Erie's Alfredo Figaro didn't leave a lot of room for improvement in his Double-A debut on April 10. He still managed to outdo himself Thursday.
In his first start of the season, the hard-throwing right-hander scattered five hits and a walk with four strikeouts over 5 2/3 scoreless innings against Altoona.
On Thursday, Figaro (1-0) again dominated the Curve, breezing through seven no-hit innings and racking up five strikeouts while walking three in the SeaWolves' 3-0 blanking of Altoona at Blair County Ballpark.
Zach Simons followed with a perfect eighth inning, but Brett Jensen gave up a double to Jamie Romak with two outs in the ninth before wrapping up the combined one-hitter.
Figaro rang up his first batter, Brian Friday, on a called third strike and cruised from there, retiring 10 straight between the first and the fifth frames. But he didn't appear to be feeling any added pressure as he got deeper into the game.
"I just worry about pitching a good game," he said. "No hits, one hit. Just pitching a good game is what's important."
Figaro's day ended in the seventh after 90 pitches. The 24-year-old was aware the team had him on a 95-pitch limit, but wasn't exactly counting on the mound.
"I don't think about the pitch count during a game," he said. "If I come out, I come out. If I keep going, I keep going."
Though SeaWolves pitching coach and former Major Leaguer Ray Burris was admiring the performance, he knew he had to pull Figaro.
"It was a pretty neat performance to watch him go out there and pitch like we know he's capable of performing ... but he went seven innings," Burris said. "We kept him under the 95 plateau and he finished with 90 pitches and seven innings, which is pretty good."
Burris was impressed by the way Figaro mixed his fastball, curve, changeup and slider throughout the game and only grew concerned when he walked two men in the fifth.
"He had a lapse mentally, which could have cost him the game," Burris said. "Walking two guys in the same inning is not something he does regularly.
"I had to make one visit to the mound to remind him to attack the strike zone. After that he made the adjustment and continued to get outs, one after another."
Figaro's final two frames were perfect.
"He finished very strong," added Burris.
Figaro first signed with the Dodgers out of Samana, Dominican Republic in 2004. He pitched in five Dominican Summer League games that season and was released in the fall. The Tigers signed him, and after posting an 8-2 record and a 1.87 ERA in the Dominican Summer League in 2005, he was brought to the States.
With one out in the final inning, Jensen walked Jim Negrych and just missed getting Jose Tabata to ground into a double play for Erie's first no-hitter since 1995.
But Tabata beat out the throw the first and Romak followed with his double down the left-field line before Jensen got Jonel Pacheco on a fly ball to right field for his third save.
"To see Brett Jensen close it out to preserve the shutout as well as the win after giving up that double, that says something about the heart and character of the young man," said Burris. "He was able to get the next guy on a fly ball to end the game.
"It was pretty special. Two outs and one pitch away from a no-hitter, which is a rarity in this game. But to finish with a one-hitter and a shutout is pretty cool too."