Power's Kingham bounces back

Pirates prospect hurls six two-hit innings, halts losing streak

(Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images)

By Ashley Marshall / Special to MLB.com | July 17, 2012 7:43 PM ET

Nick Kingham will be the first to admit he was in a slump.

Without a win in 2 1/2 months and sporting an 0-3 record with a 9.60 ERA in his last three starts, the tall right-hander was finding life in the South Atlantic League difficult.

Then he changed his attitude and came to the realization that even if he gives up a hit or two, it probably isn't the end of the world. On Tuesday, that new mind-set produced immediate results.

The Pirates' No. 11 prospect faced one batter over the minimum and gave up two hits over six innings as West Virginia blanked Augusta, 2-0, in the second game of a doubleheader.

"There was nothing mechanical, the biggest thing was mental," said Kingham, who tied a season high with seven strikeouts. "Who cares what happens? You can't get too mad if you give up a hit or run into trouble. You just have to see what happens. You need the 'Who cares?' attitude.

"There's a reason why I'm here and playing pro ball. I know I'm good enough to play pro ball."

Kingham (2-7) worked around Jose Flores' one-out single in the first when Shawn Payne was thrown out trying to steal.

"It was huge," Kingham said. "[Flores] hit a changeup that I left hanging, but then we got the forceout for the second out. I fell behind the fourth batter of the inning, but then [catcher Francisco] Diaz got me out of a jam. It was huge.

"I think this start is definitely up there. It's top three, maybe top two or even No. 1. Everything was working and I was pounding the zone and throwing in and out. It was one of those rare times where everything was working."

First base was as far as any GreenJacket got against the Las Vegas native over the next four innings as he set down the 13 batters in a row.

Jose Cuevas doubled with one out in the sixth to become Augusta's second baserunner of the game, but Kingham retired Myles Schroder on a fly ball to left field and got Kelby Tomlinson to ground to second.

"I think I did a really good job of being consistent, and that was the key to my success," the 20-year-old explained. "I kept them off-balance with my changeup and they had to respect that. It made my fastball better because when they're seeing all changeups it gets on you that much quicker.

"I threw the curveball with two strikes or sometimes first pitch when the time came, but it was mainly changeup-fastball to speed them up and slow them down."

Kingham turned things over to Clario Perez, who worked around a one-out walk to Shawn Payne and finished off the Power's second shutout of the season.

"I would have been glad to come back [for the seventh], but we needed a win and the best person to come in in that situation was Perez," Kingham said. "He is a hard thrower with a hard slider. When he gets ahead, he's one of the best pitchers in the league. I'm glad he is on our team and that we don't have to hit against him.

Selected by the Pirates in the fourth round of the 2010 Draft out of Sierra Vista High School, Kingham has struggled for much of his first year in the South Atlantic League. He entered Tuesday's start with a 6.06 ERA, had lost his last six decisions and was winless in 12 games since May 3.

"I didn't leave the ball up much," said Kingham, who lowered his ERA to 5.63. "It was always around the knees and the shoetops. I was in attack mode rather than being in the reactive mode in the past few games. I was aggressive rather than adjusting."

Gregory Polanco supported Kingham with a pair of hits and a run scored, while Jose Osuna smacked a two-run homer in the fourth.

Augusta starter Clayton Blackburn (6-3) also went six innings and allowed two runs on five hits. He struck out four and did not issue a walk.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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