It's not exactly the holy grail of pitching in the way a no-hitter or a perfect game is. But a complete-game shutout is a more realistic goal that usually leaves a pitcher feeling almost as good.
Michael Bolsinger fired a two-hitter for his first career complete game and shutout Friday night, pitching Double-A Mobile to a 2-0 whitewash of visiting Chattanooga.
The D-backs prospect struck out six batters and walked three, putting an exclamation point on what's been a strong start to his fourth Minor League season.
"My cut fastball, really up until the end of the game, [was working well], then I started using my curveball. Basically, those two pitches with a couple changeups every now and then," Bolsinger said. "These past couple, three starts, I've started to just pound the zone, trying not to throw a lot of balls, get ahead of hitters and make them get themselves out instead of me trying to strike everyone out, which in the past would leave me throw a lot of pitches, falling behind."
The pitching-to-contact approach has allowed the 2010 15th-round Draft pick to work deeper into games. In three starts to begin the season, he totaled 15 2/3 innings. After a turn in the bullpen, he's thrown 20 2/3 innings in his last three outings, allowing only three earned runs in that stretch.
"It's been going good, I want to keep going with it," the University of Arkansas product said. "I kind of just figured it out by myself that I definitely need to pound the zone a little bit better than I had been earlier in the season. That just comes with getting the feel for your arm slot and having everything come together. It's crazy in baseball when something comes together like that, especially with pitching, and you just need to keep rolling with it."
Bolsinger (4-0) said he had no doubt he'd take the mound in the ninth to start what he finished.
"From the seventh inning on, my pitching coach was like, 'Whenever you start feeling tired, let me know.' My pitch count was down in the seventh and eighth inning and he basically put it on me," Bolsinger said. "He asked, 'You wanna go back out there?' I said, 'I'm ready.'"
The Texas native issued a leadoff walk in the ninth, but retired the next three batters, striking out Miguel Rojas and Dodgers top prospect Yasiel Puig. He lowered his ERA to 2.51, which would rank fifth in the Southern League if he had enough innings to qualify. Last year with the BayBears, Bolsinger was 4-3 with a 3.82 ERA and 64 strikeouts against 38 walks in 77 2/3 innings.
Combined with his work for Class A Advanced Visalia, he posted a 3.35 ERA with 113 strikeouts and 51 walks in 115 2/3 frames.
He's hoping the new approach will allow him to build on that success and solidify his future as a starter.
"You know, it's been working real well," Bolsinger said. "For me, personally, I gotta keep the ball down and just keep pounding that zone with that cut fastball I have because it generates the most movement, makes it harder to hit. The important thing is that I keep pitching the way I am."
Justin Greene tripled, doubled and drove in a run, while Keon Broxton picked up the other RBI for Mobile. The BayBears halted a three-game slide and ended Chattanooga's 10-game winning streak.