For Justin Germano, the second time -- and sometimes the third -- was the charm Thursday night. The 31-year-old struggled to throw first-pitch strikes but still crafted a gem.
"I wasn't getting ahead of guys as much as I normally do. But I was usually able to bounce back with that second pitch," said the Rangers farmhand. "Even if I went 2-0, a couple times I was able to make a good pitch with a changeup and get them out in front of it."
Germano allowed three hits and two walks while striking out two over a nine-inning complete game in Triple-A Round Rock's 2-1 victory at Oklahoma City.
"I wanted to pitch to my strengths and get ahead of guys," he said. "I was able to induce some ground balls, and the biggest key tonight was the solid defense behind me. So I just wanted to keep getting those ground balls."
The right-hander has thrown three complete games in the Pacific Coast League this year, going eight innings to finish losses on April 29 and July 12. He's 4-10 with a 4.25 ERA.
That ERA took a beating in Germano's last start. On July 19, the Iowa Cubs got to him for five runs on eight hits and a walk in five innings. All five runs came in the second.
"It was good to bounce back and make it through all nine in this one," he said. "That last outing, it was just one bad inning. I was out to eliminate the big innings [Thursday]."
He succeeded. The RedHawks' lone run came in the third, when Germano walked 10th-ranked Astros prospect Max Stassi to start the frame. Jiovanni Mier followed with a sacrifice bunt and Joe Scaflani poked a single through the left side to score Stassi.
"It started off bad with walking the leadoff hitter," Germano said. "They just chipped away. I never really did anything different [in the inning], it was just they got that momentum going."
Germano, who threw a perfect game for Triple-A Columbus in 2011, responded by retiring eight in a row. The 2000 13th-round pick of San Diego never felt he was in danger again, getting some extra energy from pitching in a game that was tied until the top of the ninth.
"You have to minimize the mistakes you make, try not to give free passes and keep them off the basepaths," he said. "In these tight games, one swing can make a big difference, especially [in the PCL]."
The RedHawks did give Germano a minor scare in the ninth. With one out, Ronald Torreyes singled up the middle, but Express center fielder Ryan Strausborger threw Torreyes out trying for a double. Austin Wates then drove Germano's 2-0 changeup deep to left, where Michael Choice made a game-ending catch.
"I threw a changeup trying to get him out in front," Germano said, admitting he had some nerves watching the ball sail. "You never know here -- the way the ball carries. When it's hit in the air, it can keep going."
Carlos Pena smacked his second homer in as many games to give Round Rock the lead in the top of the ninth.