Lafreniere, Fairchild duel in Sally League

Braves, Royals prospects allow one hit, combine for 13 strikeouts

Frank Lafreniere was 7-13 with a 5.36 ERA in the South Atlantic League last year. (Brian Westerhold/Four Seam Images)

By Josh Jackson / | April 8, 2014 11:52 PM ET

If he'd had a say in the matter, Frank Lafreniere wouldn't have opted for terrible weather in his second start of the 2014 season. In retrospect, though, he feels he ended up learning a good lesson about working in consistent rain.

The Braves prospect outdueled Royals counterpart Austin Fairchild -- despite Fairchild throwing six hitless innings -- as Class A Rome took the seven-inning nightcap of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Lexington Legends, 3-0.

"It was pouring rain and pretty chilly too. I was just trying to get some quick outs and get the game done as soon as possible," Lafreniere said. "All the rain made me focus more on every pitch I threw. Sometimes in the past, I've gotten caught up in trying to be too fine or too smart, and that's when I start giving up base hits and home runs.

"Tonight, because of the rain, I kept everything simple, just go after every hitter with no fear."

Lafreniere (1-1), a 47th-round pick in the 2010 Draft, allowed a first-inning single and struck out six without issuing a walk.

"After [the first inning], I kept my fastball down and was locating my curveball well and [was] just kind of cruising," the right-hander said. "Luckily, I got some strikeouts and some ground balls. Usually, ground balls are a big part of my game. [Despite the soggy infield,] everybody kept their cool and made the plays." 

The wet weather helped hone the 23-year-old native of Montreal's concentration until he got over some humps that had been an issue for him in the past.

"I've had trouble getting deep into games around the fifth or sixth inning," he said, "and I made sure I just kept focusing, don't play around with the hitters too much."

He was perfect in each of those two frames, and Tyler Brosius worked a perfect seventh to earn his first save of the year.

Fairchild (0-1), who came to the Royals in the 16th round of the 2012 Draft, gave up an unearned run on three walks and whiffed seven. He was not slated to start until a postponement by rain Monday made Tuesday's doubleheader necessary.

"Last night, we were watching the Kentucky game, and our pitching coach, Steve Merriman, sent me a text message," explained Fairchild. "It said, 'You have the ball in Game 2.' I told him, 'OK,' and I decided I was going to go as deep as I can."

Although Rome took a lead against Fairchild in the top of the first inning on a walk to Mikey Reynolds, a stolen base and a fielding error by second baseman Ramon Torres. The Braves went without a hit from the first inning of the opener through the seventh inning of the nightcap.

"It started a little rough, but I made adjustments early on and felt good after that. I was a little shaky with my fastball command. It wasn't really there," said the 20-year-old Texan. "I went to my slider, and that was there. After I got the first two outs, I was basically just good to go."

After the opening frame, Fairchild retired six in a row. After a leadoff walk to Victor Caratini in the fourth, he put together a streak of eight consecutive outs.

"I saw that zero up there in the hit column in the fifth inning or so, and I knew my pitch count was going to be a factor. We're on a cap of 75," he said. "I went up to Steve and said, 'If [Legends manager Brian Buchanan] tries to take the ball away from me in the middle of an inning, and that zero is still up there, I might not give the ball away.'"

Fairchild didn't worry about jinxing himself by acknowledging the potential no-hitter.

"I'm not big into superstitions. Whatever happens out there happens. When I'm out there, I have nothing in the back of my head. I'm focused on the next pitch all the way," he said.

The southpaw is in his third pro season, and he described his debut year as "horrendous" and his second one as a learning season.

"My mind-set this year is this is my year," he said.

"Today was a good start, and I don't want to get ahead of myself. But my teammates were coming up to me and saying, 'Good game,' and I was saying, 'That's just the beginning.' There are 140 games left, and I'm going to pitch my heart out every time I go out there."

Josh Jackson is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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