Much to the chagrin of the Sabermetrics crowd, it's often stated that the final out is the hardest.
Chris Heston proved the rule Thursday night, loading the bases in the ninth inning after cruising through eight frames, but coming away with the shutout by striking out the side.
Heston (6-5), who threw 114 pitches, struck out nine and held Tucson to five hits in his first career complete-game shutout -- Triple-A Fresno's 2-0 win at Chukchansi Park.
"I walked a couple guys to get into the jam, but luckily, I was able to make a few good pitches there down the stretch to get me out of it. It was definitely a little trying and got the heart beat racing a little bit, but it was fun," he said.
San Francisco's No. 8 prospect threw a fastball for a called third strike to Rene Rivera on a full count to end the game. Heston thought he might have had sealed the victory the pitch before, but home plate umpire Adam Schwarz deemed it a ball.
"[The 3-2 pitch] was a fastball close and [Rivera] took it again. Fortunately, I was able to get the call that time," Heston said. "They were both borderline pitches, but I was able to get a little more of the plate on the second one, and [Schwarz] gave it to me."
Heston's nine strikeouts tied a season high, and the shutout lowered his ERA to 5.09. Selected by Giants in the 12th round of the 2009 Draft, the 6-foot-4 right-hander posted ERAs of 3.75, 3.16 and 2.24 respectively as he progressed up the Minor League ladder the past three seasons.
"I've had my ups and downs so far this year. I've been struggling a little bit here, they're better hitters for sure," Heston said. "The hitters have a better plan, they know what's going on up there the entire at-bat."
The 25-year-old's batting average on balls in play was .367 entering the game, according to Sabermetric site Fangraphs. That number was .309, .330, .315,and .292 respectively in his first four years as a pro.
Has Heston simply been unlucky or does he need to adjust to better hitters?
"I'd say maybe a little bit of both," he said. "My fastball command hasn't really been there as of late, I've just been leaving the ball up in the zone a little bit, and better hitters take advantage of that."
Heston's nine-inning complete game was the first for Fresno since Barry Zito threw one June 21, 2011.
Center fielder Gary Brown hit his sixth homer -- his third in four games, and catcher Johnny Monell added a sacrifice fly.