Lake County's hitters are soon going to be sick of seeing Blake Perry's name on the lineup card when they face South Bend. And they'll probably have to face him next week in the first series after the Midwest League All-Star Game too.
Coming off the disabled list earlier in the day, Perry (5-2) hurled six hitless innings, striking out six, in the Class A Silver Hawks' 5-3 win over the visiting Captains on Wednesday evening.
"I felt I did pretty well. I wanted to get back to what I was doing before I got hurt," said Perry, who rolled his right ankle in a postgame conditioning exercise at the end of May. "I established my fastball command, and after that first inning, I really got into a rhythm.
"I would probably have to rank this as my second-best [pro start]. About a month ago, I pitched against Lake County and did the same thing. I went six innings without giving up a hit. It's tough to throw against the same team multiple times in the year, but I attacked the hitters the same way."
In two starts against Lake County this season, the 22-year-old right-hander has allowed one single and struck out 12 batters over 12 2/3 scoreless innings. He carried a similar bid deep April 26 when he lost his shot at history with two outs in the seventh on Anthony Santander's single to right field.
Wednesday's outing was Perry's first start since May 27 against Lansing, and those 14 days between competitive games might have prevented a realistic shot at another chance of making history.
He was initially limited to five innings, but pitching coach Doug Bochtler was so pleased with what he saw in Perry's return to the mound that he let him pitch the sixth because he was still under his 75-pitch maximum.
The 6-foot-5 hurler walked the third batter of the game and hit Dorssys Paulino to lead off the second. After that, he set down the final 14 batters he faced. In total, he induced four ground-ball outs and the same number through the air.
"[Coming out of the game] was tough, especially today," said the Kentucky native, who threw a 30- or 35-pitch bullpen session Thursday and a simulated game against his own teammates Saturday. "I felt really good, really strong, even coming off the injury, but they had my best interests in mind. I was on a strict limit, so I couldn't be too upset with that. I wanted to go back out and keep pitching, but I understand why I came out."
Like on that Saturday evening in April when Perry last faced the Captains, the key to his success was being aggressive and working off the heater. This time, the victory helped the Silver Hawks clinch a playoff berth.
"My fastball command was similar," he said. "We chart in the stands two days before so we can watch from behind home plate to see what our guys are doing. [On Tuesday, Blayne Weller] threw a lot of fastballs for strikes and had a lot of success when he got ahead. He pitched a heck of a game.
"I definitely tried to pitch to contact as much as I could. If you get ground balls early in counts or get one-, two- or three-pitch at-bats, you throw the least amount of pitches as possible and that is what you work on."
Selected by the D-backs in the sixth round of the 2010 Draft, Perry is in his fifth season in the Minors. He got his first taste of the Midwest League at the end of 2012 after spending most of the year with short-season Yakima, and he logged 112 1/3 innings back with the Silver Hawks in 2013.
Last year, Perry was 8-7 with a 4.49 ERA in 26 appearances, including 21 starts. But a lack of command plagued him at times, and while he struck out a career-high 85 batters, he also issued 67 walks and allowed seven homers.