Cody Martin grew up watching the Braves' vaunted pitching staff of the 1990s. Two decades later, he's living his dream.
Martin recorded a career-high 14 strikeouts and pitched a two-hitter for his first Minor League complete game and shutout Friday as the Class A Advanced Lynchburg Hillcats blanked the Salem Red Sox, 1-0.
The Braves' 2011 seventh-round pick faced four batters over the minimum. He retired the first nine Red Sox before Heiker Meneses led off the fourth with a single.
Martin (10-6) cruised into the ninth, when Meneses doubled with one out and Travis Shaw walked. But he struck out Brandon Jacobs to finish off Lynchburg's second complete-game shutout of the season. Aaron Northcraft had the other when he pitched a seven-inning no-hitter against Salem on June 22.
"My big thing was to command my fastball to both sides of the plate," Martin said. "I threw a lot of first-pitch strikes and from there, I mixed it up, trying not to repeat sequences. I could elevate or come hard in and then I could throw the cutter. I threw a couple of first-pitch changeups, and that set the tone, really."
Martin continued his stellar season, his first as a starting pitcher. The 22-year-old right-hander leads the Carolina League in wins, ranks fourth with a 2.80 ERA and trails only Northcraft with 101 strikeouts.
"I've just been getting ahead of guys, trying to get that first out every inning and commanding the inside part of the plate," Martin said. "Those three things are what's been clicking."
Martin, who matched a career high with eight strikeouts in his last start on July 7, said two June appearances out of the bullpen helped spark the recent surge in which he's allowed five earned runs over five starts.
"We thought maybe I was going to go back to relieving, but then I jumped right back in [the rotation]," the Gonzaga University product said. "That kind of got my tempo going. I think that's what got me more aggressive on the mound.
"I just pitch. I enjoy [starting and relieving], it's a totally different thing. Pitching out of the 'pen is all adrenaline; starting, for me, is a more methodical approach. I think they are two totally different animals."
The California native grew up watching Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, thanks in part to his dad, Chuck, who spent two seasons in the Atlanta organization in the 1980s.
"It's awesome," Martin said. "I grew up a Braves fan, my dad played two years of Minor League ball with the Braves and he played with Tom Glavine and Mark Lemke and Jeff Blauser. I grew up watching those guys and watching the Braves. And them having great starting pitching, I think that helped with my approach to the game.
"All those guys weren't really the flamethrowers -- Maddux and Glavine just dominated the strike zone and worked with what they had. You throw strikes and you keep guys off-balance. I think just watching that growing up taught me how to pitch and not necessarily how to throw. I think that was a big thing for me."
The Hillcats scored the game's lone run in the third as Nick Ahmed, the Braves' No. 10 prospect, singled with two outs, swiped second for his 25th steal and came home on Chris Garcia's base hit.
Yeiper Castillo (0-1) took the loss in his second Carolina League start, despite allowing one run on five hits over seven innings.