Hunter Greene found himself in the middle of a pitching duel Monday. He responded with the best performance of his career.
The second-ranked Reds prospect struck out a career-high 10 while allowing two hits over a professional-high seven scoreless innings as Class A Dayton edged Lake County, 2-1, at Classic Park.
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"That was the best I've ever felt," Greene said. "I just kept it simple. Whenever I got back to the dugout, I just tried to stay warm, kept moving around and thought about who was coming up next and how to get them out based on what I know about their weaknesses and strengths. And my command was great tonight."
Baseball's No. 18 prospect allowed his first hit with two outs in the third inning. Jesse Berardi knocked a ground ball into right field for a single, but was stranded there after fourth-ranked Indians prospect Nolan Jones was punched out on five pitches.
"He did a great job mixing pitches tonight. He knew they were aggressive and he just went after them," said Dragons pitching coach Seth Etherton. "He was able to throw his breaking ball for a strike and his changeup was the best I've seen all year. Then as he got more confident, I think his fastball jumped out of his hand a little more.
"He really pitched tonight, and I think this may be a breakthrough for him in terms of trusting his stuff more and getting ahead more often. He was very efficient."
Greene (3-6) retired 12 of the next 13 hitters he faced and sat down the side in his final three frames. In the fourth, Cleveland's No. 17 prospect Oscar Gonzalez dropped a base hit into center field, but he was thrown out at second by Mitch Piatnik while trying to stretch the hit into a double. The right-hander threw 52 of his 69 pitches for strikes.
"I'm always competing against myself," Greene said. "It's always me against me and that's what continues to motivate me each day I'm out there, to be better than I was the previous inning."
Southpaw Kirk McCarty (1-8) matched zeros with the 18-year-old until the seventh. Cincinnati's No. 6 prospect Jeter Downs broke the scoreless tie with a double to left that drove in Alejo Lopez. McCarty allowed four hits and fanned seven over seven frames.
"When he got that run across, it was great because I felt like that's all I needed," Greene said. "I knew one run would be enough for me because as long as I was out there I could hold the other team scoreless. And it really helped me power through that last inning."
"He's such a great competitor," Etherton added. "And these are the types of games you need to have to see what you've got mentally. We know about his physical tools, but he showed mental toughness. He really didn't take a pitch off, there was strength and commitment to every pitch, and that might be the most important thing he's learning right now."
Leandro Santana added a solo blast to center in the ninth off a 3-2 high fastball from righty Riley Echols.
Jose Medina got Lake County on the board with a two-out RBI single in the ninth against reliever Cory Thompson, who notched his fourth save of the season while racking up three strikeouts in the final two innings.