Frustrated Triple-A Round Rock hitters might blame Sunday's bad weather in New Orleans for their troubles.
Oklahoma City's postponement against the Zephyrs pushed Asher Wojciechowski's start to Monday. The delay proved unfortunate for the Express.
"I actually wasn't feeling all too great yesterday," Wojciechowski said, "but I felt really good out there today."
It showed. The Astros' No. 15 prospect faced the minimum while allowing just one hit and a walk over nine innings in the RedHawks' 5-0 win at Round Rock's Dell Diamond. He was perfect through five frames.
"We had a nine-hour bus ride through the night. I slept at the hotel, showed up and prepared for the game -- the same thing I do every single start, every five days. It was pretty much the same old approach," he said. "Things worked out and I was able to go the distance."
The 25-year-old righty struck out five and threw more than four pitches in just eight of the 27 at-bats. He credited his success to spotting his fastball low in the strike zone and effectively mixing in his change-up and slider.
"I was able to locate my fastball and locate all three of my pitches actually," he said. "Also, they hit some balls hard right at some guys, so I had things going my way. It was definitely one of my best outings this year, though. They were swinging early, and I was throwing strikes.
"I'll take a first-pitch out or a two-to-three pitch at-bat vs. a strikeout any time. I try to throw quality strikes down in the zone and get guys out as quickly as possible, not try to strike guys out."
Wojciechowski was picked out of the Citadel by the Blue Jays in the first round of the 2010 Draft, and he came to the Houston system in the deal for J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter last July. He started this season 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA over six appearances for Double-A Corpus Christi before jumping up to the Pacific Coast League on May 2. He's 5-4 with a 3.06 ERA for the RedHawks.
In Monday's game, he mowed down 15 straight before top Rangers prospect Mike Olt lined the second pitch of the sixth into right field for a single. Wojciechowski took a moment before settling in against Chris McGuinness, a left-handed hitter with 10 games of Major League service time under his belt this year.
"I definitely thought about [the no-hit bid]. I was pretty frustrated with myself, but I flushed it really quickly. I told myself, 'OK, just get McGuinness.'"
He did, striking him out on three pitches before inducing Jose Felix to dribble into a double play.
"I was upset I gave up the hit," he said, "but I still had a good inning there. So I just flushed it and kept moving."
He was perfect again in the seventh, but Manny Ramirez -- who debuted with Round Rock on Sunday -- gave Wojciechowski a scare in the eighth. The 12-time All-Star smacked the first pitch of the frame deep into left field.
"I threw a first-pitch change-up, and right off the bat, I thought it might be gone. Once I saw that it was a fly ball [not a line drive], I was hoping it wasn't going to go out and I saw our left fielder [Ruben] Sosa back up to the wall," Wojciechowski said. "I was holding my breath a little bit there. I had a few outs where they hit them hard at guys, and I was able to pitch through it knowing I had great defense behind me and everybody was making plays."
After Ruben made the catch, Wojciechowski put Joey Butler aboard with a five-pitch walk.
"I threw probably three borderline pitches that could have been called strikes," Wojciechowski said. "They were just a hair off the plate. But I wasn't rattled -- I was just trying to be too fine when facing Butler."
This time, he forced Aaron Cunningham to hit into the double play he needed
"Those were great," he said. "Being able to get those double plays to get quick outs and not have to throw more pitches definitely fired me up a little bit."
He worked a 1-2-3 ninth and the eighth-inning flyout made Ramirez 0-for-3 on the day. In the fifth, Ramirez and Wojciechowski battled in an eight-pitch at-bat, but the count never went full. It culminated in a fly ball to center.
"It was definitely fun to face a great hitter like that. He's somebody who's been around such a long time, and so many people know him," said Wojciechowski. "That's something I'll go on to say one day: 'I pitched against Manny Ramirez.' I mean, he's one of the best hitters of the last 20 years."
Top Astros prospect Jonathan Singleton singled in the contest and George Springer, who's ranked two spots behind Singleton, reached base three times and stole a base. Robbie Grossman, the club's 18th-ranked prospect, had two hits, two RBIs and a run scored.