James Pugliese has a new tool in his toolbox and it was pretty sharp on Tuesday night.
"I have a new grip for a slider," the Cubs prospect said. "I never had one before. Now I have that third pitch and it all worked out tonight."
With the new offering complementing his fastball and changeup, Pugliese allowed two hits and recorded six strikeouts over six innings as short-season Boise posted a 3-0 road win over Hillsboro.
The 20-year-old right-hander opened his sixth start of the season with a strikeout, fanning Taylor Ratliff.
"I feel like it's pretty consistent with that," Pugliese said. "I usually do good with the beginning of an inning and it's usually a strikeout."
One out later, Yogey Perez-Ramos beat out a grounder to second baseman Daniel Lockhart for an infield hit.
"It was a slow roller and there was nothing you could do about it," said Pugliese, the Cubs' 18th-round pick in the 2011 Draft. "[Lockhart] made a little bobble, but the runner was really quick. There was nothing [Lockhart] could do."
The New Jersey native retired the next 15 Hops, seven on ground balls and five via strikeouts.
"All my pitches were working for me," he said. "I felt very concentrated, very calm. I had my thoughts collected, and with my stuff working on top of that, I got a good outcome."
Ratliff ended the streak with a two-out single in the sixth, smacking a hard grounder that caromed off the glove the first baseman Jacob Rogers. Pugliese broke to cover first as Rogers pursued the ball into foul territory, but it was too late.
"By the time I got there, he was safe," Pugliese said. "It was a tough play for both of us. It was a hit."
It was Hillsboro's last hit off the 6-foot-4 righty, who retired John Leonard on a forceout and exited a scoreless game.
"I just pitched to contact. I was hitting my spots with my slider and changeup, and they were being kind of aggressive early," Pugliese said. "That helped me with my pitch count. I threw 65 pitches through six."
The Hawks finally broke through in the ninth as Carlos Penalver delivered an RBI double and scored on Lockhart's bunt single. Trevor Gretzky plated another run with a forceout.
"It was a very exciting game. It started as a pitchers' duel and our bullpens carried it on," Pugliese said. "Then, our offense came through. It was a good team win."
The Mercer County College product missed the Major League All-Star Game, but given the circumstances, he didn't mind.
"When we get back to the hotel, I'll watch the highlights," he said, "and pretend I watched the whole thing."
Pugliese is tied for third in the Northwest League with 31 strikeouts over 36 innings. He also ranks 12th with a 2.75 ERA after allowing two earned runs or fewer in six of his seven appearances.