An accurate prediction for the afternoon rainfall in Geneva, Illinois led to a dominating debut out of the bullpen for Jon Duplantier.
Arizona's No. 8 prospect did not allow a hit in 5 1/3 frames of relief for Class A Kane County on Wednesday en route to the Cougars' 1-0 victory over the Beloit Snappers in 17 innings. Duplantier allowed a walk and struck out six.
Video: Duplantier's sixth strikeout
The 2016 third-round pick was scheduled to start the contest, but was pulled almost a half-hour prior to first pitch for Tyler Mark. Mark lasted 1 2/3 innings, allowing a hit and striking out three, before a rain delay halted the action for nearly three hours. Duplantier said the impending rain in the forecast forced the organization to change on the fly.
"It was just bad weather. I guess they got a call from the front office and the decision came to have Tyler start the game," he said. "That way if the rain came, which at the time was very likely, I wouldn't have pitched 1 2/3 innings and then been burnt."
Knowing he'd be the first Cougar out of the bullpen when the rain cleared allowed the right-hander to go through something similar to his normal pregame routine before entering the contest.
"There was a ton of communication between me, our staff, our coaches and then the field crew, so I pretty much knew exactly when I was going to start warming up and all that," he said. "I was just chilling until I had to start locking in."
Duplantier retired the first Snapper he faced, Trace Loehr, on a comeback grounder with two outs in the second inning.
"It was definitely a little strange to kind of know that my first pitch is going to be with two outs," the Rice product said. "I ended up going 3-0, but I wanted to get a first-pitch ground ball and get out of it with a one-pitch inning -- that would have been cool. Once I was in the game, it kind of just felt like a start, but I just kind of teleported into the third inning."
Duplantier worked a 1-2-3 third and struck out Cole Gruber and Edwin Diaz to start the fourth. He then walked Nate Mondou -- the only baserunner of his outing -- and got through the frame by inducing a flyout by Miguel Mercedes.
"I felt really comfortable throwing my fastball on both sides of the plate. I started throwing my four-seamer," he said. "I hadn't been feeling too comfortable with my fastball command, so to be able to go out there today, kind of everything was dialed in, my mechanics felt comfortable, my rhythm and arm slot -- I felt like I was repeating everything."
Duplantier cruised through the next three innings, catching Diaz looking to lead off the seventh for his final strikeout. The right hander has 25 whiffs over 15 1/3 innings in three starts this season.
"When I'm not comfortable, that's when I feel like [backstop Jose Herrera, the D-backs' No. 23 prospect] starts calling for a lot more sliders, seeing if we could get something else in the zone more consistently," Duplantier said. "When I have those wild fastball days, those are the days where you'll see the crazy strikeout numbers with also a lot of walks.
"I didn't really throw that many breaking balls from what I can remember and I threw one changeup, maybe? So I was kind of riding the fastball today, it was nice."
The Kane County bullpen held Beloit scoreless for 10 more innings, relying on first basemen Paxton De La Garza and Kyle Smith to pitch the last four frames. It ended up being the fourth shutout of the year for the Cougars.
"As a staff, we're very confident and trusting of each other and supportive of each other, so even those two position players came in and they both threw zeros," Duplantier said. "It's kind of become a mentality, like, 'Let's see how many zeros we could put up.' It's really cool, everybody's kind of doing their thing and everybody is reliable so far."
De La Garza allowed a hit and struck out one in two innings. Smith walked four in two hitless frames to earn the win after Jason Morozowski's walk-off single in the 17th, nearly seven hours after first pitch.