In his final start before the Triple-A All-Star break, Jake Odorizzi gave up two hits over six innings and allowed one run or fewer for the third time in four starts.
Ironically, it was the All-Star Game, which celebrates Triple-A's best talent -- a game to which Odorizzi was not selected -- that put him in a little bit of a funk.
Back in a groove two weeks removed from the midseason classic, the Rays' No. 2 prospect feels like he's back on track.
Odorizzi took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Sunday evening as the Durham Bulls shut down the Columbus Clippers, 4-1, at Huntington Park.
"I had not seen hitters for eight or nine days since the All-Star break, and that threw me off a little bit," said Odorizzi, who suffered back-to-back losses in his first two starts since the three-day hiatus.
"Sometimes a long break like that hurts you more than it helps you. I wasn't far off, just missing some pitches by a little bit. Tonight, I was much more fluid."
After issuing two-out walks in the second and third innings against Columbus, Odorizzi (8-4) retired 10 straight batters and did not allow a hit through the sixth.
Chun Chen hit the first pitch in the bottom of the seventh for a double to center field and Omir Santos singled back up the middle to put runners at the corners and bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate.
"I felt good to get it back to a good outing," Odorizzi said. "I made some adjustments from my last two outings and they paid off. I changed mechanics a little bit and I felt really in sync.
"I was definitely not over my head, I was right out in front of me. I worked with my pitching coach, Neil Allen, and he helped me stay back. It keeps you in a nice little rhythm, because once you sync everything, you can stay back. If you bring your hands forward too early, it throws you forward."
Bearing down and likely facing his final batter, Odorizzi kept the shutout intact by getting Juan Diaz to ground into a double play on his 101st pitch.
"It was huge," MLB.com's No. 43 overall prospect said. "I threw him a 3-1 changeup; it was a strike if he took it. It was on the outside corner and he rolled over it. It was huge to get out of that with no runs."
Odorizzi is no stranger to taking no-hit bids deep into games.
On May 5, the 23-year-old right-hander worked seven innings and combined with three relievers on a no-hitter in a 2-1 victory over Pawtucket.
Since the All-Star break, however, Odorizzi had been unable to find the form that helped him reach the Majors at the end of 2012 and again earlier this season. He surrendered four runs on seven hits and a season-high five walks over 3 1/3 innings in a July 18 loss to Pawtucket, then gave up four more runs -- three earned -- on seven hits over four frames on July 23 at Gwinnett.
"Anytime you're up [in the Majors], you get to experience it and you never want to come back down," said Odorizzi, who won four straight starts from April 23-May 5 but lost three of four decisions heading into Sunday.
"The atmosphere in Tampa was awesome and the team is playing great baseball. I want to work my way back there and I'll do everything it takes. ... It's a big motivation."
Sunday's game was scoreless until the sixth, when Kevin Kiermaier came home on Diaz's error at shortstop and Jason Bourgeois singled in another run. Bourgeois added an RBI single in the eighth and Ryan Roberts reached base three times, plated a run and scored another for Durham.
Clippers starter Danny Salazar recorded 11 strikeouts and gave up three hits over five scoreless innings.