Pitch after pitch, inning after inning, it became a question of who would blink first, Chris Heston or Daisuke Matsuzaka. Neither did.
Heston allowed one hit over six scoreless innings and Matsuzaka did him one better Saturday night before Triple-A Las Vegas posted a 1-0, 10-inning triumph over Fresno at Chukchansi Park.
Both pitchers made quick work of their opponents early. Heston allowed a two-out single in the first to veteran Bobby Abreu before buckling down to retire the next 15 51s. Heston, who yielded five runs on nine hits over four innings in his season debut on April 7, went back to basics his second time around for the Grizzlies.
"I think I just went into the game trying to fill [the zone] up, throw as many strikes as possible and keep the ball down and let them hit it on the ground," Heston said. "The defense played really well behind me. Daisuke, he was going out there and throwing well, too, so I was just trying to go out there and match him pitch for pitch and have fun with it."
As the zeros went up on the Chukchansi Park scoreboard, Heston took note of the impressive outing by the 33-year-old right-hander.
"You're definitely focused on what you need to do, but you're in the dugout," he said. "You're seeing what's going on and watching how he's throwing to guys and stuff, so I think it's a little bit of both. You try to focus on what you can do and go out there and just try and match him."
For every strong inning Heston recorded, Matsuzaka matched him. The veteran of 123 Major League starts took a no-hitter into the bottom of the sixth before surrendering consecutive one-out singles to pinch-hitter Javier Herrera and Gary Brown, the Giants' 16th-ranked prospect. With runners at the corners, Matsuzaka got Joe Panik to foul out and struck out Tony Abreu, then retired the side in order in the seventh.
"Daisuke got stronger and stronger as the game went on," 51s manager Wally Backman said of Matsuzaka, who struck out eight and walked two. "He was 89-91 [mph] and then, from about the third or fourth inning on, he was like 92-96. He just got stronger."
Matsuzaka, a World Series champion, and Abreu, a two-time big league All-Star, have provided a veteran presence in the Las Vegas clubhouse.
"An absolute professional, 100 percent," Backman said of Matsuzaka. "I could go a step further. Him and Abreu, both, they're 100 percent professionals. As long as those young kids watch [Matsuzaka's] work ethic, it's really second to none. Same with Abreu. Abreu's a guy who does nothing but give players information about pitchers, about hitting. You can tell he's been a leader his whole career."
Fresno's George Kontos and Erik Cordier kept the game scoreless, as did Matsuzaka and four 51s relievers. Matsuzaka was at 88 pitches when his spot in the lineup came up in the eighth. With a runner at second base in a scoreless game, Backman went with pinch-hitter Allan Dykstra, who struck out.
Las Vegas broke through in the 10th when Kirk Nieuwenhuis led off with his second homer of the season off Cordier.
Josh Edgin (3-0) retired the only batter he faced for the win, Miguel Socolovich got the first two outs in the bottom of the 10th and Vic Black retired Ydwin Villegas on a groundout for his first Pacific Coast League save.
"You never want to walk away with losing at the end of the game, but I think there's a bunch of good things that I can take from it," Heston said. "The team played pretty well. We just couldn't scratch one across there and they were able to get one across late in the game, so I think you can take a lot of positives from it and try to build off of it and take it into the next start."