For years, baseball players have said that hitting is contagious.
Over the last four days, the Tri-City Dust Devils have proven that good pitching is, too.
On Sunday, the Dust Devils registered their second consecutive shutout -- third in four games -- with a 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canadians at Gesa Stadium.
Tri-City starter Tyler Gagnon, a 6-foot-2 right-hander from Brentwood, Calif., scattered just two hits over six innings and matched a career-high with eight strikeouts to improve to 2-1. Left-hander Ken Roberts allowed three hits with five strikeouts over the final three innings to earn his fifth save.
"When you're facing an aggressive team, you've got to go out and throw strikes," said Gagnon, who was spotting up his fastball between 88-90 mph and mixing in a solid curve and changeup to keep Canadians hitters off balance. "I felt really steady. I work fast and don't like to sit around."
It was a fun night, too, for Ryan Casteel, who two nights ago caught Christian Bergman's complete-game shutout and was treated to another gem Sunday.
"I can't describe it. We have some incredible pitchers. Hats off to them," Casteel said. "It comes down to everybody trusting the system. It's about pitching to contact and not trying to strike everybody out."
On Saturday night, four pitchers, led by starter Nelson Gonzalez, also combined on a seven-hit, 6-0 shutout over Vancouver.
The Dust Devils' win was their third in a row and ninth in their last 10. Tri-City (5-1) maintained a two-game lead in the East Division over Spokane (3-3) and has the benefit of a stress-free second half after winning the first-half crown.
"We're feeling really comfortable as a team, more relaxed," Dust Devils manager Fred Ocasio said. "But we expect to win every day."
Ocasio, who has been a part of the Tri-City franchise since it arrived in Pasco in 2001, said this is the best team he's seen in terms of a complete package.
"If we're talking about fundamentals -- offense, pitching and defense -- then yes," he said. "We had a great offensive team in 2009, but our pitching wasn't as consistent. This year, we're putting everything together."
The Dust Devils put up two runs in the third inning thanks in part to a pair of errors by C's second baseman Jon Berti. Jayson Langfels singled to lead off the inning, and Jaron Shepherd tried to bunt him over. But Berti dropped the throw from first baseman Kevin Patterson, allowing Langfels to head to third.
After an RBI single from Brian Humphries, Tim Smalling hit a double-play grounder to shortstop Shane Opitz, but Berti's throw to first bounced away from Patterson, scoring Shepherd for a 2-0 lead.
Langfels and Shepherd, the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, combined for three hits and all four runs. Humphries finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
"Everybody's just trying to get the job done," Shepherd said. "There's always room for improvement."
But it's difficult to imagine playing much better than this.
Vancouver starter Kramer Champlin (0-1) took the loss, allowing two earned runs on four hits in four innings.
Notes: The Dust Devils get their second of three days off today, and they will play in their traditional team golf tournament. Teams of four will be matched up in hopes of earning a spot on the tournament plaque posted in the Dave Lemak Clubhouse. Ocasio was on two of the first three winning teams since the event began in 2005. Pitching coach Dave Burba is reportedly the best player, while hitting coach Anthony Sanders has been a part of the winning foursome in three of the last four seasons. Dust Devils GM Derrel Ebert earned his first win last season, teaming with Chad Bettis, Josh Hungerman and David Herndandez. "Sanders always finds a way to cheat," Ocasio joked. "Derrel hits the ball a long way, but he's going down (today)."