It seems safe to say that Jesse Hahn is fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for the entire 2011 season.
The hard-throwing right-handed Rays prospect tossed five one-hit frames for the third consecutive time Sunday afternoon, striking out a career-high seven batters as short-season Hudson Valley topped visiting Aberdeen, 3-0, for its ninth straight win.
Hahn was a sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech in 2010, but did not make his pro debut until joining the Renegades in June. His starts have been gradually lengthening -- he pitched no more than three innings in his first five outings, then four innings in the next four games before stretching out to five frames in his last three appearances. The Rays have him on a limit of five innings or 80 pitches, whichever comes first.
"I feel like my fastball is back up to where it was before [the surgery]," Hahn said. "It feels really good. My [fastball] command is there, and I can bump it up with two strikes if I need to."
After a rough outing at Staten Island on June 24 in his second game -- he gave up six earned runs in 1 1/3 innings -- Hahn has become increasingly tough to hit. With Hahn having allowed just three hits over his last 15 frames, the New York-Penn League is now hitting .191 against him. He has yet to yield a home run in 47 professional innings.
The 23-year-old hurler got off to a strong start against the IronBirds on Sunday, striking out the side in the first inning and fanning two more in the second. Aberdeen's Manuel Hernandez reached on a throwing error by Renegades shortstop Leonardo Reginatto to open the third, but was swiftly erased while trying to swipe second base.
Hahn worked around a one-out walk in the fourth and surrendered his first hit -- an infield single -- to the IronBirds' leadoff man, Sam Kimmel, in the fifth. Kimmel was left stranded at first as Hahn closed out the inning with a strikeout, a flyout and a groundout. He faced two over the minimum and did not allow a baserunner to reach second.
"It was a first-pitch fastball. [Kimmel] hit a grounder that just got by me, and then beat out the throw to first," Hahn said.
Hudson Valley's relievers were similarly overpowering. Brandon Henderson (5-2) followed Hahn by allowing one hit in three innings to pick up the win. Ryan Garton worked around a single and a walk in the ninth to earn his sixth save and finish off the three-hitter.
Third baseman Richie Shaffer, the 25th overall pick in this year's Draft, was the offensive hero for the Renegades, delivering a two-run single in the sixth. The Clemson product has plated at least one in each of his past five games and has 12 RBIs in his last 10 outings.
With nine consecutive victories, the Renegades have opened up a 6 1/2-game lead over Brooklyn in the NYPL's McNamara Division and are just 1 1/2 games behind Tri-City for the circuit's top record with 10 games left.
"Everyone's excited to get to the playoffs and get a shot at a championship," Hahn said. "This team has some great chemistry."