New league? 10:30 a.m. game? No problem for Mets prospect Matt Bowman.
Making just his second Florida State League start, the 21-year-old right-hander tossed seven one-hit frames, striking out a career-high nine batters, as St. Lucie blanked visiting Brevard County, 4-0.
Reliever T.J. Chism retired all six Manatees he faced -- three via strikeout -- to complete the Mets' one-hitter.
"You never really want the early game," Bowman said. "You can fall into the trap of thinking you're prepared when you aren't, but I got to bed early last night and tried to get into my routine this morning."
That routine proved highly effective for Bowman, who retired the first eight batters he faced before yielding a two-out single to Brevard County center fielder Chadwin Stang in the third inning.
"I tried to set him up with a fastball away then bring a fastball in, but I missed my spot. I think I jammed him a little bit, but he got it out into left field. It wasn't a good pitch -- I was lucky he didn't hit it harder."
A leadoff walk to Manatees second baseman Gregory Hopkins was the only other flaw in Bowman's outing, as he set down his last 12 batters in order.
"My splitter was working best today, then the curve and slider," Bowman said. "My fastball command came and went as the game went along, but everything was working pretty well."
A 13th-round pick out of Princeton in 2012, Bowman spent last summer working largely as a reliever for Class A Short-Season Brooklyn, going 2-2 with three saves and a 2.45 ERA. In his brief professional career, the Washington, D.C.-area native has demonstrated remarkable control: last year he fanned 30 and walked two in 29 1/3 innings, while this season he's struck out 42 and walked six over 43 2/3 frames.
Bowman began the 2013 campaign in the Savannah Sand Gnats rotation, earning a no-decision against Rome on Opening Day before reeling off four consecutive wins. He went a career-long eight innings against Kannapolis on May 1 in his final South Atlantic League outing before earning a promotion to St. Lucie.
"It's only been two games, but the hitters [in the Florida State League] seem to have more of a structured approach at the plate," Bowman said. "The Sally League had more free-swingers."
Even so, FSL hitters haven't been able to do much with Bowman in his two starts -- he's 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his two appearances with the Mets.
While Bowman and Chism were stifling Manatees hitters, the St. Lucie lineup provided an early edge, scoring a pair of runs in the first inning and two more in the third.
The Mets' top four hitters -- second baseman T.J. Rivera, designated hitter Matt Reynolds, shortstop Brandon Hicks and left fielder Dustin Lawley -- provided the bulk of the offense, going a combined 6-for-16 with three doubles and all four RBIs and runs scored. St. Lucie's five-through-nine hitters were 1-for-16 with eight strikeouts.
Hicks got the Mets on the board with a two-run single in the first inning, then doubled and scored on Lawley's two-run two-bagger in the third.
Brevard County starter Drew Gagnon, the Brewers' No. 13 prospect, fell to 3-3 with the loss. He allowed four runs -- three earned -- on six hits while fanning six over four frames.
The one-hit defeat dropped Brevard County's team batting average four points to .227, worst in the FSL. The Manatees have struck out more than any team on the circuit and are tied for the second-fewest walks drawn.
Having split two games in St. Lucie, the series shifts to Brevard County for a pair of games on Wednesday and Thursday. The two clubs will meet for another split four-game set in mid July.