Prior to this season, Kyle Gibson had just one complete-game shutout as a professional. After that 2-0 victory, with Class A Advanced Fort Myers, Gibson described the effort as "taxing."
After taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning and completing his second complete-game shutout in 11 days, Gibson laughed recalling the previous outing.
Rochester's right-handed hurler noted that in Sunday's 11-0 win over Lehigh Valley, he felt much more at ease in the later innings.
"I was forcing the action and making them swing the bat early," Gibson said. "I felt pretty good there toward the end."
The right-hander, ranked 46th on MLB.com's Top 100 prospects, struck out eight and allowed three hits and two walks in the outing, requiring just 93 pitches. Minnesota's No. 4 prospect tossed just 24 pitches over his final three innings as he carried his no-hitter into the bottom of the eighth. He recorded two outs before Steve Susdorf dropped a fly ball into the left-field corner, just a few feet inside the foul line for a double.
"I had a really good look at it because I was backing up third base right in line with the foul line," Gibson said. "As it was coming down, I knew [Antoan] Richardson is really fast and can cover some ground, but the wind was going from the right foul pole to the left foul pole, and as it was coming down, it was getting further away.
"At that point, I was hoping it would carry foul. It came down right inside the line. I was bummed out for a second, but I knew I needed to get another out. I just tried to focus back in.
Gibson bounced back to strike out Steven Lerud in the next at-bat, finishing the inning with 86 pitches. The right-hander would allow consecutive singles to begin the bottom of the ninth, but needed just five pitches to evade the jam, striking out Cesar Hernandez before inducing a game-ending ground-ball double play from Cody Asche.
The 6-foot-6 hurler didn't throw more than 15 pitches in any inning, amassing nine groundouts while throwing two or fewer pitches to 13 of the 30 hitters he faced. He started 19 hitters with first-pitch strikes, including a stretch of eight straight beginning at the start of the fifth. He only fell into three 2-0 counts, all before the fifth.
"It helped that when I did throw some quality fastballs, they were swinging at them and hitting them at guys," Gibson said.
"They hit a lot of ground balls early in counts, which helped. My off-speed stuff was where I wanted it to be today. My catcher, [Eric] Fryer, saw that early and I was able to go to it pretty often."
Fryer recognized Lehigh Valley's aggressive tendencies early on and called for Gibson to pound the zone more and more as the game went on.
"He was really attacking hitters and mixing his speed," Fryer said. "All the hitters he faced, he only fell behind a couple times.
"His sinker today was probably the pitch that was the key to the game. They were really beating that into the ground. He doesn't have to work too hard when it's working like that."
Gibson also struck out eight in a four-hit shutout of Toledo on May 8. He threw 115 pitches in that outing, and said he thought he "turned a corner" in his recovery from Tommy John surgery on Sep. 7, 2011.
He returned from the surgery last year, tossing 28 1/3 innings over 13 appearances -- 11 starts. The last two of those starts came back in the International League, where Gibson threw 95 1/3 innings in 2011 before injuring his elbow. He posted a 9.45 ERA in those starts, then went to the Arizona Fall League.
"In Arizona, I was getting tired around 75, 80 pitches," Gibson said. "In Toledo, I threw 115 pitches and felt strong at the 95-pitch mark today. I'm starting to get better at that, using my energy wisely. Not necessarily saving it, but having it at the end of my starts."
Rochester led after two innings, 3-0, and effectively buried the IronPigs with a six-run fifth. Every Red Wings starter recorded a hit, with right fielder Tyler Colabello going 4-for-5 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI.