Apparently all Nick Kingham needed to turn his fortunes around was a new challenge.
With inconsistent command and a lack of run support at Double-A Altoona, the right-hander's numbers did not exactly scream for a promotion. But since his callup to the International League, all he has done is succeed.
Pittsburgh's No. 8 prospect held Columbus to two hits and a walk over six innings in the Triple-A Indians' 1-0 win over the Clippers in the first game of Thursday's doubleheader.
The 22-year-old threw 51 of 86 pitches for strikes and fanned four batters.
MLB.com's 85th-ranked prospect retired the first 17 batters of the game before Luke Carlin broke up his perfect-game bid with a single to center field with two down in the sixth inning. Jose Ramirez followed with a single back up the middle and Tyler Holt walked to load the bases, but Kingham struck out Jesus Aguilar to end the threat.
Selected by the Pirates in the fourth round of the 2010 Draft, the 6-foot-5 Texas native has had mixed success in 2014. He was 1-7 with a 3.04 ERA in 12 Eastern League starts with Altoona before his promotion. Since then, he has gone 3-1 with a 1.62 ERA in six Triple-A contests.
He is holding opponents to a lower batting average (.214 vs. .259) and has a better strikeout-to-walk ratio (54:25 at Double-A, 26:5 at Triple-A) at the higher level. Kingham has allowed one earned run or fewer in five of his six Triple-A starts. The only time he didn't was his last start against Louisville on Saturday, when he gave up six runs on 10 hits over 6 1/3 innings.
On Thursday, Andy Oliver retired the Clippers in order in the seventh to pick up his 11th save of the year.
Columbus' Danny Salazar (3-6) suffered the complete-game loss after yielding the game's only run on two hits and six walks while striking out nine batters over six innings.
In Game 2, Indians center fielder Chase d'Arnaud and shortstop Robert Andino both went 3-for-4 and designated hitter Tony Sanchez and left fielder Mel Rojas cleared the fences in a 14-2 victory to sweep the twinbill.