After a rough start to the season, Will Lamb was moved to the bullpen to give him a fresh look.
When a spot in the rotation opened two weeks ago, the 2011 second-round Draft pick was ready for another chance. Now he hopes he can hold on to it for good.
The Rangers' No. 13 prospect (2-6) allowed an unearned run on one hit over a career-high seven innings Wednesday as the Class A Hickory Crawdads defeated the Delmarva Shorebirds, 3-1.
Lamb (2-6) issued one walk and struck out seven batters before Nick McBride fanned three over the final two innings to complete the one-hitter.
"I prefer starting, it's a whole different mind-set," Lamb said. "As a reliever, you have to watch the whole game and see what your starter is doing to keep them off-balance. When you're the starter, you can set the tempo.
"But when something bad happened at the start of the year, I would say things just snowballed. I couldn't control it. I would think about it when I was pitching to the next hitter and then he would get a hit, too. I need to get back to going pitch to pitch and controlling the things I can control."
In his third start back in the rotation, Lamb found his groove. Delmarva's lone hit against the 21-year-old southpaw came in the third inning when Wynston Sawyer chopped a single into left field.
Sammie Starr reached when third baseman Drew Robinson misplayed a potential double play ball, Mychal Givens sacrificed both runners into scoring position and Sawyer came home on a two-out wild pitch.
"The first time through the order we were feeling out what their swing was like and what their approach was," the Clemson product said. "I threw [Sawyer] an outside fastball that I was commanding pretty well and he hit a two-hopper right under the third baseman's glove.
"[When Sawyer was on third base], I got 1-2 or 0-2 to Webb, the only lefty in their lineup. I wanted to throw an outside fastball to see what he did with it, but I rushed my arm and threw it middle-in and [catcher Kellin Deglan] had no chance. I was pretty [mad] at myself."
The only other Shorebird to reach over Lamb's final four innings was Sawyer, who struck out on a wild pitch in the fifth.
The Crawdads plated two runs in the sixth to make it 3-1, a lead Lamb turned over to the bullpen after reaching his pitch limit.
McBride hit the first batter he faced in the eighth, but recorded three strikeouts and got three ground balls to finish off the Crawdads' fourth straight win.
The victory was Lamb's second straight after losing his first six decisions. He lowered his ERA to 4.19 in 16 South Atlantic League games, including 10 starts.
Lamb called Wednesday's game one of his best since turning pro, comparing it to five one-hit innings he pitched to outduel a rehabbing Stephen Strasburg last Aug. 22.
"Just the confidence I'll take from this start is huge," he said. "I have to go back out and try to repeat the things from this start. I've been working hard all season to get back to where I was last year.
"This start is up there with the Strasburg game. That was pretty cool, but this was a very satisfying effort. This is the first time I've gone past five innings in my pro career. In my last outing against Greensboro, I needed 91 pitches to get through five innings. Tonight, it was 81 through seven."
Rougned Odor was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and Jorge Alfaro collected a pair of RBIs for the Crawdads.