Brett Mooneyham never quite felt comfortable throwing from the stretch Tuesday.
A simple solution seemed to work -- keep batters off the bases, and thus, keep throwing from the windup.
Mooneyham threw 7 1/3 innings of one-hit ball, striking out seven and walking four in Class A Hagerstown's 3-0 win over Lakewood on Tuesday. At two hours and two minutes, the shutout marked the Suns' shortest game of the season, thanks in no small part, to how the 24-year-old lefty coasted through the middle innings.
"I felt like I was in the windup for a long time," he admitted even though he realized he'd given up just one hit. "It's hard. You try to just go pitch to pitch, which is what's been successful lately."
The stellar outing makes four consecutive wins for Mooneyham, and he's allowed one run over 22 1/3 innings, a stretch that goes back three starts. The 2012 third-rounder has given up just 45 hits in 80 South Atlantic League innings this year, and he's 8-3 with a 2.25 ERA. After giving up five runs over five innings at Hickory on July 17, Mooneyham altered his delivery.
"I just feel like I've been able to clean up the kinks a little bit in my mechanics. I'm more in line with the plate, more gathered early for balance, as far as keeping myself over the rubber. I'm in control more. I'm not going off toward the first-base side," he said. "That's allowed me to get my fastball inside better when I need to, and it's better for my offspeed stuff too and my breaking ball late in the count."
On Tuesday, the only hit he gave up came with two outs in the first inning when 11th-ranked Phillies prospect Larry Greene singled for the BlueClaws.
"I felt like the hit came on a good pitch," Mooneyham said. "It was low and inside, and I think he was out in front of it a little bit. But he got the barrel on it and blooped it out into left field."
The Stanford product then walked the next hitter, Willie Carmona.
"The walk was the first hitter out of the stretch. The whole game, out of the stretch, I wasn't as sharp," said Mooneyham. "He sees the ball a little better out of the left side of the plate, which is where he's going to be when he's facing me obviously. I was missing up. I just couldn't get ahead of him. He's a free swinger, Carmona, and I thought if I could get one or two strikes on him, I'd be able to get him to chase something."
Mooneyham worked a 1-2-3 second. After allowing another walk in the third, he retired 13 in a row. Still, by the eighth inning, he was slightly fatigued.
"In the later innings, I felt less comfortable. I was up in pitches. I wanted to stay aggressive enough to make them keep swinging," he said.
It worked against the first Lakewood hitter of the inning.
"I didn't have as much life on my fastball. I still got a broken bat, though," he said. "There was still good movement on my two-seamer -- I got [Mitch] Walding to hit that one back to me softly in the air."
He walked the next hitter. Brian Pointer.
"My mechanics were slightly sloppier," he said. "I was a little off balance, and I was trying to catch up with my arm."
Pitching from the stretch again, he gave up another walk to Angelo Mora end his outing.
"I have to keep with the pitch-to-pitch approach. It's a cliche, but it really helps. You try to win each pitch and if you don't, you get the next one. And if you do, you get the next one too," he said. "During the days I'm not pitching, when I'm throwing I try to stay with the mechanics that are working. When it comes down to it, physically, that's the most important part. I feel like I've been able to do that the last four starts."
Pedro Severino, Mooneyham's catcher and the Nationals' No. 15 prospect, tripled and knocked in two runs for Hagerstown.