A chance meeting with a Red Sox legend has opened Boston pitching prospect Drake Britton's eyes to a whole new way of approaching the game.
With a calmer attitude and a clearer mind, Britton hopes some of the advice he soaked in from his sit-down chat with Pedro Martinez will start paying dividends.
Britton took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and finished with a season-high eight strikeouts while allowing just one hit and a walk over a career-best eight frames in the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs' 6-0 win over the Erie SeaWolves.
"He came to Portland last week and I got a chance to sit down and talk with him," the 6-foot-2 farmhand said about his meeting with the three-time Cy Young Award winner. "He talked about being free, about not thinking about anything but being in the moment and taking it one pitch at a time. He told me to relax and let my natural ability take over.
"I had about 30 minutes with him and it was awesome just to have him around. For him to come up and say hi was awesome, but to sit down with him and talk baseball was incredible. I watched this guy pitch on TV and I've seen his highlights. It's easy to process what he's saying because he's Pedro Martinez."
Britton (4-5) was perfect in six of his eight frames and he retired 19 of the final 20 batters he faced at Jerry Uht Park. Boston's No. 12 prospect threw 62 of 88 pitches for strikes and induced 12 ground-ball outs in lowering his ERA more than half a run to 3.60.
"I felt good. I felt like I pitched well," said Britton, selected by the Red Sox in the 23rd round of the 2007 Draft out of Tomball High School in Texas. "The guys behind me played great defense and [catcher] Matt Spring was on the same page. We all clicked together.
"All four of my pitches were working. I was throwing them all for strikes and staying in the zone the whole time. Their hitters were a little more aggressive and I pitched to contact and got a lot of ground balls and got them early. That allowed me to go into the seventh and eighth innings."
Britton -- who throws a fastball, two types of sliders, a curveball and a changeup -- lost his no-hit bid in the seventh when Hernan Perez led off the bottom of the seventh with a double to left field. But Britton induced a popup off the bat of Daniel Fields and he struck out Tyler Collins and James McCann to preserve the shutout.
"Once I was in the zone a lot, they were trying to cheat on my fastball and [Perez] cheated on the right one," Britton said. "It wasn't at the knees where I had been, it was a little bit up and he got the bat head around and got a piece of it. Props to him, but I would definitely like to have that AB back.
"I didn't really know [about the no-hitter] until I gave up that hit. I kept looking up at the scoreboard to see the counts and stuff, but I didn't pay attention to the hits. Then I heard everyone clapping more than normal and I saw the 'one' in the hits column and thought, 'No way.'"
His eight strikeouts fell two shy of his career high, set over five three-hit innings in Class A Greenville's 1-0 win over Charleston on Sept. 2, 2010.
Now in his sixth year of pro ball, the Texas native is getting his second look at the Eastern League. In 16 starts with Portland last year, Britton went 4-7 with a 3.72 ERA and 76 walks over 84 2/3 innings.
The 24-year-old left-hander -- who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008 -- has struggled with consistency this season. He has allowed four or more runs in half of his 12 games and he has failed to complete six innings in seven of those outings. He entered Wednesday with opponents batting .274 against him.
"It's been a long time, a really long time," Britton said about the last time he felt this in command. "It has been long enough that I don't really remember the last time I felt this good. But a lot of the things are starting to come together and this is hopefully just the start.
"I came off a really good half year last year, but I didn't start the way I wanted. I've kept battling and I've kept a positive attitude. I'm happy with the way I've dealt with my season so far and hopefully tonight was a turning point. I want to take this outing and run with it."
On Wednesday, Xander Bogaerts -- Boston's top prospect -- hit his sixth homer of the season and third baseman Michael Almanzar added his 11th. Left-hander Rafael Perez worked around a one-out infield single in the ninth to seal the victory.
"Shannon Wilkerson was leading off the inning and he only saw [four] pitches, so I knew [starter Warwick Saupold] would come in the strike zone," said Bogaerts, who's riding a nine-game hitting streak. "I thought he would come with something down in the zone so that I would take a pitch because he had only thrown a few pitches to the leadoff hitter.
"I got a first-pitch fastball, right down the middle. To be honest, the wind was blowing in and I didn't know if it would go out. I was surprised how far it went. I thought I hit a fly ball because of the breeze."
And Bogaerts' impression of Britton's start?
"Awesome man, really good. For him to have that outing, hopefully he can take that forward this season. He's struggled this season, but he was on tonight."
It was the Sea Dogs' third shutout of the season. No Portland starter has tossed a complete game, and only Brandon Workman -- promoted to Pawtucket earlier Wednesday -- had gone eight innings this season.