Between innings on Saturday night, Dan Winkler found himself a lonely man in the Modesto Nuts dugout.
"I was in no-man's land," he said. "I was like, 'Why won't people talk to me?' I know they didn't want to jinx me, but ... "
The Rockies prospect carried a no-hitter into his final frame before giving up a double over seven scoreless innings as Class A Advanced Modesto beat Bakersfield, 6-4.
"Overall, it was a mediocre start," said Winkler (9-2), who struck out eight batters, hit one and walked another. "I didn't feel like I had my good stuff tonight. My location wasn't good and I just felt a little off. That's baseball. You can have not your best stuff and things still work out for you. Guys made good plays behind me and hard-hit balls went right at guys. I had a little luck, but I'll say, too, that I had good moments with my slider."
After the Rockies took him in the 20th round of the 2011 Draft, Winkler went 11-10 with a 4.46 ERA for Class A Asheville in his first full season. He's been a different kind of pitcher this year, leading the California League in wins, ERA (2.15) and strikeouts (98).
"People have been telling me that," Winkler said. "It's just stats; I try not to focus too much on stats. It's not going to help me in the long run if I'm worried about that. I'm worried about getting wins for this team and putting together a good run in the second half so we can play in the postseason."
On Saturday, he recorded six of the first 11 outs via strikeouts.
"I just made some pitches when I needed to," the 23-year-old right-hander said. "[Nuts catcher Will] Swanner was putting down the right fingers. I was missing some locations, but they happened to be in good spots."
Winkler hit Juan Silverio in the third and walked Reds No. 16 prospect Kyle Waldrop with two outs in the fifth.
"I tried to go with a first-pitch changeup down and I missed. Then I threw back-to-back sinkers and I got underneath them," Winkler said. "Then on 3-0, I got away from my approach. Whatever. It's going to happen sometimes in a start."
Then he retired five straight batters, starting with a strikeout of Silverio.
"I felt better as the game went on. I started making pitches and was feeling confident," he said. "I really didn't think about the no-hitter too much. I was just trying to get team a win because we'd lost four in a row."
With one out in the seventh, Juan Silva smacked a line drive over the head of center fielder Tyler Massey for a double.
"I was a little disappointed," admitted Winkler, "not so much that I gave up the hit, just in the pitch. It was a 1-1 changeup and I hung it. I wanted it to drop out of the zone a little, but it stayed up."
With Silva on second, Winkler got a fly ball and ended his night with another strikeout.
"Of course," he wanted to keep going, he said, "but I understand pitching limits. If I'd had a no-hitter, I would've gotten 10 more pitches, I guess."
Swanner, the Rockies' No. 7 prospect, drove in two runs and Ryan Casteel was 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs.
For Winkler, whose name hadn't shown up on many top prospect lists entering the season, the first half he's put together has been somewhat vindicating.
"I came into pro ball with a chip on my shoulder because I felt like I was better than a 20th-rounder. The Rockies gave me an opportunity and I want to prove to them and everybody else I have the stuff to compete," he said. "It means a lot to be able to do that. But as far as the attention goes, I'm still no better than anybody else, just because I'm pitching better."