In 27 starts at the Class A Advanced level, Brian Gonzalez had allowed a hit in every game. Until Tuesday.
The Orioles prospect tossed seven hitless innings, striking out seven and walking two, as Frederick cruised to a 9-1 victory over Lynchburg at Nymeo Field.
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"My fastball command was on today and they chased the changeup," he said. "I was able to get it under some guys' hands today and my fastball had some good life to it. It worked out really well."
Gonzalez (2-2) provided a glimpse of what was to come when he struck out Jodd Carter looking to open the game. He retired the first six Hillcats before Dillon Persinger reached on an error. The 22-year-old issued walks in the fourth and fifth and worked around another baserunner when Carter reached on an error in the sixth, then pitched a 1-2-3 seventh.
"We preach trying to get ahead and stay ahead in counts. You want to try to get contact early," Gonzalez said. "We made all the plays we had to when there was contact. The quick outs really just helps you get in a rhythm and you can focus on staying down in the zone and going through and getting weak contact."
Gonzalez, who threw 60 of 101 pitches for strikes, had a one-hit outing for Frederick last season when he tossed five scoreless innings at Potomac on Aug. 26. He's given up two earned runs or fewer in five of his six starts this year.
After tossing six innings twice, Tuesday was the deepest he's worked into a game this year.
"I think my routine between starts is helping me on game day," Gonzalez said. "My pitching coaches are having me come up with a routine that works for me. Right now, I just have to ride that and be able to go out there and compete every day and give my team a chance to win."
Gonzalez made his Carolina League debut to start 2017 and went on to strike out 85 batters over 106 1/3 innings, finishing with a 4.91 ERA in 21 starts. Despite going 3-0 with a 1.66 ERA in his last four starts, he was back with the Keys to begin this season.
"[The familiarity] plays a huge role," he said. "Just the little things, like you're on the road and know what the stadium looks like and how their mound is or you know where the clubhouse is and how to get there from the field. Little things like that help you focus in your mind. Repeating, you know you have to be at the top of your game and try to pitch well and get out of here."
With the hitless start behind him, Gonzalez is focused on improving his command to get to the next level. He's walked at least two batters in each outing this season.
"You go out there and feel like you have good stuff, now the important thing is going out there and do it again," the Florida native said. "It's hard to do that. That's the main thing, to get my routine in and be ready next time."
Elvis Araujo kept the no-hitter intact until the ninth, when Indians No. 12 prospect Conner Capel ripped a one-out double to score Carter, who drew a leadoff walk.
Orioles No. 30 prospect Randolph Gassaway hit a two-run homer and Chris Clare went 3-for-4 with two RBIs for the Keys.