When the Clinton, Iowa evening cooled down Thursday, Class A Wisconsin starter Drew Gagnon was finally able to heat up.
With start-of-game conditions at 82 degrees and humid, Gagnon struggled to adapt. In the first inning, he allowed his first run since April 12. In the third, Clinton catcher Steven Baron brought home the second run with a sacrifice fly.
But after Baron's RBI, Gagnon and reliever Kevin Shackelford closed out the game by retiring the last 20 batters in order for the Timber Rattlers as the Brewers' Class A affiliate topped the LumberKings, 8-2.
"The first couple innings I had to adjust to the heat, I wasn't used to it at all," said Gagnon. "I was a little bit drained, kind of out of gas. After that, I settled in."
Gagnon (3-0) worked through the seventh, retiring 14 straight on his own. Shackelford picked up from there, sitting down the last six.
Gagnon said he was unprepared for the warm, humid weather in Clinton. But after hydrating a bit in between innings, he was able to return to the form that saw him post 19 1/3 consecutive innings over three starts without allowing a run from April 17-27.
"I started drinking a lot more water in the dugout, should have had Gatorade before the game," he joked. "I wasn't expecting it to be this bad. The humidity kind of did it for me. But as the night went on, it started to cool down. The sun went down, the moon came out, and I started to feel good."
Gagnon finished the night allowing the two runs on three hits without a walk and three strikeouts over seven innings. The outing actually raised his ERA, bringing it up to 1.02 in 35 1/3 innings. The California State Long Beach product also boasts 28 strikeouts and just six walks this year.
"Overall, I've wanted to pound the zone, pitch to contact. My first couple outings I was pitching to strike guys out, now I'm getting better results," said the 21-year-old. "I'm staying in the game longer, keeping my pitch counts low. I think I had 81 pitches tonight. Hopefully, by the middle of the season, if I'm at 81 pitches it means I went the whole game."
In his last two starts, Gagnon has been able to work at least seven innings. None of his previous four lasted longer than six. The 2011 third-round Draft pick said keeping his fastball down and mixing his pitches successfully will be the key to continue his streak of longer starts.
"I need to keep hitting the spots, keep it down in the zone and mix it up pretty well," he said. "Instead of throwing that harder breaking ball [out of the zone], getting them to swing, I just need to hit the glove."
First baseman Gregory Hopkins powered the Wisconsin offense with a 3-for-4 night that included a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored. Designated hitter Jason Rogers added another two RBIs.
Jonathan Raymond is a contributor for MLB.com.