Branden Kline, who has the pleasure of making his home starts in his hometown all season long, turned in his best outing yet on Saturday -- more than seven hours south at Myrtle Beach.
The Orioles' No. 14 prospect racked up a season-high 11 strikeouts without issuing a walk over seven innings, during which he allowed five hits. Neither team scored until the 10th, when Pedro Perez plated Jason Esposito with a sacrifice fly that gave Class A Advanced Frederick a 1-0 win over the Pelicans.
The Frederick, Maryland, native did receive some road support from his girlfriend and her family, who made a three-hour trip from Georgia to watch him pitch. They couldn't have been very disappointed.
"For kind of like the first time this season, I had all my pitches working for me," Kline said. "I was able to throw my fastball, my changeup and my slider all pretty well tonight to just kind of keep Myrtle Beach off-balance."
In 13 starts with the Keys, the 2012 second-round pick is 3-2 with a 2.92 ERA and 57 strikeouts against 16 walks over a Carolina League-leading 77 innings. Oddly enough, his luck has been better on the road, where he's 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA. At home, his record is 0-2 and his ERA is 3.58.
On Friday, he found himself in hot water only in the second inning, when two singles put Pelicans at first and third with one out. Kline avoided any damage by fanning Zach Cone and Alberto Triunfel.
"I just try to keep it as close as possible," the 22-year-old right-hander said. "I just made some key pitches in some tough spots and was able to get out of a couple jams. Fortunately, we were able to scratch that run across in the 10th inning and come home with the victory."
Kline was more excited about not issuing a walk than racking up 11 strikeouts. Maybe that's because he's punched out 13 in one game before. The career high happened on May 17, 2013 against Hickory in his last start for Class A Delmarva before he sustained a fractured fibula that required surgery.
Hickory and Myrtle Beach are both affiliates of the Texas Rangers, a coincidence not lost on Kline. He said his latest gem had as much to do with his catcher, Perez, as his effective repertoire.
"Being able to keep the ball down and put it in the strike zone for the most part today, I think really helped out a lot," he said, "not just for the fact with all the strikeouts, but just for the fact that I was able to keep them off the board, and I didn't really have to make too many high-intensity pitches throughout the night, which made it a little easier.
"I was able to put up zeros and keep the guys in the game. They scored that one run in the 10th and luckily, that's all we needed to win."
As in any pitchers' duel, Kline was not the only hurler excelling at his job. Pelicans starter Luis Parra spun eight shutout innings, yielding three hits and two walks with five strikeouts.
Though Myrtle Beach dropped the game -- without All-Stars Joey Gallo, Nick Williams and Royce Bolinger in the lineup -- the Pelicans were in high spirits afterward, as they waited until Saturday to celebrate their Southern Division first-half title (which was clinched on Thursday) in front of their fans at TicketReturn.com Field.