Making his most pressure-packed start of the year, Luis Mendoza got some relief before he even stepped on the mound.
Spotted a 3-0 lead prior to throwing his first pitch, Mendoza tossed seven strong innings in Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League playoffs Wednesday to lead Triple-A Omaha to a 4-0 victory over Round Rock.
"It's a tough team, it's a good offense," Mendoza said. "I just tried to make my pitches and not make too many mistakes."
The 27-year-old right-hander set the tone early, retiring seven of the first eight batters he faced. He worked around back-to-back one-out singles in the third and another pair of singles in the seventh. He did not allow multiple baserunners at the same time in any other inning.
"I think I mixed all my pitches -- curveball, fastball, change-up -- and worked both sides of the plate," Mendoza said. "I was just trying to get them off balance."
Mendoza credited his team's fast start for helping his performance. Lorenzo Cain legged out an RBI triple in the top of the first, while Clint Robinson -- the Royals' No. 8 prospect -- followed with a two-run homer.
"As a pitcher, the support of my team is huge," Mendoza said. "I pitched more comfortably on the mound and felt more confident."
Traded by Texas to Kansas City on April 2, 2010, Mendoza has enjoyed a strong year for Omaha, going 12-5 with a 2.18 ERA in 33 games, including 18 starts. He flirted with two no-hitters this season, taking one into the eighth July 9 and then completing one 10 days later -- only to have it taken away by the PCL when it declared a ninth-inning error to be a double two days after the game.
"I just try to be consistent, working on the stuff they tell me to," Mendoza said. "Every start, I try to do the same thing -- work on my pitches. I think that's the main thing."
Mendoza said starting the opening game of the playoffs was more nerve-racking than his no-hit bids.
"When you're trying to throw a no-hitter, you don't think about it," he said. "You just try to pitch and get outs. In the first game of the playoffs, there's more pressure. Everybody wants to win."
Looking toward the rest of the postseason, Mendoza said he and his teammates are confident in their abilities.
"My team feels good, we're excited about this and, hopefully, we make it into the finals," he said.
In other Pacific Coast League playoff action:
Aces 7, River Cats 4
Former American League Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa went 3-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs, while fellow Major League veteran Ryan Langerhans also went deep. Reno got to Sacramento starter Graham Godfrey for five runs on nine hits, chasing him after five innings. Aces starter Zach Kroenke yielded three runs -- two earned -- over 5 1/3 frames en route to the win. Gameday box score