The last time Double-A Arkansas' Matt Oye faced Northwest Arkansas on May 5, it wasn't a pretty sight. The right-hander surrendered eight runs on 10 hits -- including two homers -- in four innings in a loss.
Oye faced off with the Naturals again Thursday night, and this time, he was up against probably the hottest pitcher in the Texas League, Yordano Ventura.
Seven shutout frames later, Oye walked off the mound after thriving against both those challenges.
The right-hander yielded just two hits and a walk, striking out six, to give Arkansas the edge in a 2-0 victory.
He had little margin for error to work with against Ventura, who hadn't allowed a run in his three previous starts and had surrendered just five hits total while striking out 24 in 16 innings. One of those outings was a 10-strikeout, two-hit performance over six scoreless frames in a May 6 win against Arkansas.
On Thursday, the No. 3 Royals prospect allowed two runs on three hits without issuing a walk and striking out nine over six innings against the Travelers.
Oye said it was a satisfying feeling to come out ahead in a duel like that.
"Last time we faced [Ventura], he dominated us. So knowing he was 3-0 coming into the night and coming off my last outing against these guys when I kind of got my tail kicked a bit, I needed to step it up. I felt like I owed them one," he said. "I knew it would be a good pitchers' battle, I was just happy to bring my best. Glad we put up a couple runs in the first to give me a lead to pitch off of."
For Oye (4-2), it was his best start yet this year. The 27-year-old brought his ERA down to 4.69 in 40 1/3 innings in the Texas League. He has struck out 29 and walked 13.
The Washington State University product spent part of Spring Training with the big league club, gaining valuable experience with the Angels, he said.
"I had some success there, and taking that success and coming into the season with that just showed me that I have the ability to get big league hitters out and that my stuff will play," he said. "As a pitcher, as a baseball player, confidence is a huge thing. My big thing is I want to stay humbly confident, stay hungry and I most importantly appreciate the Angels giving me the opportunity to go there and get that experience."
Oye gained some notoriety during the spring when umpire Tim McClelland noticed a white substance on his fingernail during a game and made him cover it up with black marker, in a somewhat surreal scene.
"My middle fingernail had cracked right up near the tip and was bleeding on me," Oye explained. "So one of my trainers showed me a little trick where we take athletic tape, put it in the shape of my fingernail and put super glue on it. You do that three or four times and it makes kind of a fake nail. I hadn't had any problem my first three outings, but in that fourth one Tim McClelland asks, 'What have you got there?' And I said, 'Oh, it's a fake nail.' And they had to come out and color the fingernail."
Oye added he was eventually able to see the event humorously.
"I tell you what, it was some attention that I didn't want and it attracted some interesting feedback on the Internet, but all in all, it's something I can look back at now and laugh. I definitely won't be doing that trick again."
On Thursday, Randal Grichuk and Robbie Widlansky each doubled in a run in the first for the only runs of the game.
After the loss, Ventura (3-1) sports a 1.79 ERA with 56 strikeouts and 14 walks in 40 1/3 innings.