Lawrence carries shutout into 10th

Dunedin righty scatters four hits in 103-pitch masterpiece

Casey Lawrence threw first-pitch strikes to 27 of the 35 batters he faced. (Cliff Welch/

By Ashley Marshall / Special to | April 18, 2013 9:01 PM ET

If there's one thing that starting pitchers like, it's being economical. But what Dunedin Blue Jays right-hander Casey Lawrence did Thursday night might need its own category.

The 25-year-old used 103 pitches to fire 9 2/3 innings of four-hit ball in the Class A Advanced Blue Jays' eventual 1-0 win in 13 innings over the host Lakeland Flying Tigers.

Lawrence was at 85 pitches -- on three hits and one walk -- through nine frames, so manager Bobby Meacham had no problem sending the Pennsylvania native out for the 10th.

"That's the furthest I've ever gone," Lawrence said. "Thankfully I was able to keep my pitch count down pretty well. I was just throwing strikes and letting the defense work behind me. I have all the trust in the world in them.

"My arm feels great, no complaints. My offseason workout program put me in a good spot."

It was only after a two-out single to Jason King and a walk to following batter John Murrian that Meacham went to his bullpen.

"I've never done that or seen that before," said Meacham. "Never, not into the 10th inning of a tied game. I started coaching in 1991 so I'm in my 23rd year now and I've never seen that.

"He kept saying, 'I'm fine, I'm fine.' He was very convincing and he wasn't worried about it. As long as he was throwing well and didn't struggle, I was leaving him in."

The numbers speak for themselves. Lawrence threw first-pitch strikes to 27 of the 35 batters he faced. Of the 103 pitches, 70 were fastballs and 51 of those were thrown for strikes. He also induced 10 ground-ball outs, three infield popups and two lineouts to first base.

"I've seen complete games in nine innings, but not for a starter to go back out for the 10th. Rarely will that ever happen," said pitching coach Darold Knowles, who has been with the organization for eight years. "The pitch count was so low and he was in such total command that we sent him back out.

"His pitch count limit was 100, but he was at 85 through nine and he was still dealing. He probably could have got out of the 10th too, but we didn't want to take that chance. I don't think you can pitch much better than that. Only a couple balls were hit hard. He was really, really phenomenal."

Only once did Lawrence face adversity. He walked Brandon Loy to lead off the sixth. Chad Wright followed with a single to left field and Jason Krizan bunted both runners over. Loy was thrown out at home when he tried to score on Eugenio Suarez's ground ball to first baseman KC Hobson, and Lawrence got out of the jam by striking out Dean Green to retire the side.

"It makes the other guys want to do the same," said Meacham. "There's nothing like competition to bring out the best in them. The whole staff will want to go out there next time and see if they can complete a game."

Knowles praised how Lawrence complemented his sinker with his slider, changeup and curveball to keep hitters off balance.

"He threw strikes and kept the ball down all night," Knowles said. "He was using both sides of the plate and he was very sharp. It's a shame he didn't wind up with the win. It was just one of those classic pitching battles.

"Our field coordinator was here and he watched the whole game. They're very protective over here, but it's more about the number of pitches and how far they can go with that number. We're allowed to go over by a couple."

Signed by the Blue Jays as a non-drafted free agent in 2010, Lawrence is now in his fourth year of pro ball.

He split time between Dunedin and Double-A New Hamphire in 2012, going a combined 9-7 with a 3.87 ERA in 27 games, including 25 starts. He struck out 96 batters over 151 1/3 innings and started a rare 1-6-3 triple play against Fort Myers.

"This is a little bit more of a testament," said 6-foot-2 Lawrence, who went nine innings in a 6-1 win for Lansing over South Bend on Aug. 3, 2011. "It's a full game rather than just one play. This is obviously one of my better outings."

On Thursday, third baseman Andy Burns plated the lone run of the game with a 13th-inning triple to right field that chased home Peter Mooney -- who had been hit by a pitch with one out.

Lakeland starter Kyle Ryan allowed one lone hit through eight innings. He struck out three batters and issued four walks but did not factor in the decision.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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