Durham Bulls

Jake Faria flirts with no-hitter, leads Durham Bulls to 6-0 win over Gwinnett Braves

Nerves had nothing to do with Durham Bulls pitcher Jake Faria losing his no-hitter with two outs in the sixth inning on Saturday night.

Yes, ignorance was bliss.

When Gwinnett’s Sean Kazmar stroked a base hit into the left-field corner for his team’s first hit, Faria noticed the Braves dugout cheering unusually wildly for a lopsided game.

“Their whole team went crazy,” Faria said. “So I looked at the scoreboard and saw they had a hit, a one in that column. Whoa. Ok. I wish I would have gotten him out then.”

That turned out to be the lone hit Faria allowed in a sterling effort as the Bulls blasted the Braves 6-0 in International League baseball at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

The right-hander pitched 6 ⅓ innings, striking out nine and issuing just two walks on 102 pitches. He’s 5-1 and leads the International League with 71 strikeouts.

Faria walked a batter in each of the first two innings before retiring 14 Braves in a row.

“He kind of settled in after the first two innings,” Bulls manager Jared Sandberg said “Once he settled in the fastball command got better which allowed the off-speed pitch to play up and be a swing-and-miss (pitch), which he’s already shown it can be.”

Faria even stayed engaged with his teammates in the dugout, breaking the time-honored baseball tradition of players ignoring the pitcher when he’s not on the mound during a no-hit bid.

Faria, the No 9 prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, is intentionally keeping a running dialogue with his teammates during his outings this season. It started in spring training as a way for him to keep from replaying the last inning in his mind.

“I used to be that guy who said don’t even come within a foot of me,” Faria said. “That would get my head running if I had a bad inning. I could have a good game but if I had one bad inning, that whole inning ran through my mind. So now, if it’s a good or bad inning, I try to keep the conversation going.”

There was plenty of good to talk about in the Bulls dugout the entire game.

The Bulls hit Gwinnett hard with a five-run first inning to take control. The Braves helped as well.

Durham’s first five batters of the game reached base in a variety of ways.

Mallex Smith bunted to start the inning. Gwinnett pitcher Matt Wisler fielded the ball and threw wildly to first base, allowing Smith to reach on an infield single and reach second on the error.

Willy Adames followed with a line drive to the wall in left-centerfield for a triple and 1-0 Bulls lead.

Jake Bauers struck out swinging, but the third strike was a wild pitch. Bauers reached first safely and Adames scored for a 2-0 Bulls lead.

Patrick Leonard singled and Shane Peterson followed with a bunt single when he beat Wisler’s throw to first base.

With the bases loaded and no outs, Casey Gillaspie struck out. But Curt Casali restarted the rally with a line-drive single that drove in two runs for a 4-0 Bulls lead.

Peterson then scored on Johnny Field’s sacrifice fly and the Bulls were up 5-0.

Bauers added a solo home run to centerfield in the fifth inning putting the Bulls up 6-0.

Relief pitchers Adam Kolarek, Jeff Ames and Ryan Garton completed the combined shutout effort for first-place Durham (27-14).

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC