Balcom-Miller, Salem lose one-hitter

Black cat rushes the field as Red Sox drop seventh straight

Chris Balcom-Miller struck out six and walked one on Thursday. (Salem Red Sox)

By Danny Wild / | May 19, 2011 7:24 PM ET

The Salem Red Sox threw a one-hitter on Thursday and lost, but stranger things have happened, right?

How about the loss being the Red Sox's first 0-7 homestand since 1982? Or having a black cat stroll onto the field and cause a three-minute delay in the middle of the game?

That and more happened Thursday at LewisGale Field.

"I didn't know what to think," said Wilmington starter Justin Marks.

Salem starter Chris Balcom-Miller allowed one hit over six dominant innings and reliever Tom Ebert was unhittable for three more, but the Salem offense stalled in the eventual 1-0 loss to Wilmington.

"Around the second inning, I kind of felt like it was an out-of-body experience, it kind lasted me the whole game, like I was just in the zone," said Balcom-Miller, who was dealt to Boston for Manny Delcarmen last year. "I felt fine otherwise, I had command of all my pitches, especially my slider and change."

The right-hander, Colorado's sixth-round pick in 2009, made just one mistake all night, a two-out homer by Deivy Batista in the third inning. It wound up sending the Red Sox to their seventh straight loss.

"Winning is definitely a lot more fun that losing," said Marks. "That carries over to the next day. When you're losing, it snowballs and it's hard to stop that."

Balcom-Miller certainly did his part to try putting an end to it. He said he relied on his changeup to tally six strikeouts.

"I've felt [in the zone] a couple times a year, you feel really locked in," he said. "I knew after that it'd be a long game, it's hard to explain."

The game literally got longer in the seventh when Zach Gentile and Derrik Gibson hit consecutive singles with two outs. Jeremy Hazelbaker stepped in and fell into a 1-2 hole before the teams got an unexpected visitor on the field.

"You go 1-2 on this guy, runners on first and third, and [pitching coach Steve] Luebber had just come out to the mound. He said, 'What are you gonna throw?'" Marks said. "I said, 'I'm gonna put a slider in the dirt.'

"I get on the mound, here we go, and a black cat runs on the field," he added. "And I'm thinking, ya know, of all times, how's this happen with runners first and third and two outs? Luckily I executed that pitch."

Marks struck out Hazelbaker swinging to end his night. Salem got the tying run on in the ninth when Mark Wagner singled, but Brendan Lafferty retired the final three batters in order to seal the game.

For Balcom-Miller, though, it was yet another solid start. The San Jose, Calif., native, who has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all of his six starts, struck out six and walked one.

"I threw the two-seamer a lot, and the changeup and slider worked," he said. "The slider was dominant, I was throwing that for a lot of swings and misses. I threw the same amount of sliders too."

He said Batista might have guessed right on the longball.

"I think it was sitting on it, guessing it would be in, a two-seamer inside," he said. "Prior to that, I went in to people, and I think he went up guessing."

Balcom-Miller made 19 starts for Class A Asheville last year before the trade. He said the transition to the Sox has put more emphasis on his throwing regimen.

"They're strict on the arm program, lifting, running, stuff I haven't had in the past, so I think it's definitely better," he said. "The Rockies are a great organization, definitely different, not that I'm down on the Rockies. But it's been really good, I've gotten to know a lot of the players and met a lot of new people. There's a good staff with this group."

The 2009 Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year said the move up to the Carolina League hasn't been a dramatic change.

"Overall it's been pretty good, I've been off to an awesome start, so I'm really happy," Balcom-Miller said. "I don't see too much of a difference, maybe a little more patience at the plate."

Patience in the dugout Thursday was another challenge, though.

"I wasn't really thinking about [the one-hitter] once I got pulled, but probably the eighth inning, I saw it was a one-hitter," he said. "I'm thinking, 'Dang, no way, and we've got five hits, are we gonna lose?' But this happened to me before in Asheville and we lost. It happens."

Marks scattered five hits over seven scoreless innings for his second win of the season.

"Being aggressive [with the breaking ball], strike one is huge," he said. "With the Royals, they want you to be dominant with your fastball and work off that, and I totally understand. I was able to do that a lot, it gave me a lot of leeway with that."

Danny Wild is an editor for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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