You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Clayton Blackburn apparently took heed of that Wednesday night in his first outing for Class A Advanced San Jose.
The Giants' No. 9 prospect fanned nine and allowed a run on three hits and a walk over seven innings en route to a 3-1 victory over Modesto in the opening game of the first round of their California League playoff series.
Blackburn was sharp all night, throwing 61 of his 95 pitches for strikes. The 19-year-old right-hander recorded seven ground-ball outs as well.
"I was trying to throw the ball down and mix up speeds and get some ground balls," Blackburn said. "I felt like that worked well. I mixed in some breaking balls early and went to fastballs late. I felt like I had everything working tonight. I struggled a little bit with arm slot command on fastballs, but I felt like it went well."
The Texas native spent the entire 2012 season with Class A Augusta in the South Atlantic League. Making the jump to the hitter-friendly Cal League under ordinary circumstances can be daunting. In the playoffs? That's extreme pressure.
"I started off early a little nervous," Blackburn said. "I just wanted to come out early and give us a chance to win. I didn't want us to get down early. Shawn Payne homered in the first and it gave me a lot of momentum to get the win. ... I feel like I after I threw my first pitch, I settled down."
An 18th-round pick in 2011, Blackburn entered play with 34 games as a professional under his belt. Being given the ball to start the series by Giants skipper Andy Skeels was a big moment for Blackburn.
"It felt great that the manager had a lot of confidence in me and it meant the world to me," he said. "It's what I've wanted to do since I was little, come out here and compete."
Josh Osich allowed two hits and struck out two in the eighth, while Jose Valdez yielded two hits in the ninth to close out the game for San Jose.
Joe Panik, the Giants' No. 5 prospect, had two hits and scored a run.
Christian Bergman took the loss, allowing three runs -- two earned -- while striking out nine over seven frames for the Nuts.
In other California League playoff action:
Lake Elsinore 1, Lancaster 0
Matthew Andriese struck out seven over eight scoreless innings as the Storm quieted the JetHawks in Game 1. Jerry Sullivan pitched a perfect ninth to finish off the gem, the first time Lancaster has been shut out this season, and Cory Spangenberg, the Padres' No. 5 prospect, singled in Lake Elsinore's lone run. Tyson Perez took the loss for the JetHawks after allowing a run on three hits over seven innings. Box score