With eight losses in 10 games to start the season and needing a win to salvage a weekend split on the road, the Fort Myers Miracle were hoping for a lift ahead of a long night. Randy LeBlanc gave them one.
"Coming into today, we've got a five-hour bus trip home," he said. "It's just nice to win and have a happy bus ride."
LeBlanc ensured the Miracle headed out of Daytona on a good note Sunday, thanks to his second straight scoreless start to open the season, allowing three hits over seven innings in a 5-0 victory over the Tortugas.
"It's been a good start," said LeBlanc, who also produced seven scoreless frames on April 10 at Tampa. "My first outing, I think, was definitely better. I was able to strike some more guys out, had a better breaking ball my first outing. Today, it wasn't quite there. I didn't have my best stuff, but I was able to get through it. That's just the way it goes. When you don't have your best stuff, just continue to get guys out and give your team a chance. I was able to do that today."
LeBlanc (1-0) fanned four against two walks and worked with more than one baserunner in an inning just once, when Daniel Sweet reached on an infield single in the first and top Reds prospect Nick Senzel walked. After that opening frame, the right-hander faced the minimum over the next four. LeBlanc walked Sweet with two outs in the sixth but stranded him and ended his day by getting Chris Okey to ground into a double play following a one-out single in the seventh by No. 27 prospect Gavin LaValley.
The Tulane product's scoreless streak sits at 31 innings going back to his last three starts last season, one for Fort Myers and two for Double-A Chattanooga.
"It's definitely different than the Midwest League," said LeBlanc, who went 5-7 with a 4.70 ERA in 13 starts for Fort Myers in 2016 following a promotion from Class A Cedar Rapids. "There are a lot of older guys here. It's more experienced and it's only going to get better as we go up, obviously.
"I did pretty well for the most part outside of a couple starts [last year]. Those starts last year definitely helped preparing me for the beginning of this year, for sure."
LeBlanc was particularly pleased to give his bullpen a breather after an 8-4 loss on Saturday in which relievers worked three innings. Nick Anderson finished up Sunday by limiting Daytona to a hit and a walk while fanning two.
"It definitely helps just knowing that today I didn't have my best stuff and was still able to go out there and give us a chance for seven innings, save our bullpen a little bit," he said. "Those guys have been throwing a lot early, but still to help our bullpen helps. We're kind of in a skid right now, struggling to win some games. To be able to go out there and help our team get a 'W' when we're going through a rough patch to start the year is big."
LeBlanc's 2016 finish was strong, and his start to the new season has been the same, thanks partly to a simple formula.
"Just pitch to their weaknesses. Pitch to the hitters' weaknesses," he said. "I think I was able to do that today. Obviously, I didn't have my greatest stuff, but just see what they're trying to do and do the opposite, really try to get them out in whatever sense I can get them out. I don't have to strike everybody out."
Miracle cleanup man Zander Wiel led off the second with his first Florida State League homer and Fort Myers added three runs in the fourth, capped by Brian Navarreto's RBI double. Wiel closed the scoring with an RBI single in the seventh.