John Richy may not have had his best stuff early on Thursday night, but he threw so few pitches, no one may have been able to tell. By the time he established his fastball through the middle innings, the righty became an equation opposing hitters could not solve.
Richy spun the California League's first nine-inning complete-game shutout of 2015, allowing just four hits and striking out five without issuing a walk to lead Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga over Modesto, 7-0.
The Dodgers' No. 20 prospect allowed half of his eventual hit total through the first two innings, surrendering Rosell Herrera's one-out double in the first inning and Correlle Prime's leadoff single in the second. As he began to gain the feel of his pitches, he clamped down on the Nuts' lineup.
"He started out where his command was mediocre, but he induced some contact and used his teammates," Rancho Cucamonga pitching coach Bill Simas said. "Then his fastball command after the third inning was really good. That was kind of the difference in his outing."
After Prime's single, Richy (6-2) got Troy Stein to bounce into a double play that started a run of nine straight batters retired. The lone threat Richy faced came in the fifth. After Stein was hit by a pitch, he went to second base on Wilfredo Rodriguez's groundout to second. Wilson Soriano followed with a single that looked like it could get Modesto on the board, but Stein was cut down by center fielder Travis Witherspoon's throw.
"We've been putting an emphasis on his fastball command," Simas said. "I'm a firm believer that every pitch you throw comes off your fastball. He's been hit-and-miss with that command of his fastball throughout his starts, so we've been putting a lot of emphasis on his fastball."
After pitching with traffic in the fifth, Richy needed just four pitches to breeze through the sixth. The UNLV product retired 13 of the last 14 men he faced and needed just 82 pitches to complete his outing.
"He really got locked in," Simas said. "He was throwing good, quality fastballs. The other team recognized that he was throwing strikes. They were trying to get him early, and they were hitting balls right at the defense."
The win marked the fourth time in five starts that Richy went at least seven innings. It also came as a rebound effort to a loss five days ago, during which Richy allowed eight runs -- seven earned -- on 11 hits over six innings at San Jose.
"We ran into a really hot team in San Jose when we were there," Simas said. "He gave up a few runs late in the game there. He had a low pitch count and then late in the game, he gave up three. He pitched decent there. He didn't do anything different [Thursday]. We've just been really concentrating on fastball command, and when he does that, he's really good."
The Quakes offense backed their starter's effort by scoring in six of their eight innings at the plate. Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers' No. 17 prospect, went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer to right field in the third. Paul Hoenecke added a solo shot to right in the sixth.
Modesto starter Antonio Senzatela (3-3), Colorado's No. 11 prospect, was charged with four runs -- three earned -- on six hits over five innings for the loss.
Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.