New-found confidence in his secondary pitches nearly led Joan Gregorio to history on Thursday.
The Giants' No. 15 prospect pitched seven no-hit innings and struck out 10 batters while two relievers gave up two hits over the final two innings as Class A Augusta blanked Lakewood, 8-0.
Gregorio faced two over the minimum, walking one. After Larry Greene reached on center fielder Jesus Galindo's misplay with two outs in the second inning, the 21-year-old right-hander retired 15 in a row.
"I had good command with the change-up and the slider worked pretty good and I challenged the hitters all the time," Gregorio said through hitting coach Hector Borg.
Gregorio tied a career high with his strikeout total while reaching seven innings in a start for the first time since Aug. 20, 2010 while pitching in the Dominican Summer League.
"I was excited because it was the first time I threw seven innings without hits," he said. "I'm so happy, the team gave me good support and that was the most important thing."
The Dominican native is 6-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 starts for the GreenJackets. Gregorio has enjoyed a strong July, winning two games while holding South Atlantic League hitters to a .159 batting average. He credited a renewed focus on training and the improvement of his change-up.
"I've been working hard on conditioning and I've been working a lot with my lower body and working with the pitching coach [Steve Kline] in tbe bullpen, trying to get the change-up better," Gregorio said. "Now I feel comfortable and I have the confidence to throw the pitch -- first pitch, last pitch -- with two strikes no matter the pitch. That's why I got that result today."
Jacob Dunnington followed and gave up two singles in the eighth inning. Steven Okert tossed a perfect ninth to close the game out.
Andrew Cain was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored while Rafael Rodriguez stole home for the GreenJackets.
Robert Emrich is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich