Oliver Drake's season got off to a late start this year. The Altoona Curve must wish it had been a bit later.
The Orioles' No. 18 prospect held the Curve hitless over six frames and combined with three relievers on a two-hit shutout as Bowie blanked visiting Altoona, 4-0, on Monday afternoon.
A product of the nearby U.S. Naval Academy, Drake had extra fans in the crowd on Memorial Day. His college roommate, who is stationed in the area, made a surprise visit to the ballpark.
Drake, who was making his third start of the year since coming off the disabled list on May 15, improved to 1-1. The right-hander's season debut also came against the Curve, who scored one run on three hits over six innings against him on May 17. Drake has limited Altoona to four hits in 12 innings this season.
"I had a sore shoulder and just needed some rest and time to strengthen my arm," Drake said of his stint on the disabled list.
The 25-year-old struck out three, walked three and threw a season-high 83 pitches -- 54 of them for strikes. He recorded 11 ground-ball outs and just two flyouts while holding Eastern League hitters to a .141 average in his three appearances.
"I was throwing a lot of sinkers down in the zone, then mixed things up with the split-finger [fastball]" he said. "I try to pitch to contact, especially early in the count -- getting ground balls keeps your pitch count down."
Drake issued two-out walks in the first two innings before retiring the next seven Curve batters in a row. Altoona left fielder Anthony Norman reached on a throwing error by Major League veteran second baseman Brian Roberts, who is on a rehab stint with the Baysox as he tries to come back from a severe concussion last season, with one out in the fifth. The play was initially ruled a hit before a scoring change was made, keeping Drake's slate clean. Norman was quickly erased when Miles Durham bounced into an inning-ending double play.
Altoona put two men on in the sixth as Drake hit leadoff batter Kelson Brown and walked Curve catcher Tony Sanchez with two outs, but worked out of the slight jam with yet another groundout to end his day.
Bowie reliever Robert Hinton gave up a leadoff single to Ramon Cabrera in the seventh for Altoona's first hit. Cabrera was later thrown out trying to steal second while trailing, 3-0.
Cole McCurry worked a perfect eighth for the Baysox before giving way to Pat Egan in the ninth. The Curve's other hit was a two-out single by Matt Curry off Egan in the ninth.
Third baseman Zelous Wheeler led the Baysox offense with a two-run shot, his sixth of the season, in the fifth. Roberts doubled and another rehabbing Major Leaguer, Endy Chavez, added a single.
Altoona starter Phil Irwin fell to 0-3 after allowing three runs on nine hits and a walk over six innings. He struck out two and walked one.