Some men are moved to the brink of tears by art or music. For Oklahoma City pitching coach Matt Herges, Wilmer Font's historic performance on the mound brought out emotion Monday.
The Dodgers right-hander carried a perfect game through the sixth inning and set a single-game franchise record with 15 strikeouts as Triple-A Oklahoma City held on to beat Sacramento, 6-4. He allowed a run on two hits and a walk over seven frames.
"Every bullpen, he's sweating his butt off," Herges said. "He's constantly in it. He watches every pitch. He's a great teammate. This is what makes coaching so fun. To see the fruits of that, it was to the point where I've got to be careful because I'm watching this, and I'm getting choked up. With a kid like this especially, he's such a high-character guy. To see him just enjoying being out there and dominating a game, I gave him a hug after he came out, and I had to walk away quick because if I held on one more second, it was waterworks."Video: Oklahoma City's Font registers 15th strikeout
Font's first seven starts of the year resulted in pedestrian numbers of a 2-3 record and a 4.89 ERA, and the 26-year-old hadn't completed six innings all season. Monday was a very different story.
"He had good stuff tonight, and oftentimes when you have good stuff, it doesn't mix with your command," Herges said. "His command was better tonight than I've ever seen it. He was spotting low and away with his fastball. He was getting ahead in counts with his offspeed. He was 0-1 all night, and he was throwing really hard as well."
Gameday box score
Font signaled what was to come when he struck out the side in order in the first inning. The righty fanned at least one batter in every frame, striking out the side again in the fifth en route to retiring the first 18 batters he faced.
"His ball has got that carry to it, so he was elevating late in counts, and they just swung right through it," Herges said. "And then if they did foul it off, he'd come back with a split that was filthy, and they'd swing at that. Everything he did, he was on the attack the entire night."
Opening the seventh, Font walked Orlando Calixte to end his perfect-game bid. After striking out Jae-Gyun Hwang, he yielded back-to-back singles to No. 18 Giants prospect Austin Slater and Chris Marrero to break up the no-hitter. But Font rebounded to whiff Carlos Moncrief and Trevor Brown to close his night. His last strikeout broke Chuck Smith's Oklahoma City franchise record of 14 K's on June 23, 1999.
"Out of all the at-bats, like a guy's second time up or third time up, nothing was the same," Herges said. "The first at-bat, he would've gotten ahead with a fastball. The second at-bat, he got ahead with a curveball. The third at-bat, he got ahead with something else. They were on their heels literally all night. This is a pretty good hitting team, and the swings that they were taking, it was like, 'We have no idea what's going on.'"
Over his last four starts, Font has struck out 37 batters while walking just two. In addition to command and lively fastball, Herges raved about the splitter.
"Everything that came out of his hand had aggression behind it," he said. "In the past, in previous starts, especially with his split-finger and his curveball, he would just kind of baby it in there. We've been working hard on that in the bullpen."
No matter the offering, it worked for Font and backstop Jack Murphy, whose game-calling Herges singled out for praise.MiLB include
"Murph did an incredible job of trusting what he sees," he said. "Sometimes he goes off-script when he knows something's going to work, and when he did, Wilmer just executed."
Prior to Monday, Font's previous personal best for strikeouts in a game was nine, set most recently with Double-A New Hampshire in the Toronto system on Aug. 15 against Binghamton. Font also set a season high with 98 pitches, an efficient day considering the length of his start and his wealth of K's.
"I'm going to encourage him to watch this game, because it's a good thing to see when you're going good," Herges said. "Oftentimes, we just watch video when we're going bad to try to figure things out, but I like to watch it because I haven't had him before this year, but this is probably the best he's been.
"He was in attack mode from pitch one all the way to 98. That's what I want to encourage. That's what I want him to continue to do to keep rolling. Attack works. Careful never works."
The win was Oklahoma City's first at home over Sacramento since May 14, 2010.