The opening of Jairo Labourt's start on Saturday night was a little too familiar to anyone who's paid attention to the 20-year-old southpaw this year: The leadoff walk was his 27th base-on-balls in 20-plus innings.
After that, he showed everybody something brand new.
Labourt tossed six hitless innings, striking out six and limiting the walks to three in short-season Vancouver's 1-0, one-hit win over Tri-City at Scotiabank Field.
"His confidence was really working for him tonight," said Canadians pitching coach Jeff Ware, who even liked what he saw from Labourt in the leadoff walk to Cesar Galvez.
"From the first pitch of the game, he looked better than anybody he faced. He really had his command down in the zone and on both sides of the plate. That was just remarkable."
The victory squared Labourt's record at 1-1 since coming to the Northwest League on June 14. He began the year in the Midwest League with Class A Lansing, but after posting a 6.43 ERA and walking 20 batter over 14 innings, he was assigned to the Blue Jays' facilities in Florida at the end of April.
"He went down to extended [spring training] a little bit and there were a few pitching coaches working on him with that down there," Ware said. "We've just been trying to work with him on repeating his delivery, using his lower half more and finishing pitches. For the last month, he's been doing a good job of that."
Labourt erased Saturday's leadoff walk by picking off Galvez with one out and ended the opening frame with the first of four straight strikeouts.
The native of the Dominican Republic wasn't fazed when he lost another hitter, the Dust Devils' Richard Prigatano, on balls to start the second, as he retired 10 in a row.
"Not too many guys were saying much to him. Like usually [with a no-hitter], the starting pitcher comes in and sits and everybody knows what's going on and everybody is quiet," Ware said. "You could tell he was keeping his focus throughout the game. Even between innings, you could see on his face that he was really focused."
The streak ended when Labourt walked Shane Hoelscher with one out in the sixth, but he ended that inning with a double-play ball off Galvez's bat.
Labourt knew that inning was his last, and Ware sympathized with the double-edged emotions that his pupil felt about exiting with a no-hitter in progress.
"It was a little of both. He was pumped up but also disappointed," Ware said.
"It was a tremendous outing, but at the same time, nobody ever wants to come out of a game when they're pitching a no-hitter. He understands, though, that in the lower levels, our main priority is keeping them healthy so they can develop and move up. And, hopefully, one day we'll see them in the Major Leagues."
Andrew Case took over in the seventh, making his fifth pro appearance. He was perfect in the seventh but surrendered a one-out single to Josh Fuentes in the eighth. That hit dropped just in front of Vancouver center fielder Roemon Fields.
"[Case] came in and pounded the ball down in zone. He made one little mistake and left one a little bit up," Ware said. "[Fuentes] kind of fisted it into the outfield and our center fielder did a tremendous job trying to get to it. He laid out for it, and I think it might have hit off his glove."
Case responded by getting Prigatano to pop out in foul territory, then whiffing Robbie Perkins on three pitches.
"He maintained a level head to get those next two hitters out. That's what you want in a situation like that, where something bad happens," Ware said. "Tides can turn, and you need to be able to stay with it."
Brett Barber pitched a perfect ninth, recording his fourth save in his last four appearances.
Sean Hurley plated Franklin Barreto with Vancouver's lone run with a sixth-inning sacrifice fly.