For five days, David Hale sat in the dugout, watched his teammates and dwelled on his Double-A debut, a forgettable loss full of bad luck that, for him, wasn't easy to forget.
"It was tough. I had to sit on that outing for five days," Hale said of his first loss. "That's the worst part about starting, having to wait five days."
On Friday, relief finally came. The lifelong Braves fan pitched six hitless innings in his second start, striking out five for his first win as Mississippi beat the Montgomery Biscuits, 4-0, at Trustmark Park.
"I feel real good, mainly the fact that I could right myself mentally from last week," said Hale. "I had a strange outing and didn't last very long and I thought I could change it and get it behind me pretty quick."
Hale, a right-hander from Marietta, Ga., threw 41 of 77 pitches for strikes over six innings to even his record at 1-1. His only baserunners came on walks -- he issued a two-out free pass to Cole Figueroa in the first inning and another to Emeel Salem in the sixth.
Hale was on a 75-pitch limit but had no clue he'd get the hook when he came back to the dugout following a sixth hitless frame.
"I had no idea. I was sitting on the bench, our guys started to hit and [pitching coach Mike] Alvarez came and told me I was getting out," Hale said. "I was kind of upset, I felt great, but he made a point that this early in the year they wouldn't let me go nine, so there was no point in going seven. And I was at my 75-pitch limit."
Either way, it was far less frustrating than his debut on Sunday when Mobile BayBears tagged Hale for seven runs over 1 2/3 innings. His good luck against Montgomery was just about equal to his bad luck last week.
"It was a strange one," he recalled. "I walked the leadoff guy, bloop single and then an error and a bloop hit where my outfielders collided and the kid got an inside-the-park homer. I struggled to get back and I did poorly."
The Princeton University product spent last season at Class A Advanced Lynchburg, where he transitioned to the rotation in July but never came close to a hitless outing. Friday's win was arguably his best start since July 30, 2011, when he held Salem to three hits over seven innings.
Hale struck out at least one batter in every inning except the fifth, when he induced three straight fly balls to right fielder L.V. Ware.
"Fastball, slider, change, and I mixed them all in, nothing in particular," he said. "Just locating the fastball."
Hale said he wasn't thinking about the no-hitter as he mowed through the Biscuits lineup.
"It was in the back of my mind, but I didn't try to focus on it or anything," he said.
Mississippi staked Hale to a 1-0 lead in the first when Andrelton Simmons, the Braves' top offensive prospect, singled, stole second and scored on Ian Gac's double to right. Needing a homer to complete the cycle, Gac was hit by a pitch in his final at-bat.
"It's always nice when your guys come out and get some runs on the board," Hale said. "I had some awesome defense, too; three real nice plays behind me."
Andrew Russell relieved Hale to start the seventh and lost the no-hit bid when Figueroa lined a one-out single to right field.
For the Biscuits, it was the seventh time they were held to two hits, a team record.
Hale was the Braves' third-round pick in 2009 and entered this season rated the team's No. 21 prospect by Baseball America. He said he believes he has the talent to progress through Atlanta's system.
"I feel like I have the stuff to move on and I have to get every aspect right, mentally," he said. "Last week was a mental challenge and I think that's the biggest thing. It's a battle, it's as important as having the right stuff, and you've got to have them both. So I'm happy I came back from last time."