Sean Nolin knows the importance of making adjustments. After he allowed four runs in five innings in a start against Pawtucket last month, he's figured out how to keep the opposition from scoring. And after issuing 10 walks in his previous three starts, he worked on that as well.
On Friday night, the Blue Jays' No. 10 prospect allowed four hits and struck out four without giving up a free pass over six frames before Triple-A Buffalo walked off with a 1-0, 11-inning win over Charlotte.
"It was a battle personally, with weather and trying to get a grip for the ball. Just trying to throw strikes as good as I could," Nolin said. "My last few outings, as I'm sure you can tell, there's been more walks than I like to see. I just try to bear down and throw strikes. I didn't nitpick tonight."
Since allowing three runs in the fourth inning against the PawSox on April 13, the 24-year-old left-hander has pitched 19 2/3 scoreless frames.
After going 2-0 and allowing two runs in his first three starts for Double-A New Hampshire last season, the New York native was called up by Toronto. Nolin lasted only 1 1/3 innings in his Major League debut against Baltimore, giving up six runs on seven hits. He returned to the Minors and posted a composite 2.77 ERA between New Hampshire and Buffalo.
In his second stint with the Bisons, the 2010 sixth-round Draft pick leads the International League with a .154 batting average against and ranks sixth with a 1.55 ERA.
"I'm attacking the zone, just trying to pound the zone," Nolin said. "Just getting ahead with the fastball, throwing first-pitch strikes, I'm getting guys out on the first pitch."
With temperatures in the 40s at Coca-Cola Field, Nolin was efficient, needing three pitches or fewer to record six of his 18 outs. He threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 21 batters he faced, exited after 85 pitches and watched the next five innings from the dugout.
"Everyone was getting exciting, especially when we got a couple guys on base and [center fielder Kevin] Pillar extended his hitting streak," he said. "The offense showed up late, but it was there."
Pillar and Dan Johnson started the bottom of the 11th with singles and a forceout by Matt Tuiasosopo put runners at the corners with one out. After Knights reliever Donnie Veal (0-2) struck out pinch-hitter Brett Carroll and Tuiasosopo moved up on defensive indifference, Ryan Goins singled to center to drive in the winning run.
Pillar, Toronto's 15th-ranked prospect, has hit in a career-high 14 straight games. After beginning the season with a 1-for-21 funk, he's reached safely in 19 of his last 20 games while getting his average up to .263.
Austin Bibens-Dirkx (1-1) struck out three over two hitless innings for the win after Gregory Infante, John Stilson and Neil Wagner each chipped in a scoreless frame.
Making his season debut for Charlotte, White Sox top prospect Erik Johnson gave up three hits and a walk while striking out six over six innings. The 24-year-old right-hander was 1-1 with a 6.46 ERA in five starts for Chicago before he was reassigned.