It took some special circumstances for Matt Barnes to pitch his first complete-game shutout in the Minor Leagues. But he's certainly not complaining.
Because of rainouts on April 21-22, the Class A Advanced Salem Red Sox were forced to play back-to-back doubleheaders against Potomac on Friday and Saturday. That accounts for 28 innings in two days, forcing both teams to burn through pitchers in a short span. Someone had to pick up the slack.
The Red Sox's No. 5 prospect allowed five hits and recorded five strikeouts as Salem blanked the P-Nats, 3-0, in the opener of Saturday's twinbill.
It was Barnes' first complete game in 12 Minor League starts and marked the first time he worked seven innings after making it through six a half-dozen times between the Carolina League and Class A South Atlantic League.
Despite the personal accomplishment, the 21-year-old right-hander seemed more interested in the impact it had on his team, which sits three games behind first-place Winston-Salem in the race for the Southern Division first-half title.
"It was awesome," said Barnes, who tossed three complete games last year at the University of Connecticut. "I was just glad I could help the team get a 'W' and stop this little bit of a slide we're on, so we can keep on contending for first place."
The 6-foot-4 right-hander allowed only five baserunners over the first six innings. Of the five, only two reached scoring position. Because of that dominance -- along with Saturday's special circumstances -- the decision to allow Barnes to take the mound in the seventh was an easy one.
"They were swinging pretty early, it seemed like, and that helped me get some pretty quick counts," said Barnes, who needed only 72 pitches to get through six innings. "That, combined with the four games in two days, really kind of pushed me into the seventh inning.
"My pitching coach [Rich Gedman] came over and asked how I was feeling after the sixth. I told him I felt great. It wasn't much of a conversation."
Barnes encountered a little bit of trouble in the seventh, allowing back-to-back one-out singles to Justin Bloxom and J.P. Ramirez. After striking out Randolph Oduber, he walked Blake Kelso to load the bases. That drew the attention of Salem manager Billy McMillon, who had a chat with Barnes in unconventional fashion.
"He ran out toward me," Barnes said. "I saw him get up in the dugout and thought, 'You can't pull me now.' Then he started jogging and I thought, 'If he's jogging, he's obviously not coming out to get me.' He said, 'I just want to let you know that this is your last batter.'
"For me, 6 2/3 is like running a marathon and stopping in the last mile. It's just one of those things where you have to go and finish it."
Barnes retired Adrian Sanchez on a ground ball to third end the game. He finished with 96 pitches, 65 for strikes.
Selected 19th overall in the 2011 Draft, Barnes leads all Minor Leaguers with a 0.93 ERA and 0.80 WHIP through 12 starts. His .180 batting average against ranks ninth, and he's 4-1 with a 1.32 ERA in seven starts since being promoted in early May.
Despite those flashy numbers, Barnes said he doesn't try to be too confident every time he steps on the mound.
"I wouldn't say I feel invincible," he said. "The idea of having a bad outing is what motivates me. I know if that were to happen, I'd be upset with myself because I know I'm capable of doing better. I can't get too confident here because I'm at [Class A Advanced] right now, and I don't want this to be my last stop. The goal for all of us is to make the Majors. I'm just trying to take something from each stop I make and build off that and get better."
Christian Vazquez was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs to lead the Red Sox in the opener. Travis Shaw hit solo blasts in both contests and has doubled his home run output for the season with four in his last nine games.
Potomac won the nightcap, 6-1, thanks to a complete-game effort from Matthew Grace, who allowed three hits and struck out four.