If 13 is an unlucky number, consider Matt Torra the Bulls' new good luck charm.
Torra took a no-hitter into the eighth inning a day after his Durham teammates were held hitless as the Bulls ended a 13-game losing streak with a 1-0 win over Indianapolis on Monday afternoon.
Torra (2-2) looked a lot like Indians starter Justin Wilson, who threw 7 1/3 hitless innings in combining a day earlier to no-hit Durham in a loss that sent the Bulls to their club record-tying 13th consecutive loss. Torra struck out one and walked one before losing the no-hit bid on Jordy Mercer's leadoff infield single in the eighth.
"It's good to end that streak and get the team going in the right direction," Torra said.
Torra was perfect for 5 1/3 frames before a one-out, sixth-inning pitch grazed the jersey of Indians catcher Eric Fryer. Torra issued his only walk of the afternoon moments later to Starling Marte, the Pirates' top offensive prospect, but induced a fielder's choice from Gorkys Hernandez and an inning-ending grounder from Anderson Hernandez to keep the no-hitter and shutout alive.
Torra worked around the lone hit in the eighth thanks to a nice play up the middle by second baseman Reid Brignac.
"It was a ball up the middle that got through my legs, but he came across to his left side and made the good throw to end the eighth."
That key play, which kept the game scoreless for the Bulls' game-winning rally, may have been the result of a fortuitous ejection. After Durham starting second baseman Will Rhymes was ejected for arguing a bang-bang play at first in the sixth inning, the slick-fielding Brignac replaced him at second pace. He ranged up the middle on an infield grounder and threw out Hernandez at first to end the threat and prevent Mercer from attempting to score from second.
The gem was a huge pickup for a team mired in bad luck.
"Obviously it's frustrating to have that happen," Torra said of Durham being no-hit Sunday. "Especially with the situation we were in, but the good thing is the hitters didn't try to do too much. They kept battling and stayed focused, and it turned around for us and we were able to come away with a victory."
Torra, a first-round pick by Arizona in 2005, threw 60 of his 89 pitches for strikes en route to his second win, which was set up in the bottom of the eighth when Jesus Feliciano lifted a ground-rule RBI double to right to plate Shawn O'Malley for the game's only run.
Cesar Ramos worked around a hit in the ninth for his first save, closing out the combined two-hitter.
Torra, who pitched well in his last start April 25 but failed to end Durham's slide, said the team held up through the rough stretch.
"It's tough. I think its frustrating -- they're busting it, working hard, giving everything they've got, trying to execute," Torra said. "To have [the no-hitter] happen in the midst of that streak, it was frustrating. And to have a clutch hit in the eighth inning and win a 1-0 game, I think it's what the team needed."
As for Torra's effort, the no-hitter was in his mind but he did his best to forget about it.
"I think you see it, you know it's there, and you block it out," he said. "You can't let it bother you, you just try to forget about it the entire time."
And how difficult is it to ignore something like that?
"I think it's something you learn as you go on. It's there, you see it, but you want to just go out there and keep doing what you're doing, take it one batter at a time," he said.
Mercer's infield single to start the eighth could have easily been an out that led to a no-hitter, which would have been Durham's first since Jason Hammel and Juan Salas combined to beat Columbus on July 16, 2006.
"I threw him a slider, he hit it to the six hole, and [O'Malley] got to it, made a good play, but he was able to beat it out," Torra said.
"I think everyone wants to throw a no-hitter, it's be an awesome thing to do, but at that point, I had to keep my composure, make sure I got the next hitter out and not let that change the game," he said.
Torra said he tried to keep the ball low in the zone all afternoon.
"I really tried to pound the ball down, go inside with my fastball and then go with my offspeed stuff," he said.
As for his teammates, the chatter in the dugout -- or lack of -- wasn't unusual during the game.
"It was fine, same as before. They keep quiet, I do my thing, stay focused and support the hitters," he said. "They kept it the same as normal."
Torra, who reached Triple-A with the D-backs, split last season between Arizona and Tampa Bay after he was traded to the Rays in July for cash considerations. He pitched much better with Durham, going 5-1 with a 3.67 ERA in 11 starts, than he fared with Triple-A Reno.
He's hoping he can continue that positive trend from 2011 as he starts his second month of '12.
"I think you have goals, but you want to take it one game at a time, stay within yourself and execute," he said. "Pitch like I know how I'm capable and keep going. I feel like I finished good at the end of last season, and I want to continue on that path."
Torra, who went to UMass, out-dueled Indianapolis' Jeff Locke, a New Hampshire native who walked four but held the Bulls to three hits over seven innings. Daniel Moskos, the No. 5 overall pick of the 2007 Draft, was charged with the game's only run when he walked O'Malley and later allowed Feliciano's double in the eighth.