After completing eight innings Thursday night, Nick Kingham expected to be met with a handshake and a pat on the back from Triple-A Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett.
"He wasn't there," Pittsburgh's No. 9 prospect said. "So I went and sat down and thought, 'This thing is mine and I'm going to take us home.' I've never even completed eight innings, so pitching into the ninth, that was a completely different animal."
Video: Indianapolis' Kingham goes the distance
Kingham retired the side in the final frame to complete his first career complete game as the Indians defeated the Syracuse Chiefs, 3-1, in under two hours. The 25-year-old, who threw 60 of 85 pitches for strikes, struck out eight en route to his fourth straight victory.
"More than anything tonight I was attacking hitters," said Kingham (7-6), who induced 11 ground-ball outs and faced one over the minimum. "I was executing pitches and making them put the ball on the ground early in the at-bat and let my defense take care of the rest."
Kingham retired the first nine batters on just 28 pitches. After working around a single in the top of the fourth, the 6-foot-5 right-hander had a chance to help his own cause in the bottom of the frame with runners on first and third with one out.
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Barkett called for a suicide squeeze and his pitcher delivered, allowing Erich Weiss to cross the plate to push the Indians' lead to 3-0.
Video: Indianapolis' Kingham lays down squeeze
"I was just praying that I got the ball down and into fair territory. I didn't want to go to two strikes and then have the pressure on me to bunt with two strikes. I saw the pitch well and pushed it right towards the first baseman," Kingham said.
The Houston native struck out two in a clean fifth and logged a four-pitch sixth.
"Those are nice," Kingham chortled. "I really enjoy doing those. I think that's the shortest inning I've ever worked."
His run of nine straight outs ended in the seventh when Brandon Snyder lifted a one-out solo homer to left field. The long ball didn't deter Kingham, who retired five in a row to get through the eighth for the first time this year.
"Tonight, it was a little bit of everything. I got some strikeouts on fastballs, changeups and only one on the curveball. That was surprising since it's my strikeout pitch. Everything was just going well for me tonight, it all kind of clicked and I was in the zone," the Nevada high school product said.
The ninth provided more of the same for Kingham. He needed just nine pitches to retire the Chiefs on three ground-ball outs.
"I tried to keep doing exactly what I was doing, get ahead of hitters and don't try to nitpick," noted the 225-pound hurler, who faced just two three-ball counts. "I wanted to get them to put the ball on the ground as early as I could. Either on the first, second or third pitch, I tried to get some action and then move onto the next hitter."
It was the fourth consecutive quality start for Kingham, who worked 7 2/3 scoreless innings last Friday against Louisville. In all four starts during his recent run, the 2010 fourth-round pick has gone at least seven innings and yielded a total of three runs.
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Kingham has produced a 3.70 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP over 90 innings with the Indians in 2017. As the season winds down, he's keen to see one area of his game reach the next level.
"I'd really like to nail down my fastball command. You can always improve on that, it's your bread-and-butter because everything works off the fastball. If I can put the ball where I want to with the heater, it will make things a lot easier on my end," he said.
Pirates No. 6 prospect Kevin Newman, 21st-ranked Jordan Luplow and Max Moroff had two hits apiece for the Indians.