Thad Ward grew up rooting for the Red Sox. On Saturday, he continued blazing a path toward Fenway Park.
The Red Sox prospect tossed a one-hitter for his first career complete game, extending his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings and pitching Class A Greenville to a 4-0 seven-inning win over Augusta in the first game of a doubleheader at SRP Park.
Gameday box score
Being in this type of groove feels "pretty good," Ward admitted, but he's more focused on the bigger picture.
"At the end of the day, my results aren't my biggest concern," he said. "My biggest concern is the process and how I'm executing pitches, making adjustments and getting better each day."
Ward (4-2) plunked Mikey Edie with one out in the first inning, then retired eight GreenJackets in a row before Edie drew a leadoff walk in the fourth. He erased him by getting Shane Matheny to ground into a double play but lost the no-hit bid when Diego Rincones led off the fifth with single to left.
The right-hander stranded Rincones by striking out Giants No. 19 prospect Jacob Gonzalez and Andres Angulo on the way to setting down the last nine batters he faced.
The secret weapon this year? A newfound cutter that he added to his repertoire in Spring Training.
"The cutter has been huge this year," he said. "It really complements my two-seam fastball well. Being able to throw the cutter, two-seam and the slider out of the same area has been my biggest key to success. When I'm pitching well, it is because I'm executing those pitches."
Ward's use of the cutter almost came by accident.
"I started messing around with a teammate, just throwing it around, but I really didn't expect for it to be a pitch I could rely on so quickly," he said. "They wanted me to refine my pitches and then add the cutter later on … but they went ahead and moved forward with it. It has become a primary pitch for me. I love throwing it."
Ward said the slider is his dominant pitch.
"By far," he said. "It has been my biggest weapon."
It was the third straight scoreless start Ward, who gave up four hits over 7 1/3 innings against Hickory on May 14 and held West Virginia to four hits over seven frames his last time out on May 20. The 22-year-old lowered his ERA to 2.20, which ranks sixth in the South Atlantic League. He's also third with 64 strikeouts and a .188 opponents' batting average and tied for sixth with a 0.99 WHIP.
The Red Sox took the University of Central Florida product in the fifth round of last year's Draft and he went 0-3 with a 3.77 ERA for Class A Short Season Lowell, although he threw only 31 innings in 11 starts.
2019 MiLB include
Getting that call from his childhood team was a moment the Fort Myers, Florida, native will never forget.
"As soon as it happened, I burst into tears," Ward said. "Even when the Draft was happening, it was so surreal. I was going to be happy with wherever I went … but for it to be the Red Sox is a dream come true. I'm extremely happy with how they run the organization and the pitching coaches I have. They are all great people and extremely helpful."
Cole Brannen drove in the only run Ward needed with a third-inning groundout. Grant Williams had two hits, including an RBI double, for the Drive.