Biscuits' Mateo flashes familiar stuff
Early in Saturday's game, Montgomery pitching coach R.J. Lichtenstein flashed back to something he'd seen Victor Mateo do in 2011. While the end result wasn't quite the same, it came pretty close.
The Rays prospect retired the final 16 batters he faced to close out a complete-game one-hitter as the Biscuits blanked Pensacola, 6-0, to earn a split of their doubleheader.
Mateo (4-8) gave up a two-out single to Travis Mattair in the second inning, faced one batter over the minimum and struck out four en route to the second shutout of his seven-year Minor League career.
"He just kept his fastball down at the bottom of the zone and to both sides of the plate and used the changeup effectively to keep hitters off-balance," Lichtenstein said.
Lichtenstein was on the bench on July 8, 2011, when Mateo tossed the first no-hitter in Bowling Green Hot Rods history.
"I had a flashback in the second inning -- even though it was early -- the way he was throwing, to the way he was when he threw a no-hitter in Bowling Green," Lichtenstein said. "I kinda had a thought in my head that I had seen this before. He was the same competitor, he was very confident, he was locating the fastball very well and he looked like every pitch he thought he was going to get an out."
In the no-hitter, Mateo walked three batters and struck out 10. Still, Lichtenstein put Saturday's gem right up there.
"I would say this was right on par," the veteran coach said. "They didn't really hit a lot of balls hard tonight, either. He was just in control throughout, he had command of his three pitches, he made it look easy for 22 batters."
While Mateo has struggled at times this season, he's begun to turn it around in the second half, going 2-1 with a 2.64 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break. Lichtenstein credited an appearance in the bullpen last month with helping to put the 23-year-old right-hander back on the right path.
"We've kind of had him going with more of a bullpen mentality, which is be as aggressive as you can and go as long as you can, and if you get tired we'll take you out of the game," Lichtenstein said. "He's really started to just be aggressive and realized that's what it takes to be good. His last couple of outings have really been leading up to this.
"He's attacking the zone more. He's not trying to pick at the zone and make pitches. He's just kind of committed to being aggressive. He's been really fun to watch over his last handful of outings."
Overall, Mateo has a 5.29 ERA in 19 Southern League appearances.
Robby Price was 3-for-3 with two RBIs and put Montgomery in front with a run-scoring single in the third. Kyeong Kang capped a four-run fifth with a two-run homer.
Starter Josh Smith (7-8) was charged with five runs on nine hits over 4 2/3 innings for the Blue Wahoos, who won the opener, 12-4.
Robert Emrich is a contributor to MiLB.com.