When the Class A Advanced Pelicans suited up Thursday, they found something a little different than their traditional powder-blue uniforms -- something darker
The team dressed in Dark Knight uniforms to honor the theatrical release of The Dark Knight Rises, and the effort it got from right-handed starter Kyle Hendricks -- a self-proclaimed Batman fan -- was nothing short of heroic.
The Rangers prospect took a no-hitter into the eighth inning Thursday before allowing an RBI double with one out in the frame. In total, the 22-year-old allowed one run on one hit and two walks and struck out eight over 7 1/3 innings in the Pelicans' 2-1 win over Wilmington.
Hendricks retired the first 13 Blue Rocks he faced before issuing a walk to Lane Adams in the fifth. He set down the next nine before issuing another free pass in the eighth. Then Murray Watts drove a 1-2 fastball to center field for the extra-base hit that ended the no-hitter, the shutout and Hendricks' night at the same time.
But after missing out at a spot in history, the Dartmouth College product didn't have any remorse about what could have been.
"I wasn't too upset about it," Hendricks said. "I knew I was coming toward the end of my night anyways because I was getting up there with my pitch count. I just threw a fastball low and away to try to get a ground ball for a double play. I thought it was a pretty good pitch, but it was to the hitter's strength as well and he got a pretty good part of it."
Despite being the pitch that ended the no-no, Hendricks credited his fastball for the success that got him in the situation in the first place.
Sporting a four-seamer (94 mph) and two-seamer (88-89), the right-hander estimated he threw his two fastest pitches 60-70 percent Thursday night. That ratio was by design after he surrendered five runs (four earned) on a season-high 10 hits in a 5-0 loss to Winston-Salem in his last start.
"The biggest thing was establishing fastball command," said the California native, who also utilizes a cutter, a changeup, a slider and a curveball. "I was working well with it in and out, both sides of the plate. [Pitching coach Brad Holman] and I really tried to work on that in my bullpens this week after it got away from me last time.
"The fastball's just that pitch you always go to when you need it, so it was good to have that down tonight."
Hendricks was named the Rangers' Minor League Pitcher of the Month in June after going 2-1 with a 1.78 ERA and .178 batting average against over five starts in the month. That stretch included the righty's first nine-inning complete game on June 27 to close out that portion of the schedule.
Because of stretches like that, the Carolina League All-Star (5-8, 2.71 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 106 strikeouts, 13 walks) has been the ace of a Myrtle Beach staff that tops the circuit with a 2.99 ERA. But he thought the honor also belongs equally to his fellow Pelicans, who sit atop the Southern Division second-half standings at 18-9.
"It means a lot to me and it's great to get recognition, but I think it's more a recognition of our staff," Hendricks said. "We've been pitching great all season, the defense has been playing great and it's turned into a lot of wins too."
Santiago Chirino's two-run homer in the fifth inning provided the offense for the Pelicans.
Wilmington starter Jason Adam (2-10) allowed two runs on two hits while striking out four over seven innings.