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Cyclones' Gant tosses one-hit shutout08/28/2013 10:25 PM ET
By Grant Tunkel / MiLB.com
John Gant didn't need his curveball on Wednesday night. A two-pitch arsenal was plenty to produce a gem and lift Brooklyn into first place in the New York-Penn League's McNamara Division.
The Mets prospect tossed a one-hitter and faced the minimum as the Cyclones blanked visiting Tri-City, 1-0. He issued one walk and fanned six batters to take sole possession of the league lead with 79 strikeouts.
"I didn't throw a single curveball," Gant said after his 91-pitch gem. "The fastball and the changeup kept working, and I like to keep a rhythm going if I get in one."
The 21-year-old right-hander found that rhythm early, retiring the first 17 ValleyCats before Chan Moon singled with two outs in the sixth inning. He fell behind, 2-0, and said he had to throw a "get-me-over fastball."
"He got a pretty good pitch to hit and he took advantage of it," Gant said.
Moon's at-bat, however, was the exception at MCU Park as Gant (6-3) executed his game plan to near-perfection.
"I just wanted to be as aggressive as I could and get a lot of first-pitch strikes," he said. "First-pitch strikes is a big part of throwing less pitches."
Moon was promptly caught stealing second base to end the sixth and Gant retired the next six batters before walking Ronnie Mitchell to open the ninth. Adam Nelubowich flied to center field and Michael Martinez -- Tri-City's 27th batter -- grounded into a game-ending double play.
The one-hitter was the third nine-inning complete game in the Cyclones' 12-year history. Miguel Pinango also pitched a one-hitter on Aug. 23, 2002 and Yohan Almonte went the distance in a six-hitter at Connecticut on Aug. 28, 2010.
While he took his place in the Cyclones' record book, Gant also continued Brooklyn's recent trend of strong pitching performances. Miller Diaz struck out 11 over seven three-hit frames on Friday and Rob Gsellman fanned a career-high 13 over eight scoreless innings the following night.
"We've got a pretty competitive group of pitchers and that's one of the keys for our success," said Gant, the Mets' 21st-round pick in the 2011 Draft. "We're competing on the field and we're competing with each other. Everybody wants to be the best. It's good competition."
Gant improved to 5-1 in his last six starts, wrested sole possession of the league lead away from Diaz with 79 strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 2.01 since July 2.
The Cyclones scored the game's only run in the sixth. Anthony Chavez hit a leadoff single and advanced to second on an errant pickoff attempt. Elvis Peguero followed with a bunt single and Mets No. 8 prospect Gavin Cecchini plated Chavez with a groundout.
That was plenty for Gant, who never had to work with a runner in scoring position. The Florida native pitched a pair of no-hitters in high school but neither compared to Wednesday's outing.
"In high school, we weren't in a pennant race; I'd say this is bigger," he said. "It means something now because we're running for first place. We're just trying to clinch and go to the playoffs."
Brooklyn (36-32) didn't clinch Wednesday, but it won for the fifth time in six games to climb past Aberdeen (34-31) into first place in the McNamara Division. Gant's pitching has been a big part of that surge, but he and the team give part of the credit to his mustache.
"I had a beard going and I shaved and I left it, just to see if it would be lucky," he said. "We got hot, it's staying. As long as we stay hot, it's staying on my lip."