Baseball is not a game for over-thinkers. Lakewood's Jesse Biddle fits right in.
The Phillies' No. 5 prospect struck out eight over seven three-hit innings Friday as the Class A BlueClaws blanked the Greenville Drive, 4-0.
Biddle (5-6) retired 11 straight batters around two walks in the early innings. Felix Sanchez's one-out double in the sixth ended his no-hit bid.
"I didn't realize I had a no-hitter until my third baseman [Travis Mattair] came in and told me he was sorry he didn't make the play," he said. "He was frustrated."
Biddle placed the blame on himself. Catcher Cameron Rupp had called for a fastball, but he shook off his batterymate and threw a changeup. Sanchez smacked a high, soft one.
Two of the first three batters Biddle faced in the seventh -- Drew Hedman and Henry Ramos -- mashed singles. But the 19-year-old fanned Xander Bogaerts, one of his eight strikeout victims, before manager Chris Truby emerged from the dugout.
"Normally, when your manager comes out, he's going to take you out," Biddle said. "I said, 'Look, I just struck out a guy with runners on first and second. I am going to finish it. He said, 'What are you going to do?' I said, 'I'm going to strike 'em out.'
"Unfortunately," he joked, "I got him to ground out."
It's easy to understand why. After the mound visit in his final frame, Biddle's fastball registered 97 mph on the radar gun at Fluor Field.
"That stadium gun tends to juice up some of 'em," he said. "I'm just happy to get my fastball by guys."
With 94 strikeouts over 95 2/3 innings, Biddle ranks third in the South Atlantic League. A secondary pitch was responsible for his most recent run of Ks.
"My curveball with two strikes, I was throwing it in the dirt and they were biting at it," he explained. "That's the best my curve has been this season."
The Phillies' 2010 first-round pick matched his longest outing of the season; he allowed a run on four hits over seven innings against Delmarva on May 29.
Biddle has been on a roll, allowing only five runs over 34 2/3 innings in his last six starts to lower his ERA from 4.13 to 3.10. All this after beginning the year with a four-game losing streak.
"I was not ready for the beginning of season," he admitted. "My routine in between starts wasn't very good. I also changed a couple of little things mechanically."
The biggest change was a mental one: Taking the pressure off.
"I was 0-5 with like a 7.00 ERA," Biddle said, exaggerating slightly, "and I was just confused. [Pitching better in mid-May] really gave me the confidence I needed."
Greenville's Scott Swinson silenced the BlueClaws for five innings, but reliever Tyler Wilson (2-2) gave up four runs over the next three frames and picked up the loss.
Mattair plated three of those runs with a single in the sixth and his second homer in the eighth. Both brought home Edgar Duran.