Tyler Bolton has learned how to forecast how a start will go based on his pregame bullpen session, but getting a read is not as straightforward as you might guess.
"If I have a good bullpen, I either go out and everything is going to be great or I'm going to go out there and not do too hot," he said. "But if I don't have a good bullpen, then I'm probably going to throw well in the game. That was the case tonight."
The D-backs prospect allowed two hits without issuing a walk over seven innings Friday night, pitching in Rookie-level Missoula's 4-0 blanking of visiting Helena.
Bolton (4-3) struck out two and lowered his ERA to 5.40 since being taken by Arizona in the 33rd round of this year's Draft out of East Carolina University.
"Tonight was one of those nights when everything was working, for the most part," he said. "The first changeup and the first curveball I threw both went for balls, but after that, I was pitching to both sides of the plate and having the right instincts I usually have."
The two strikeouts were a change for Bolton, who fanned 15 batters over 15 1/3 innings in his previous three games. Considering his overall results, Friday's low total didn't concern him in the least.
"There was a lot of great defense tonight -- only having the two strikeouts shows that," Bolton said. "I don't know notice how many strikeouts I'm getting until after a game when somebody mentions it or if I get a call from my mom or dad the next day saying, 'Hey, you did great!' For me, however I'm getting outs is fine as long as I'm getting outs."
After recording six straight outs to start Friday's game, the 21-year-old right-hander allowed a leadoff single to Dionis Hinojosa in the third. He got Alan Sharkey to bounce into a double play and was perfect into the sixth.
Hinojosa reached on an error in the sixth, but Osprey catcher B.J. Lopez picked him off first base. One out later, Gregory Munoz singled up the middle, but Bolton got Francisco Castillo to ground out to short.
The North Carolina native had not gone more than six innings as a pro, but after navigating a scoreless seventh, there was a possibility he'd be allow to continue.
"[Pitching coach Jeff Bajenaru] told me I'd thrown 71 pitches after the seventh," Bolton said. "When I came out, it was 0-0, and since I'd only thrown 71 pitches -- we're on a 90 pitch count in the organization, at least in Rookie ball -- I had about 20 pitches left on my count. He told me if we didn't score, I was going back out there, but if we did, I was done.
"It was weird because I wanted to go deeper, but of course at the same time, you want your team to score some runs."
Missoula did score, getting two runs in a rally started by Dane McFarland, whom Bolton credited with making "a great diving catch," to end the top of the seventh.
"It was nice to have the defense pump everybody up and then get the bats rolling," he said.
McFarland opened the bottom half with a single and stole second with one out. B.J. Lopez reached on an infield hit and Tyler Humphreys doubled to break the deadlock. Sergio Alcantara followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0, and the Osprey added two runs in the eighth.
Kevin Simmons relieved Bolton and scattered three hits over two innings to earn his second save and finish off Missoula's second shutout of the season.
McFarland finished 3-for-4 along with Trevor Mitsui, who doubled twice.
Brewers starter Cy Sneed pitched five scoreless innings, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out three.