Christian Binford made a mistake.
"I definitely hung it. There's no question about that," the Royals' No. 12 prospect said of the fifth-inning slider that ended his bid for a perfect game on Saturday.
Although he wasn't perfect, Binford certainly was impressive. He piled up 10 strikeouts without issuing a walk and allowed two hits over seven innings as Class A Advanced Wilmington blanked visiting Winston-Salem, 4-0.
"I don't light up the radar gun. I live by keeping the ball down, and I did that a lot in a way that set up good pitches later in at-bats," the 21-year-old right-hander said after notching his first Carolina League win.
The 10 strikeouts represent the second-highest total during Binford's three-year pro career. He fanned 12 for Class A Lexington last July 28.
"I was able to have consistency and location, and if you have those things and you have a good defense to get you out of tight spots, you're going to have a good game," he said. "[Left fielder Daniel] Rockett saved me a couple hits and he saved me a run."
The game lasted 2 hours and 3 minutes, with Binford (1-0) and reliever Zeb Sneed facing just one batter over the minimum. Winston-Salem has gone 21 innings without scoring.
The Blue Rocks didn't break through until the bottom of the fifth, just after Justin Coats broke up Binford's no-hitter with a double to deep left field.
"He put a great swing on it and I thought it was gone," Binford said. "Rockett gave it a good chase, but he wasn't going to be able to get it."
With his shot at perfection behind him, the 2011 30th-round Draft pick plowed onward.
"I only wanted to get guys out as fast as I could," he said. "When I gave up the hit, that's when it sunk in [that I had a perfect game going]. But I just had to get that out of my mind. I had to keep going. At that point, it was still 0-0. I couldn't let off the pedal for anything."
A groundout moved Coats to third, but Binford stranded him there by striking out Martin Medina.
"That was big," he admitted. "I think that was turning point, to not let that run score."
Binford had two more scares before handing the ball to Sneed. In the sixth, Rockett threw out Adam Heisler trying to stretch a single.
"He did hit a double, but Rockett threw him out at second.," Binford said. "That probably saved me a run -- he very possibly could have scored. Great defense like that is what allows you to go deep into games."
In the seventh, seventh-ranked White Sox prospect Courtney Hawkins launched a shot that Rockett was able to track down.
"Hawkins is the power guy. That one he put out there in left late in the game gave a shock. But, you know, at that point we were up by a few runs. If I give it up, I give it up," Binford said. "My slider was working the whole night, so I threw him one. I hung it and he just missed it."
Binford has gone 12 innings over two starts this season without issuing a walk, and he allowed only 25 in over 135 innings in the South Atlantic League last season.
"That's really what I pride myself on. I hate walking guys," he said. "I've said that 100 times -- I do not like giving guys first base. I went to three balls only once [Saturday], and I worked my way back from that one."
Sneed yielded a hit in the eighth but got a double play, then struck out the side in the ninth.
Cam Gallagher delivered an RBI double for the Blue Rocks, who took advantage of a pair of errors and a wild pitch to score three times in the fifth.