Eighteen up, eighteen down.
While a potential perfect game was squarely on Dylan Baker's mind, his arm was his main concern. And in his Carolina League debut on Tuesday night, he tossed six perfect innings before reaching his pitch count as the Carolina Mudcats blanked the Frederick Keys, 7-0.
"Just pounding the strike zone made my off-speed stuff better," Baker said. "Just throwing strikes, and [the Keys] couldn't really read me."
The 22-year-old right-hander fell behind only two batters, struck out four and retired eight on ground balls.
Baker is no stranger to going the distance in his brief professional career. Last season with Class A Lake County, he ranked fourth in the Midwest League with 143 2/3 innings pitched and worked a six-inning complete game. But with a new level comes new limits for the sake of preserving the young arm.
"I would rather come out than get an arm injury early in the season; I think it was the smart thing to do," the Indians' No. 16 prospect said. "Today was supposed to be five innings or 80 pitches, but my count was low after five, so they kept me in. I think it goes up to 85 next time."
Jacob Lee relieved the Alaska native to start the seventh and immediately lost the perfect game when Glynn Davis hit a leadoff triple. But Lee kept the shutout intact during a two-inning stint and Rob Nixon pitched around a hit and a walk in the ninth.
The Mudcats staked Baker to a lead before he took the mound, then scored in each of the final four innings to pull away. Erik Gonzalez went 3-for-5 with a triple, an RBI, a stolen base and a run scored, while Anthony Gallas plated two runs.
"They were [hitting] great tonight," Baker said. "The other pitcher was good and they kept on battling."
The "other pitcher," Orioles No. 16 prospect Branden Kline (1-1), gave up two runs on three hits over six innings with two walks and eight strikeouts.