For Matt Purke, maybe the best thing about his dominant outing in the Arizona Fall League on Thursday was simply being able to pitch without pain.
"It's been a couple years since I've been able to do that," he said. "This is the first season being able to be healthy and feel strong through the year. That's definitely a lot better than it has been."
The eighth-ranked Nationals prospect, who missed the first two months of the season while recovering from surgery to remove scar tissue in his shoulder, unfurled four no-hit innings, striking out seven and walking one along the way, in Mesa's 6-1 win over visiting Peoria. Purke is now 2-0 with a perfect ERA over two AFL starts, and the Solar Sox, at 7-0, are the only unbeaten team in the circuit.
"I had command of my pitches and things were going my way," said Purke. "It was one of those nights. When they come, you have to try to take advantage of them."
He struck out the first three batters of the game, and struck out the side in order again in the third.
"The ball just rolled my way. I'm only focused on making starts and executing pitches. Wherever the ball rolls or falls is up to it," the 23-year-old southpaw said. "I was just going. It felt good every inning out there."
Between those six strikeouts, though, Purke ran into a bit of trouble in the second. He walked the first hitter of the inning, and ahead in the count with two outs, plunked Patrick Kivlehan (Mariners).
"It's just one of those things. It's going to happen. You're going to walk guy, going to hit them. You try not to hit them with a curveball on a 1-2 count -- you try not to do that," Purke said. "But if it happens, you just have to get back in there and throw strikes. I was trying to get a groundball and get out of it. They're a great group of guys behind me, and really incredible on defense."
The Texas Christian University product got a strikeout and two groundouts in the fourth before handing the game over to the Solar Sox bullpen.
Purke, a 2011 third-round pick who was limited by shoulder pain to three pro starts last year, had recovered from Oct. 2012 surgery in time to pitch for Class A Hagerstown on May 29. After six starts there, he was promoted to Class A Advanced Potomac. Between the two levels, he went 6-4 with a 3.80 ERA.
"I'm out here just trying to get some more innings, since I had limited time due to surgery from the year before," Purke said. "But I'm working on my command and attacking the zone. Pitching is kind of a revolving action. There's always something new to learn. There's always something to work on. You never have it figured all the way the out."
Mesa got back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the fourth from No. 2 Angels prospect C.J. Cron -- who was 3-for-4 with two RBIs -- and No. 10 Nats prospect Matt Skole. No. 13 Tigers prospect Tyler Collins also went yard that inning. Collins' homer scored 12th-ranked Tigers prospect Devon Travis, who'd hit a longball in the second.
"This team can really hit. All the guys, one through nine, can really tattoo the ball," Purke said. "Every game, we've been able to score some runs. It makes the job a lot easier for the pitcher, having this many guys who are good at defense and scoring runs. It's a heck of a team."