Chih-Wei Hu never took a loss during his time in the Gulf Coast League last summer, nor did he receive one while pitching for Rookie-level Elizabethton earlier this season. Why should anything be different now that he's joined Class A Cedar Rapids?
The Twins prospect picked up his third win in four Midwest League turns on Saturday at Dayton, where he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Over six innings, he held the Dragons to two hits while recording a career-high 10 strikeouts and issuing one walk as the Kernels posted a 4-0 road win.
"He's a command-control guy," Cedar Rapids manager Jake Mauer said. "He's able to spot up his fastball pretty good and used his change pretty well. He's a guy that can slow it down and speed it up, and now he's starting to learn how to make it move around and use it in the zone to get some outs, especially early in the count."
Staked to a three-run lead before he took the mound, Hu (3-0) didn't give up a hit until Joe Hudson doubled to left with one out in the fifth. Dayton got its second and final hit in the sixth, which Nick Benedetto led off with a single to left.
Tanner Rahier was the only other Dragon to get on base against the 20-year-old right-hander. He reached on shortstop Engelb Vielma's error in the first and walked in the fourth before the Kernels turned a double play.
Against 21 batters, Hu induced four groundouts and four flyouts. He fanned one batter in the first, two in the second, one in the third, one in the fourth, three in the fifth and two in the sixth. Only one of those 10 strikeout victims -- Gabriel Rosa to end the second -- went down looking.
"His velocity has increased since he's been here, there's no doubt about it, but he's able to pitch backwards at times," Mauer said. "He's able to throw that changeup early in the count for a strike. For his strikeouts tonight, you could call it more of a palmball I guess, but he had the changeup [working].
"He was able to use that pretty effectively, not only early, but also got some strikeouts with his fastball."
The Taiwan native lowered his ERA to 1.50 ERA since making his Class A debut on July 10. Each of his four starts has lasted six innings, and over those 24 frames, he's notched 25 strikeouts against five walks. Opponents are batting .172 against Hu, whose WHIP sits at 0.83.
In three Appalachian League starts, he went 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA. And over 12 games, including five starts, with the GCL Twins last season, he was 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA. The Twins signed him as an international free agent on Aug. 3, 2012.
"We had a promotion and he was a guy obviously throwing the ball real well in Elizabethton, and he's made the most of this opportunity," Mauer said. "He's been really good, giving us five or six innings every time he's gone out.
"He gives you pretty much all you can ask for from your starters. You don't expect them to strike out 10 in six innings. But if they give you a chance and get you through five, six, seven innings or whatever, that gives you a good opportunity to win."
Logan Wade, Chad Christensen, Mitch Garver and Bryan Haar each drove a run in for the Kernels. Relievers Jake Reed and Nick Burdi did not allow a hit over the final three innings, with Reed fanning three and Burdi one.
Dragons starter Jackson Stephens (2-3) was charged with four runs on five hits over five innings. He struck out four without issuing a walk.