Carlos Hernandez did more than enough in his first postseason appearance to bring Lexington within one win of another South Atlantic League title.
The Royals' No. 13 prospect threw five two-hit innings as the Legends blanked Hickory, 7-0, to take a commanding two games to none lead in the best-of-5 Championship Series on Tuesday at L.P. Frans Stadium.
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"Carlos, he's got a live arm, he could really bring it," Lexington catcher Chris Hudgins said. "And then he's got two great off-speed pitches. And when he commands that, I would not want to be the hitter in that situation."
Hernandez (1-0) walked Jax Biggers in the first and Pedro Gonzalez in the second but didn't give up a hit until Kole Enright led off the third with a single. In the fourth, the right-hander hit a batter and walked another as the Crawdads put runners at second and third with one out. But he struck out Frainyer Chavez and Miguel Aparicio to preserve a 1-0 lead.
The 22-year-old Venezuelan gave up another leadoff single in the fifth to Matt Whatley, then set down the next three batters.
Hudgins' plan for the Legends pitching staff was to get ahead early in the count and try to pitch to the team's defense.
"A lot of them are early swingers, aggressive," he said, "so just trying to get fastballs over the plate, get some off-speed in there for first-pitch strikes."
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Hernandez had not pitched since Sept. 2 in the Legends' regular-season finale against Hickory when he allowed two runs on six hits over six frames. Facing the same lineup in Game 2 of the Finals, he fanned six, walked three and threw 54 of 89 pitches for strikes.
Tyler Gray struck out the side in the sixth and Emilio Marquez gave up one hit over the final three innings for the save.
"Our relievers have been really good the past couple of weeks," the 23-year-old backstop said, "not walking any guys, really going after them."
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The Legends opened the scoring in the second on an RBI single by Jeison Guzman, who homered and doubled in a run in a 6-4 Game 1 win. Eric Cole went 3-for-5 with a run-scoring single in the fourth and a three-run homer in the ninth. After Cole's knock, Hudgins hit a two-run blast to give Lexington a 4-0 lead.
"I've been pulling off balls a lot and my approach was get something out over [the plate] and stay on it," Hudgins said. "That was big for me. I was struggling a little bit."
Game 3 is Thursday in Lexington.