A small tweak sometimes goes a long way. Packy Naughton has seen one go 22 innings.
Cincinnati's No. 29 prospect, who hasn't allowed a run since June 24, gave up just two hits over eight innings Monday as Class A Dayton blanked Great Lakes, 5-0, at Dow Diamond. Naughton struck out a career-high nine and didn't walk a batter in the longest start of his two-year professional career.
Gameday box score
"It's awesome to see my hard work starting to pay off," he said. "It's been a long season so far, and it's cool to see the stuff I've been working on put together the results I had tonight."
Naughton (4-8) attributes his recent success to a change he made to his windup leading into his June 29 start at South Bend. The adjustment, which involves slowing down his motion in his lower half to allow his arm to catch up, feels natural to him now. It's helped the southpaw produce three scoreless outings.
"Tonight, I was just throwing everything for strikes, the changeup, and I could even flip in a curve," he said.
Naughton retired the first four batters before Luke Heyer singled with one out in the second inning. The Virginia Tech product struck out Brandon Montgomery, then caught Heyer attempting to steal before Naughton went into his motion. The 22-year-old fired to first baseman Leandro Santana, who threw to shortstop Jose Garcia for the tag.
Video: Dayton's Naughton records career-high ninth K
The Reds' ninth-round pick in the 2017 Draft worked perfect frames in the third, fourth and fifth, retiring 11 in a row into the sixth. Eric Peterson broke the string with a two-out triple to right. Naughton stranded Peterson by whiffing Brayan Morales.
"It was nice to get out of that one," he said. "I knew I had two outs and the guy up that I wanted to face, so I just tried to execute my pitches and make sure he didn't score."
Naughton picked up three more punchouts over his final two innings, including Montgomery and Hunter Feduccia swinging and missing to cap his start. He threw 69 of 91 pitches for strikes.
Despite his string of success, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Boston native said he does his best to block out the past each time he takes the mound.
"I try to look at every start one inning, one out, one pitch at a time," Naughton said. "The last three have been great, but I'm looking ahead, not behind, because that's done. I have to trust every single pitch, and being able to throw whatever I want in any count recently has given me confidence in any pitch. I can throw them with more conviction and more success."
The past two weeks have shown the hurler and his organization that he's got the goods.
"Really, it's been me proving to myself that I can be here and definitely belong here," he said. "It's making me feel like everything I've worked for is paying off."
Aneurys Zabala worked a 1-2-3 ninth to wrap up Dayton's first nine-inning shutout this season.
Sixth-ranked Reds prospect Jeter Downs went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored.