Kyle Zimmer has had some trouble going deep in games recently. He got back on track in a big way Saturday.
The Royals' No. 2 prospect took a no-hitter into the sixth inning but did not figure in the decision as Class A Advanced Wilmington fell to Lynchburg, 3-2.
Zimmer allowed a bunt single to Braves No. 7 prospect Matt Lipka leading off the sixth and, after a sacrifice, hit Cory Brownsten. Matt Weaver followed with a slow ground ball to first base on which the Blue Rocks failed to complete a double play as Lipka scored all the way from second base. Another infield single and a walk loaded the bases, but Zimmer struck out Robby Hefflinger to end the threat.
The 21-year-old right-hander ended up allowing a run on two hits with six strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings.
"I had pretty good command of my fastball, I was moving it back and forth," Zimmer said. "I was trying to force contact early in counts, which allowed me to keep my pitch count down and pitch deeper into the game."
Working deep has been something of a problem for the 2012 first-round pick. Over his previous three starts, Zimmer tossed 11 2/3 innings. Against Salem on April 29, he was charged with five runs on six hits over four frames.
"My last start, where I gave up a few runs, I actually thought I pitched pretty well. I gave up four in one inning and only one ball left the infield," he noted. "Tonight, I think my fastball command was there, which allowed me to set guys up for other pitches. I think my fastball command was the best it's been in a while."
Back on April 24 against Salem, Zimmer allowed one run and struck out 11 but fell an out shy of finishing the fifth. The California native acknowledged there's a delicate balance between pursuing the punchout and conserving his pitches.
"If I get to two strikes and the strikeout's there, I'll take it," Zimmer said. "I think the first pitch, strike one is the most important pitch of each at-bat. If I happen to get two strikes, sure, I'll go for the strikeout. I think it's more about getting ahead of guys and finishing them off, however the at-bat presents itself."
Overall this season, Zimmer is 0-2 with a 4.03 ERA in six starts. He's tied for second in the Carolina League with 40 strikeouts in 29 innings and ranks fifth with a .198 batting average against.
"I don't really care about my stats individually as much as the team stats," the University of San Francisco product said. "If I go out there and get a no-decision but the team wins, I could care less. As long as the team's getting 'W's,' it's what we're all trying to go out there and do."
Wilmington took a 2-1 lead to the bottom of the ninth, but Robinson Yambati allowed a leadoff single, then committed back-to-back errors that loaded the bases. After a strikeout, shortstop Jack Lopez's error produced the tying run. Lopez recovered to throw out Fernando De Los Santos at the plate, but Yambati uncorked a wild pitch that allowed the winning run to score.
"Tonight was a tough loss for us, just bad luck for us in the ninth inning," Zimmer said.
Wilmington's Cheslor Cuthbert went 3-for-4 with a solo homer and fell a triple shy of the cycle. The Royals' No. 9 prospect has hit safely in eight of his last 10 games to raise his average 25 points to .260.