it and get them to chase."
Last season was something of a lost one for the 23-year-old right-hander. Ranaudo entered the year ranked No. 5 among Boston prospects but lost traction while battling multiple injuries. When he did pitch, he was largely ineffective, going 1-3 with a 6.69 ERA in nine Eastern League starts.
"It was real frustrating," Ranaudo said. "Last year was an eye-opener for me. As much as I've put it behind me, I've also used to help me this year."
He's been among the league's best in his second Double-A stint, leading the circuit with a 0.74 WHIP and ranking second in wins, ERA (0.83) and opponents' average (.159). Over 21 2/3 innings, he's allowed 11 hits and five walks while striking out 26.
"I've gotten off to a great start," Ranaudo said. "I'm just going to try and keep it going and try to get better. Just trying to get better, stay on the field and make all the starts they want me to make."
The last time LSU product was in Trenton, things were decidedly different as he gave up two runs on two hits and three walks over two innings last June 23. With a cheering section among the 5,741 at Arm & Hammer Park on Saturday, Ranaudo was delighted with the reversal of fortune.
"It's awesome. I had an opportunity to pitch here last year and it didn't go so well," he said. "So it was nice to go out there in front of family and friends and pitch well."
Will Latimer followed Ranaudo and gave up a hit over 1 2/3 innings and Brock Huntzinger retired the final four batters in order to finish off Portland's second shutout of the season.
Shannon Wilkerson went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and Ronald Bermudez scored twice for the Sea Dogs.