Dwyer, three Naturals throw no-no
He had begun the year with a 1-4 record and a 7.46 ERA over his first six starts. He tied career highs with seven earned runs and six walks in his last outing May 4. He was struggling once again in Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
So all the Royals' No. 7 prospect wanted to focus on Thursday was his fastball.
"The fastball is what sets up everything else," Dwyer said.
The 24-year-old lefty's heater helped set up the fifth no-hitter of the Minor League Baseball season. Rehabbing Royals reliever Greg Holland, Dwyer, Brendan Lafferty and Kendal Volz combined for the feat as the Naturals blanked Springfield, 2-0.
Dwyer struck out five and walked two over 6 2/3 no-hit innings as Northwest Arkansas notched its second no-no in the team's two-year history and its first at Arvest Ballpark.
"I didn't want to think about it too much," Dwyer said. "It's just a cool moment. I don't know how to explain it. Obviously, it's in the back of your head, but you don't want to do anything about it. Just keep going pitch by pitch and hope it keeps going. When I left the mound [in the eighth inning], I turned around and realized, 'Damn, it's for real.'"
Dwyer (2-4) entered in the second inning after Holland struck out all three Cardinals he faced on 14 pitches in the first. It marked the first time in 57 career Minor League appearances that the former Clemson hurler had come out of the bullpen.
"It was different," Dwyer said. "But it was not that bad. I knew I was coming in in the second inning, no matter what. So if Greg struggled in the first, there was someone else coming in to finish that out before me in the second. It's just starting a little later, that's all."
But once Dwyer, the Royals' fourth-round pick in 2009, did enter the game, he showed the delayed start was no hurdle. A throwing error by shortstop Christian Colon kept him from a perfect frame in the second. But the southpaw recovered to retire 12 straight Springfield batters between the second and sixth frames before he hit Greg Garcia with one out in the sixth. Later in the inning, he walked Jermaine Curtis before getting Cardinals' No. 3 prospect Oscar Taveras to fly out to center.
Following a perfect seventh in which he struck out two hitters, Dwyer appeared to tire in the eighth when he walked Greg Garcia on five pitches with two outs. After that at-bat, the southpaw's pitch count sat at 103 pitches (60 for strikes), the most Dwyer had ever thrown in 34 appearances at the Double-A level. That's when Naturals manager Brian Poldberg made the difficult decision to pull him.
"Of course, I wanted to stay in," Dwyer said. "But the pitch count was what it was, and it was probably best for me to get out of there. Plus, I had all the confidence in the world in the guys in the bullpen. ... All I did was shook [Poldberg's] hand and head back to the dugout to cheer on my teammates."
Instead of heading back to the showers, Dwyer remained in the dugout as fellow lefty Lafferty got Kolten Wong to fly sharply to right field to end the eighth. Naturals closer Volz needed only eight pitches to retire Jermaine Curtis, Taveras and Kyle Conley in order in the ninth to preserve the achievement.
"Overall, it was just a great team win," Dwyer said. "The whole staff was great. The defense was awesome. The bats came out today as well. It was just great for the whole team."
Still, the moment meant a little something extra for Dwyer, who has struggled mightily since joining Northwest Arkansas last season. In 2011, he was 8-10 with a 5.60 ERA and ranked second in the Texas League with 78 walks. (He was also third with 126 strikeouts.)
This season hasn't gone much better as control issues continued to be a factor. His 19 walks again rank fourth in the Texas League and in his disastrous outing May 4, he threw only 37 of his 79 pitches for strikes.
Enter the fastball.
"You know, commanding my fastball is just what was different about today," Dwyer said. "I was using my fastball as much as I could and really getting some control with it. That's pretty much what I'm going to take away from it today.
"Before, I've been getting behind in a lot of counts, and that's hurt. It felt much better today."
Following Thursday's effort, Dwyer's ERA stands at 5.91, the first time it has been below 6.00 since his second start of the season.
MLB.com's No. 17 prospect Wil Myers went 1-for-2 with an RBI single in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. The center fielder is hitting .342 and has accrued 25 RBIs this season, third in the Texas League.
Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MLB.com.