There were a couple hints early on for Drew Gagnon that his night might go pretty well.
The starter felt pretty good warming up in the bullpen. And once he got on the mound for the game, he felt like his catcher, Colton Plaia, was just 40 feet away, rather than 60 feet, six inches.
“When he feels that close, that’s an amazing feeling,” Gagnon said.
Only good things followed for Gagnon, who threw a complete game shutout in a 6-0 victory over Tacoma in the series opener at Cashman Field.
Gagnon essentially stayed out of trouble all night, allowing just two hits while striking out eight.
“He commanded all three pitches. A lot of swing and misses today. Easy contact. Got a couple nice double plays,” manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “(The) defense behind him was solid (and he) didn’t get flustered at all. He was in total control.”
He didn’t allow a runner past second base, aided by a pair of double plays.
He faced just one batter over the minimum and retired the last 14 Rainiers (64-69) he faced.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve done a nine-inning complete game and that felt awesome,” Gagnon said. “That was pretty amazing. I had great defense behind me. Plaia was awesome. Everyone was on the same page. The balls were hit at guys. … They would make the plays. It was great, great, great defense. I was able to throw strikes with all my pitches and that was huge so it all mixed together.”
It was the first time a 51s (66-68) starter threw a nine-inning complete game all season and it was a bounce back performance for Gagnon after he had given up nine runs in his past two starts — which spanned 10 innings — combined.
Gagnon said being on control of himself was the biggest difference for him on Tuesday.
“The last two starts, it could have gone different ways but it’s pitch location I’d say,” Gagnon said. “I was able to throw balls in the dirt, elevate, in and out. And that’s the difference from the last two games.”
His slider, in particular, was his go-to on Tuesday, he said.
“Usually it’s the changeup-curveball combo but we kind of shied away from the changeup for a couple innings and then we brought it back for the seventh, eighth and ninth so I think it kept them off balance against us,” Gagnon said. “Just kind of kept messing with their heads and it felt great to do that.”
He got all the run support he needed in the first inning when the 51s scored four runs on RBI doubles from Patrick Kivlehan, Bryce Brentz and Zach Borenstein.
Kivlehan added a two-run home run in the sixth inning, his 17th of the season.
“I thought he played well at third. Got a broken bat base hit to right, made a couple of nice plays,” DeFrancesco said. “It was good to see him in the lineup.”
Brentz made his first start since tweaking his ankle over the weekend.
DeFrancesco said he reaggrevated his ankle on his RBI double. He was taken out of the game Tuesday and is day-to-day.