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Mapes goes the distance for Senators

Nationals righty spins nine-inning three-hitter for first career shutout
June 15, 2016

One out away from his first professional complete game on Wednesday night, Tyler Mapes allowed a single. So Double-A Harrisburg manager Matthew LeCroy trotted out to the mound and asked his starter a question.

"He asked if I wanted the game. I said '[Heck], yeah!,'" Mapes said. "I mean, I wanted to finish the game. Obviously, I wasn't going to let him pull me in that situation right there."

The Nationals right-hander responded with a four-pitch strikeout, finishing off a three-hit shutout and the Senators' 1-0 blanking of Trenton at Arm & Hammer Park.

"I felt really good, felt really good," Mapes sasid. "I was able to go in and out all game. Once you can command the plate, inside and out, it makes the game a little bit easier. Plus, I had a [heck] of a defense behind me tonight, so that makes it easier."

Thirty-one batters earlier, Mapes fell behind Thunder leadoff man Tyler Wade, 3-1, in the opening inning. After getting the Yankees' eighth-ranked prospect to fly out on the next pitch, the 24-year-old said he knew it was going to be a good night.

"After that first batter, being able to get someone out on a hitter's count, I got back in the zone and made things easier for me throughout the game," he said.

Mapes didn't allow a hit until Billy Fleming knocked a one-out single to center in the fifth. Wade singled in the sixth, but the Tulane product continued to roll past the Thunder.

"I was able to command three pitches when I needed to, especially in hitters' counts. I could throw the slider over the plate and make weak contact, and that definitely helps," he said. "Having three pitches and being able to command in the strike zone makes the game a little bit easier."

After a 1-2-3 seventh, Mapes was at 78 pitches and a complete game was feeling within reach. With his confidence growing, he plunked Lane Adams but induced a pair of ground balls, including a double play. 

Mapes walked out for the ninth for the first time since college. The 6-foot-2 Texan struck out Wade, then got Yankees No. 6 prospect Dustin Fowler to fly out. That's when No. 15 prospect Miguel Andujar lined an 0-1 offering to left for Trenton's third hit.

"[LeCroy] gave me the option," Mapes said. "He's a great manager, having the trust in me, letting me finish what I started."

After the skipper returned to the dugout, Mapes struck out Sebastian Valle to complete the best start of his professional career. It was his first win since May 7, which also came in Trenton, leading him to joke that maybe there's "something about the stadium."

"It felt great," he said. "I hadn't had a complete-game shutout in a while. So going out there and getting through a lineup three times, it's definitely a confidence-booster. It feels really good."

Thunder starter Jordan Montgomery (5-2) nearly matched Mapes. The Yankees' No. 19 prospect recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts but gave up a run on five hits and two walks over seven innings.

"You want to go out there and you want to match or beat your opponent every single time out there. So my offense got me a run in the first inning, and [Montgomery] kept dominating the whole game as well," Mapes said. "So being able to go out there and match what he was doing, it definitely ... it's easier. He may have gotten quicker outs, but when I was out there, I just kept to my rhythm, and the rest is history."

Nationals No. 6 prospect Wilmer Difo doubled with one out in the top of the first and scored the game's only run one out later on Neftali Soto's double.

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.