In his last start of the regular season, Indians prospect Marty Popham turned in his best effort of the year.
Popham took a perfect game into the seventh and combined with two relievers on a 10-inning no-hitter Sunday as the Kinston Indians outlasted the Potomac Nationals, 1-0, in a battle of playoff-bound teams.
The 23-year-old right-hander fanned eight, including six in a row from the fourth to the sixth, and walked two in his 19th start of the year and 13th for the K-Tribe.
"I tried to approach it like any other start -- go out there and attack the strike zone and give it all I've got," Popham said of his last regular-season outing.
He admitted he "was probably a little more relaxed" than normal.
"I had good command of my fastball, changeup and slider. All of my pitches were working," the Kentucky native added.
No Potomac player reached base until Popham issued a leadoff walk to Francisco Soriano in the seventh.
Popham began his first full season as a pro at Class A Lake County but made one start apiece at Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. Sunday marked the second time he's thrown seven no-hit frames. It also was the second time he's lost a perfect game by walking the leadoff batter in the seventh.
"I had one last year in [short-season] Mahoning Valley last year. I did the same thing in that game, I went out there and walked the leadoff guy in the seventh," Popham said. "And I did it in high school, too. I was working on a perfect game and I walked the first batter in the seventh."
What to make of this oddity?
"I don't know," he said.
On Sunday, Popham followed his walk with a wild pitch and another free pass. With two outs and runners at the corners, Kinston manager Aaron Holbert strolled to the mound.
"Usually, when the manager comes out, they go to the bullpen. [But] he asked me how it was going," Popham said. "I said I felt good, and the infielders were all there -- they were supporting me.
"[Holbert] asked me if i was ready to finish the inning. He could tell I really did."
Popham didn't disappoint, retiring Sean Rooney on a slow roller to second base. He exited a scoreless game but had confidence the K-Tribe offense would come through.
"We've been in this situation the whole year. We've got good pitching and the offense is usually there," the 2008 20th-round pick said. "[It] takes a little bit sometimes. But they were really grinding at the plate. They were working their butts off and they made some good contact. Balls get caught. That's baseball."
Chris Jones (2-0) took over in the eighth and yielded one walk over two frames to get the win.
Doug Pickens drove in Abner Abreu with a one-out single in the 10th, and Cory Burns pitched a 1-2-3 bottom half to record his Carolina League-leading 30th save.
"All the guys were really excited," Popham said. "Being a part of something like that is pretty special."
It was the second no-hitter in the league this season -- Frederick's Nathan Moreau beat Salem on June 30 -- but the first extra-inning gem since Kinston's Chris Czarnik tossed a 13-inning no-hitter in a 3-2 loss to Myrtle Beach on May 24, 1990.