Two starts ago, Silver Hawks right-hander Jesse Darrah gave up a season-high 12 hits over 4 1/3 innings at Great Lakes. The story was quite different Monday night.
Darrah (7-4) allowed one hit in seven shutout innings to earn the victory in Class A South Bend's 2-1 win over the Loons at Dow Diamond.
He had given up 19 hits in his previous 11 1/3 innings and entered the game with a 5.71 ERA in June. Some mechanical work between starts and an emphasis on mixing his four pitches changed that.
"I've been working out with our pitching coach [Wellington Cepeda] and made some mechanical adjustments to go along with a smarter gameplan to use all my pitches and not fall into patterns or always throw the same pitch in a certain count," the 23-year-old said.
An Arizona 2011 eighth-round pick, Darrah said he'd been falling behind and throwing too many fastballs when hitters were expecting them, rather than using his curveball, changeup and slider.
"Definitely the game plan always is to establish the fastball, I absolutely do that, but I faced this team just a couple outings ago and got hit pretty hard. I think it's because I wasn't mixing my pitches. I was falling behind and then throwing a fastball every time. Today, when I did fall behind I would throw a changeup or slider," he said.
Lefties were hitting .299 against Darrah on the season before Monday night, when the Loons put five left-handed batters in their lineup, including Dodgers' No. 4 prospect Corey Seager and leadoff man Robbie Garvey.
"I think my changeup is my best offspeed pitch and that's the pitch that I need to kind of neutralize left-handed hitters," Darrah said. "There's that old saying, 'Hard in, soft away.' I was able to do that today. We had a great gameplan and I executed it."
"[Darrah] came at us with a lot of off-speed," Garvey added. "We weren't really getting deep into counts and we were swinging at a lot of first pitches. I knew I was going to see that off-speed because he was trying to keep us off balance."
Seven innings tied a season high for Darrah, who has done so five times in 2013.
"I think every starter, when he's throwing well, wants to keep going, but it's the [decision of manager Mark Haley] and I trust in our bullpen. I had a good rhythm and was throwing all my pitches for strikes," he said.
"Darrah was pretty darn good," Great Lakes skipper Razor Shines said. "He moved the ball around; he threw his changeup for strikes and kept us off balance. Hitting is all about timing, and he did a good pretty good job of disrupting ours."
Darrah's four walks were the second-most he's given up. He walked seven in 1 2/3 innings at Beloit on April 25.
"I think the walks were trying to be a little bit too perfect on some pitches rather than challenging and going after the hitters. I was trying to be too good on the outside corner, instead of saying, 'Here it is.' That'll get better," he said.
Enrique Burgos picked up his fifth save after allowing a run in the ninth by getting Seager to ground into a double play.
South Bend's Fidel Pena had three hits, including his 19th double, and scored the eventual game-winning run in the first.
Zachary Bird (1-3) gave up two runs and eight hits in five innings for the Loons. The 18-year-old right-hander struck out six.