Delabar, Faris tag team shutouts

The Great Lakes Loons are looking for their pride after being shutout in both halves of a doubleheader on Wednesday night. Steve Delabar pitched 6.2 innings of no-hit ball and Stephen Faris allowed just two singles – the two combined to toss 12.2 innings of shutout ball before the bullpen preserved their respective leads. We talked to both starters after the game.

On June 14, Steve Delabar worked 6.2 innings against West Michigan before surrendering a hit – the lone knock against him. Things didn't start off quite the same for the right-hander. He hit the first batter of the game.

"A couple of weeks ago I did the same six and two-third perfect and gave up a hit," Delabar began. "Tonight – ‘Well, the first batter is out of the way, there goes that.'"

Things took a similar turn to that day two weeks back when Delabar retired the next 20 batters and stood one out away from a no-hitter.

"The slider wasn't there to begin with but the fastball, splitter was," he explained. "We went with that the first inning. The second inning, the slider was still inconsistent. Third, fourth, fifth, the slider started to come around. The fastball, splitter was working and later on the slider started working. We would get 0-1 and then go slider, maybe another fastball, and finish them off with a splitter."

Standing on the mound with two outs, the no-hit bid was clear in his mind.

"Hit it at somebody or don't hit it at all," Delabar said of his thoughts as he faced off against Eduardo Perez.

Perez struck out swinging in the first inning and grounded back to the mound in the fourth.

Down 0-2, the tandem of Delabar and catcher Matt Stocco got greedy.

"We got him 0-2 and Stocco gave me the fastball and pointed up," said Delabar. "It was a fastball and I didn't get it up high enough. We were going for the punch out. It happens."

Since moving back into the starting rotation, albeit down a level, Delabar has allowed six runs over 24 innings for a 2.25 ERA.

As a reliever, split between two levels, the righty amassed a 6.06 ERA.

Things are clearly better when he takes the bump at the start of the game.

"Earlier this year I thought the relieving role was fine," Delabar said. "I didn't have a problem with it. I felt good knowing I could show up to the ballpark and know there was a chance I might pitch that night.

"Starting you know you are not going to pitch that day but say, ‘What else can I do to get ready for the next start?' There is a routine involved as opposed to relieving where you say, ‘I could throw today so I can't cut it loose. I might pitch tonight.'

"Starting you go out and get into your routine – and that is a big word ‘routine' – and you get everything down and it all builds up to the next start. I think that is what I had going last year and this year I just remembered what I did last year."

Is he disappointed that he was moved down a level?

"Not at all because being back in the starting rotation – the comfort level is a lot higher. I know when I am going to pitch. It just makes it a lot easier for me because I have been in that role for so long instead of going out and in the back of your mind asking, ‘Is this the day I am going to pitch?' You are up and down all day."

And then there are two one-hitters over the span of three starts.

"Watching him throw helped me," Stephen Faris said. "Seeing some of the batters, and we played them earlier in the season where I saw a few things, but he just refreshed my memory on how to get some of these guys out. He threw well and I was glad to back it up and throw well."

After a short break, it was Faris' turn.

Over the first three innings, Faris was perfect. And the Wizards began to wonder if it was his night to get the no-no.

"It was great," Delabar said of Faris' outing. "That was awesome. He didn't give up a hit until the fourth. We were hoping he would get it. That would have been great for him."

With two outs in the fourth and 11 straight outs recorded, Faris served up a pair of singles, both to centerfield, to end his bid for perfection.

Faris then retired the final seven batters and Derek McDaid took care of the last three – a two-hitter and three hits allowed over the doubleheader.

"I was kind of kidding around with him saying, ‘Good start,'" said Faris. "After I threw I said, ‘Well, you beat me. You gave up one hit and I gave up two.'

"It was a little bit of a competition but at the same time you are teammates and you are throwing against the other team, the other side, the other dugout."

Faris has given up two hits over his last 10 innings while striking out nine and has kept the leadoff hitter of an inning to a .153 on base percentage on the year.

The defense was stellar behind both pitchers with no errors over the pair of contests. It raised their fielding percentage to .969 for the season, tied for fourth best in the 14-team league.

And that is the basis of where they want to be for the second half, working off strong pitching and defense.

"If we shut down there offense and we get three or four runs a game – things are going to look good from there," Delabar said.

"That is the way I pitch," Faris began. "I am not an overpowering guy. I am a throw to contact and let the defense play behind you. It is a quicker game, in and out. And I think I can work deeper into the games if I get those guys rolling on those pitches. So far it has been good.

"I like the way our team has come together the second half. We have moved on from that and used the strategy of pitching and defense, scoring a few runs – and the bats have come around lately – sticking to our guns and we are on our way."

The Wizards have won five straight and are 5-2 in the second half of the season after going 31-38 in the first half. Their seven shutouts are tied for third-most in the Midwest League. While they have hit the fewest homers in the circuit, strong pitching could pave the way for a successful second half and a playoff berth.

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