Up until Sunday, Aaron Blair had put up plenty of Ks in the beginning of his first full Minor League season. Now he has the zeros to match.
The D-backs' No. 4 prospect set a career high with 12 strikeouts and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Sunday afternoon before his Class A South Bend squad fell to Lake County, 2-0, in 12 frames.
Blair retired the first eight Captains he faced before walking Cody Ferrell and Clint Frazier back-to-back in the third inning. He got Dorssys Paulino swinging on the next at-bat to technically strike out the side in the frame. He kept the goose egg in the Lake County hit column until the seventh, when Anthony Santander's single to center field to break up the potential feat. Blair struck out Claudio Bautista looking immediately afterward to end his outing.
The 21-year-old right-hander fanned at least one batter every inning, including a pair in the first, fourth and seventh. His strikeout total beat out his previous career mark of 10, set April 3 in a six-inning, five-run losing effort against Bowling Green.
His 43 strikeouts through five starts (31 2/3 innings) are tops in the Minors, beating out Taylor Cole (Class A Advanced Dunedin) and Ben Lively (Class A Advanced Bakersfield), who both have 40.
"Obviously, he was commanding his pitches," said Silver Hawks manager Mark Haley. "It's a tough game not to get a win out of. We've got to get our bats going and put some runs on the board for him. But that's him. He went after them and was commanding both sides of the plate. He got his breaking ball over. He was outstanding."
Sunday marked the first scoreless outing of the young season for Blair, who is 1-1 with a 2.56 ERA after not factoring into the latest decision. The 6-foot-5 hurler rebounded from his rough first outing by allowing only four earned runs over 18 2/3 innings (1.93 ERA) in his next three outings.
The D-backs took Blair in the first round (36th overall) of last year's Draft out of Marshall University. His fastball sits in the low-90s with plenty of sink and earned a 60 grade from MLB.com -- the highest mark of his three offerings, with the curveball (50) and changeup (55) slightly behind.
The Captains broke the scoreless deadlock in the 12th when Nellie Rodriguez and Santander chased Silver Hawks reliever Jose Jose (0-1) with a single and a double respectively to kick off the frame. Josh McAdams and Cody Ferrell followed with one-out RBI singles off Kyle Schepel.