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Hill, P-Nats outlast Pelicans in duel06/04/2013 12:29 AM ET
By Brandon Simes / Special to MLB.com
Sometimes great isn't good enough.
Jerad Eickhoff went eight strong innings for the Class A Advanced Pelicans, but he was matched by Potomac's Taylor Hill with 8 2/3 impressive frames of his own in the Nationals' 2-1 victory in 10 innings in Myrtle Beach.
Potomac catcher Adrian Nieto smacked a solo shot with two outs in the top of the 10th to put the Nationals ahead for good to give reliever Cameron Selik (1-1) the victory. Nieto's contribution wasn't limited to the final inning of the game, as Hill credited Nieto for his game calling and their squad for making clutch plays in the field.
"Our defense played great, Nieto called a great game and without those guys behind me, I wouldn't have been able to pitch as well as I did," Hill said.
Hill and Eickhoff might not have been expected to engage in a pitchers' duel. The two big righties came in with ERAs over 4.00 and Hill had given up seven runs in each of his previous two starts.
But that changed Monday as Hill allowed one run on three singles and two walks while matching his season high with seven strikeouts. One major mechanical adjustment in a bullpen session with pitching coach Chris Michalak made the difference.
"I was working with [Michalak] and I was pulling my front side off and leaving a lot of balls up in the zone," Hill said. "I knew that and he knew that, but it was a matter of me fixing it."
The right-hander, who has 44 strikeouts while walking eight in 64 1/3 innings, heavily utilized his two-seam fastball, sinking it away from the six left-handed hitters in the Pelicans' lineup to induce early contact and ground balls.
"I threw quite a few two-seamers," he said. "I had a couple of strikeouts on the slider, but the changeup wasn't great tonight, so I didn't throw many of them. They were swinging early, and fortunately enough, they were hitting it at guys."
Eickhoff fanned a season-best 11 strikeouts -- his prior high for the year was six. He allowed one run on cleanup hitter Jason Martinson 's homer, two singles and a walk. The right-hander relied on his two-seam fastball and changeup. He had entered the outing with 35 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings.
"I was kind of surprised by [the high strikeout total], I didn't think it was actually 11," he said. "I wasn't trying to do anything special. They were aggressive with the fastball and I was able to display that to use it to my advantage, nibble at the strike zone and expand the zone."
Eickhoff tipped his cap to Martinson, who hit a two-seamer into the stands with two outs in the top of the seventh, but struck out in his three other at-bats.
"I thought it was just a good pitch. He was able to drop the barrel and put a good swing on it," Eickhoff said.
Nieto's winning blast came off Randol Rojas (3-1). The right-handed reliever struck out three in two innings.