The difference for Blake Shouse was a matter of a few inches. In his first two outings of the season, he struggled leaving the ball up in the strike zone, allowing 12 runs in just four innings.
A couple inches lower in the strike zone made all the difference Wednesday night, as the right-hander threw five scoreless innings to get the 1-0 win over the Eugene Emeralds at Gesa Stadium in front of a crowd of 2,953.
“I didn't try to do too much,” Shouse said after getting his first win of the season. “I wanted to work down in the zone and get ahead.”
With the win, Tri-City improves to 6-7 and takes three of five from Eugene. The Dust Devils are at Vancouver today.
Four Dust Devils pitchers combined for the team's first shutout of the season.
“I thought Blake did a great job tonight and our bullpen did a good job,” said Tri-City manager Drew Saylor.
Tri-City had just two hits in the game, one being a lead off infield single by Marcos Derkes. He moved to second on a error by Eugene starter Michael Kelly on a pickoff attempt at first base. After advancing to third on a Sam Bumpers groundout, Derkes came around to score on a wild pitch.
“You hope that (the one run won't hold) up, but tonight it did,” Saylor said.
The Dust Devils other hit was a sharp single up the middle with one out in the sixth inning.
Eugene, coming off an 8-7 Win the previous night, scattered six hits, but did not have a runner reach third base.
The Ems best scoring chance came in the top of the sixth inning on back-to-back singles from Trea Turner and Chase Jensen. But Turner got a little over zealous on Jensen’s single to left-centerfield and got pickoff at second by a great relay and tag by Felipe Blanco.
Shouse was in control most of the night, keeping hitters off balance with a good variety of fastballs and off speed pitches. He allowed just three hits and struck out two and walked one.
“I thing I got in a groove and tried to keep a good tempo,” Shouse said.
Scott Firth pitched a scoreless ninth to get his fourth save of the season.
“We are finding ways to finish ballgames,” Saylor said.
Eugene starter Michael Kelly had his second straight solid outing. Kelly went five innings allowing just one run on one hit. He struck out four and walked one.
The lone run he allowed came in a flurry of his defensive mistakes. Trying to pick Marcos Derkes off first base, he threw the ball down the right-field line as Derkes scooted to second base. He then scored on a wild pitch for the game's only run.
“You still get some jitters every time you go out there,” Shouse said. “You just try to focus on your plan and I did that tonight.”
Dust Devils pitching coach Frank Gonzales missed the game to watch his son, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Marco Gonzales, in his major league debut against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver.
Gonzales, the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick out of Gonzaga in 2013, allowed five runs and seven hits over five innings.
The Cardinals won 9-6, but Gonzales did not figure into the decision.