Yefry Ramirez may not have harbored any hopes of throwing a no-hitter for Triple-A Norfolk two pitches into Wednesday's start against Indianapolis. But as the night rolled along, things got much better for the Orioles' No. 17 prospect.
Ramirez faced two batters over the minimum, yielding a hit and a walk over seven scoreless innings before the Tides walked off with a 4-3 victory over the Indians at Harbor Park.
Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin observed that things started to come together for Ramirez in his previous two outings, in which he allowed four runs over a 13-inning span.
"He's got his four-pitch mix working for him right now and ... you start to get on a little bit of a roll and your confidence gets pretty high," Griffin said of Ramirez's repertoire, which includes a plus changeup. "Hopefully, right now he can continue with that mix and basically keep it rolling."
Video: Tides' Ramirez picks up seventh strikeout
The 24-year-old fanned seven and threw 54 of 81 pitches for strikes while lowering his ERA to 3.80 in his eighth start of the season. The seven punchouts moved him into second place in the International League with 48 over 42 2/3 innings, 11 behind Pawtucket's Jalen Beeks.
Griffin also pointed to an aggressiveness within the strike zone that helped bring Ramirez success on Wednesday. The trend has been evident throughout the season as he's thrown 63.7 percent of his pitches for strikes, improving on a 60.2 percent mark from 2017.
"He's been able to trust his stuff more now since the beginning of the year," the former Major League right-hander said. "He's just trusting his stuff right now and he's able to get ahead in the counts better now. He's able to expand the zone a little bit and it plays for him. It's working for him right now. He's able to expand his four-pitch mix to let those pitches work for him."
Gameday box score
Pirates No. 7 prospect Kevin Newman led off the game with the only hit Ramirez allowed, an infield single. The right-hander set down the next 14 batters before walking Erich Weiss with two outs in the fifth. He concluded his start with seven consecutive outs, fanning second-ranked Austin Meadows and No. 8 Kevin Kramer -- who went down on strikes three times against Ramirez -- in his final frame.
Ramirez was replaced in the eighth by left-hander Andrew Faulkner, who was on the hook for two of the three runs that crossed the plate on Jordan Luplow's game-tying homer off Matt Wotherspoon in the ninth.
Renato Nunez delivered a walk-off single in the bottom of the inning.
Video: Nunez walks it off for Norfolk
Acquired from the Yankees for international bonus money at last year's Trade Deadline, Ramirez spent the entire 2017 season in the Eastern League. He was 10-3 with a 3.41 ERA and 91 strikeouts for Double-A Trenton before the deal, then went 5-0 with a 3.66 ERA and 26 strikeouts in six starts for Bowie.
Signed by the D-backs out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old in 2011, the right-hander broke into pro ball as an infielder in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. He transitioned to the mound the following season and spent the next two years in the DSL before being scooped up by New York in the 2015 Rule 5 Draft.
Ramirez made a steady climb up the Yankees ladder and earned a spot on the 40-man roster after his first full season in 2016 with Class A Charleston and Class A Advanced Tampa. Griffin said he feels that Ramirez has handled the transition to his third organization well.
"Sometimes different scenery just sparks something in you to where you know it's a fresh start," he said. "He's taken advantage of it. ... I just like his confidence factor in his pitches. ... He's come into his own as far as just being relaxed right now, and that's a good sign."
Nunez, claimed off waivers from Texas on Sunday, also smacked a two-run double in the third in his Tides debut. Orioles No. 11 prospect DJ Stewart doubled and singled, bringing his average to .272.
Newman collected the Indians' first two hits, leading off the ninth with a single to center ahead of Meadows' knock that chased Faulkner. The homer was the fourth of the season for Luplow, the Bucs' No. 22 prospect.