Last time out, Matt Purke seemed happy to be pitching pain-free. At this point, he might be happy that he's pitching run-free as well.
The Nationals' No. 8 prospect allowed just one hit and one walk over five scoreless innings Wednesday afternoon for Mesa, but the Solar Sox fell, 2-1, to Scottsdale in 10 innings in Arizona Fall League play.
Alen Hanson, the No. 3 Pirates prospect, provided the heroics for the Scorpions by smacking a walk-off single with the bases loaded off reliever Ryan Dull in the 10th.
Purke issued a free pass to Hanson in the first and a leadoff single to Jarrett Parker in the third. Both were erased by double plays in the next at-bat. In fact, he recorded eight groundouts in his outing with three strikeouts and one flyout.
The 23-year-old left-hander hasn't allowed an earned run while scattering three hits over 12 innings thus far with the Solar Sox. As such, he's the only AFL pitcher to have made at least three starts without surrendering an earned run. He lowered his WHIP to 0.50, lowest among starters and second behind Surprise reliever David Goforth (0.43).
Purke is making up for lost time in the Fall League after missing the first few months of the regular season as he recovered from October 2012 shoulder surgery. Since being taken in the third round out of Texas Christian University in 2011, he has made only 21 starts over the past two years. He sported a 3.80 ERA over 18 starts (90 innings) between Class A Hagerstown and Class A Advanced Potomac.
"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 last week. "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 out."
Scottsdale tied Wednesday's contest when a passed ball by Mesa catcher Jett Bandy allowed Tommy La Stella to scamper home from third. Andrew Susac walked, Kyle Kubitza singled and Mason Williams was intentionally walked in the 10th to set the stage for Hanson.
Fellow Nationals prospect Steven Souza Jr. went 3-for-4 with three steals and the lone Mesa run in the loss. His nine thefts are tops among AFL baserunners.