After being unable to make it through five innings in his last three outings, Mike Rayl went to work with his pitching coach on his pace and mechanics.
On Wednesday, that work paid off.
Rayl allowed just one hit over seven innings, striking out a career-high 11, as he led Class A Lake County to a 4-0 shutout o Bowling Green. Rayl combined with reliever Jordan Cooper to face the minimum 27 batters against the Hot Rods.
"I haven't been able to get the ball out of my glove as quickly as I did tonight," said Rayl, who was selected by the Indians in the 15th round of the 2009 Draft. "[The changes] allowed me to stay on top of ball. My command was much better tonight than it's been the past three times out."
Bowling Green's Lucas Bailey got the team's only hit of the game with one out in the sixth inning, when he singled on a fly ball to right field. Hector Guevara followed by grounding into a double play, eliminating the Hot Rods' only opportunity with a man on base.
Rayl fanned at least one batter in each frame, and struck out the side in the third.
"My curveball I was burying down in the dirt, they were swinging over the top," Rayl said. "My fastball I could locate a lot better. Both were working for me. I threw a changeup too. Usually I don't throw the change to lefties, but to righties, it was working well. They were swinging way before. I had the same arm speed as my fastball, so they were swinging over the ball."
In his previous three starts, Rayl allowed a combined eight runs on 14 hits over just 12 1/3 innings.
"The last three outings, there was a lot that I needed to work on," he said. "Pitching coach Jeff Harris and I pretty much went after it the last four days. We figured a lot of stuff out."
Cooper took over for Lake County to start the eighth. Making only his second appearance of the year, he struck out one over two perfect innings.
Rayl (3-0) lowered his ERA from 2.70 to 2.08 with his performance, striking out more players Wednesday than he had in his previous three starts combined. The 22-year-old left-hander called the outing the best of his pro career.
"It's not every day you're one hit away from a perfect game or a no-hitter," he said.
Rayl plans to work off Wednesday's success for the rest of the season.
"I'm just going to keep the same mind-set I had tonight and go after hitters," he said. "I'm just going to try to limit the pitches I throw to each hitter. That's been my biggest problem. I haven't been able to throw strikes and challenge hitters. Tonight was a big difference."