Dixon Anderson wasn't his sharpest on Friday and both he and home plate umpire Clayton Hamm knew it.
"Sometimes, you and an umpire don't match up strike zone-wise and I think that especially early, I wasn't in the zone," Anderson said. "But it didn't hurt me tonight."
Anderson survived five walks and pitched six hitless innings before Class Hagerstown backed him up with seven runs in the eighth en route to a 9-1 romp over Augusta at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
The Nationals' 2011 ninth-round pick struck out seven and hit a batter in his sixth start of the season. He's held opponents to three earned runs or fewer in every outing, a span of 34 innings.
"I felt good, especially once I got in a groove after the first," Anderson said. "Every start, it takes a bit to get your cadence and flow -- from the second to fifth, I felt really good. I had my moments where I had to battle with the amount of walks I had today, but I had some timely K's when I needed them, had some quick innings. So I was happy about that."
The 23-year-old sinkerballer not allow a fly ball to the 24 batters he faced.
"I throw a lot of sinkers, that's kind of always been my strength. I know I'm right if I'm getting ground balls, and that's something I kinda cut off of," he said. "I know I'm throwing the ball as I should."
Augusta drew a pair of walks in the opening inning but stranded both runners before Anderson struck out the side in the second. He fanned Stephen Branca and Jesus Galindo to start the third before walking Matthew Duffy and picking him off first base.
The GreenJackets again had two baserunners in the fourth on a walk and a throwing error by Suns third baseman Mike McQuillan, but Anderson retired Rafael Rodriguez to escape the jam before working a 1-2-3 fifth, inducing three straight grounders to first base.
Anderson said he was able to make some key pitches, despite not getting all the calls from Hamm behind the plate.
"The tendency is when you're not consistently in the zone, you won't get those borderline pitches," he said. "I went back later and I wasn't getting those calls. And it happens and that's fair for the umpires."
Working his way around the strike zone and baserunners was a good test, the University of California product acknowledged. Drafted by the Orioles in 2010, Anderson made his Minor League debut last season in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and went 1-2 with a 3.04 ERA in nine games.
"I think it's something you hope to get better at as you go along, a good test is important," he said. "I was lucky to make pitches when I needed to and come back into the zone and make pitches in big spots."
Anderson walked Duffy and plunked Eric Slim in the sixth but again pitched his way out of trouble before handing the ball to Bryan Harper, the older brother of Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, who was charged with an unearned run on a walk in the seventh.
Augusta finally broke up the no-hit bid in the eighth on Mitchell Delfino's one-out single to left field off David Fischer, Hagerstown's third reliever whose wild pitch an inning earlier allowed Rodriguez to score.
Anderson, who logged a season-high 6 2/3 innings on April 15, said he understood not being able to finish off the no-hitter.
"You always want to keep going and finish the game as often as you can. But I understand, it's early in the season, so I totally get it," he said. "They needed to make that move when they did."
Hagerstown scored twice in the sixth on an error and Shawn Pleffner's RBI single, but the game remained scoreless for much of Anderson's stint. And that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
"At least for me, having a few runs makes you feel good, but it can cause you to relax, so it's a delicate balance you strike," he explained. "I definitely knew it was a close game, so that really helped keep me focused. It was awesome to see us put up those runs."
Hagerstown struck for seven runs in the eighth against a pair relievers. Brandon Miller hit an RBI single, Matt Foat followed with a two-run base hit, Brandon Miller scored Pedro Severino's single, Stephen Perez doubled home two more and Mike McQuillan capped the outburst with an RBI single.