Esparza almost unhittable for 'Ducks

Indians prospect takes no-no into seventh in third EL start

Matt Esparza has a 2.78 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 68 innings across two levels this season. (David Monseur/

By Kelsie Heneghan / | June 14, 2017 12:36 AM ET

With a no-hitter on the line, Matt Esparza was more concerned with keeping his team in the game.

"If it's a really tight game and offense is kind of at a premium for both teams, then it's just important to make sure you make good pitches and give your team a chance to win with what we have that day," he said.

While he lost the no-hit bid, the Indians prospect spun seven two-hit frames on Tuesday as Double-A Akron blanked Harrisburg, 3-0, at Canal Park. He struck out five and issued a pair of walks.

Gameday box score

"I was just focusing on trying to keep us in the lead and keep us in front," Esparza said. "I felt good. It was good to get the win. It was a good team win."

Video: Esparza gets out of jam for RubberDucks

The 22-year-old right-hander got out of a few early jams before winning for the third time in as many starts since ap promotion from Class A Advanced Lynchburg. Alec Keller led off the game by reaching on a throwing error by second baseman Tyler Krieger and Yadiel Hernandez walked to open the third, but Esparza prevented both runners from reaching second.

"Just focusing on executing pitches and working on controlling the running game while also making good pitches to the next hitter," he said.

In the fifth, Esparza realized he had not given up a hit, but he was concentrating on the 2-0 lead the RubberDucks had. The right-hander got to a 2-2 count with Jose Marmolejos in the seventh, but the Senators first baseman singled and Neftali Soto followed with another knock and Corban Joseph bunted both runners into scoring position.

Video: Senators' Marmolejos breaks up no-no

The UC Irvine product struck out Raudy Read, then got Hernandez to ground out to end the threat.

"I was just trying to execute pitches. I knew we had a [2-0] lead and one out in that situation, I was just trying to execute pitches and minimize damage and keep us in front before we handed it off to the bullpen," he said. "To preserve those insurance runs and make it less stressful in the bullpen was good."

In three Eastern League starts, Esparza has a 1.71 ERA and 20 strikeouts against three walks over 21 innings. He said he's been observing how his teammates -- both pitchers and position players -- carry themselves as he adjusts to the new level while also getting help from pitching coach Tony Arnold.

Mitch Brown worked around a hit and a walk over the final two innings to earn his fourth save. 

Indians No. 2 prospect Francisco Mejia lifted a sacrifice fly and No. 10 prospect Yu-Cheng Chang and designated hitter Eric Haase homered.

Harrisburg starter Jaron Long (5-6) allowed three runs on four hits with three strikeouts in his third career complete game.

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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