Kevin Brandt earned a promotion to the Midwest League after allowing one hit over a career-high seven innings in his previous start for short-season Hudson Valley. He was even sharper in his debut for Class A Bowling Green on Monday night.
The Rays prospect delivered six hitless innings, striking out three and walking one, before Lake County rallied to a 3-2 victory at Classic Park.
"Numbers-wise, it probably was [my best start]. I know last year in Princeton, I had a perfect outing through five innings. But at this level, command-wise, it was a lot better than I've had in the past," Brandt said.
The East Carolina University product exited after six innings after reaching his pitch count.
"Any time you're throwing that good, you always want to stay in the game. But at these low levels, it's about development and coaches have to do what they're told to do. I have no problem with that," Brandt said. "The no-hitter was in the back of my mind. I didn't really think about it on the field, but deep down in the back of my mind it was there."
Andrew Hanse, who fanned four and pitched two scoreless frames in relief of Brandt, allowed a one-out single to Eric Haase in the eighth. The Captains scored three runs on four hits in the ninth to tag Hot Rods closer Marcus Jensen (6-3) with the loss.
"You never want to lose and obviously everybody's going out there competing the best they can. Sometimes losses happen," Brandt said. "The key to that is just getting over it and moving on to the next day."
Bowling Green is getting very familiar with that sentiment after losing a no-hit bid Aug. 9 at the same point in the game after starter Jordan Harrison tossed seven hitless frames against Great Lakes.
After 16 relief appearances, Brandt made his first start of the season July 12, allowing a run on five hits in five innings against Jamestown. In five starts for the Renegades, he went 3-1 with 29 strikeouts, a .155 average against and a 1.24 ERA in 29 innings. In 2012, he made eight relief appearances and started four games in the Appalachian League.
"The transition wasn't really that hard because I started in college mostly. About 80 percent in college were starts," he said. "Last year, I relieved a little early in the year, and then later in the year started. I've always felt a little more comfortable as a starter mentally. I think the transition is easier from starter to reliever than vice versa."
The 6-foot-1 left-hander unexpectedly began his season as an injury replacement in the Class A Advanced Florida State League, where he made six appearances and posted a 4.15 ERA in 13 innings. Brandt then returned to extended spring training before reporting to Hudson Valley.
The 23-year-old has allowed just one hit over 13 innings in his past two starts.
"Establishing the fastball, first of all down, then in and out early [has been the key]. That'll open the door for a lot of my secondary pitches, once I've established the zone a little bit," he said. "Outings when you go out and can't establish the zone turn out to be a little rougher, you've got to pitch to contact a little more on those days."
Brandt said following the formula that brought success in his Midwest League debut will help him finish the year strong.
"Command the fastball, work quick, keep the defense from getting sleepy by behind me. I guess I just need to pitch the way I did tonight," he said. "I didn't feel extraordinary about any of my stuff, tonight was just one of those days where you put the ball over the plate and they weren't able to hit it."
Andrew Toles doubled, singled and scored a run. The center fielder is fourth in the Midwest League with a .324 batting average and leads the league with 52 stolen bases.