Just 24 hours after he’d spun the best pitching performance of his professional career, the Mustangs’ Tyler Mahle was already looking forward to his next start.
“It’s one outing. I’ve still got a lot more to go,” Mahle said Monday. “It’s not going to make my whole season. I’m just focusing on repeating it. I doubt I’ll throw another nine-inning shutout, but I’m just working on trying to keep the ball down and get ground balls and let the defense work behind me.”
Mahle threw the first nine-inning complete-game of the Pioneer League this season on Sunday against Ogden at Dehler Park. It was the Mustangs’ first complete-game shutout since Jim Paduch’s nine-inning no-hitter in Game 2 of the 2003 league championship series against Provo on Sept. 12, 2003.
But a night removed from Mahle’s gem, the Mustangs retreated to their old ways during the course of their previous six games, losing 10-3 while committing eight errors.
Billings finished its homestand 1-6. After an off-day on Tuesday, the team will hit the road for a seven-game swing through Idaho Falls and Ogden.
“You never want to go 1-6, especially at home,” Mustangs manager Dick Schofield said. “We just flat-out got beat. Hopefully we’ll go to their parks and return the favor.”
Mahle’s Sunday brilliance was a reversal from three of his previous starts, after which his ERA ballooned to 7.78. But he mowed through the Raptors one after another, allowing just three hits while striking out six and not giving up a walk. He required just 80 pitches.
The 19-year-old righthander was much happier with his location -- down in the zone with his fastball while keeping hitters honest with good breaking pitches.
“My last five outings, from looking at video, I saw that I was leaving (fastballs) up waist-high and thigh-high. So I was getting hit a lot,” he said. “The first slider I threw (Sunday) was hard and it broke out of the strike zone, and then I thought back to what we’d been working on, and every offspeed after that was a quality pitch.”
“He got ahead and spotted up pretty well,” said Ogden’s Devin Ahart, who went 4 for 6 and got on base six times to burn the Mustangs on Monday. “He went offspeed in the right times and right situations and had us off balance. We hit the ball, but we hit it to the wrong places. That’s all you need as a pitcher. He had a great performance.”
Mahle’s next start will probably be this weekend in Ogden.
KEY MOMENT: Schofield was ejected in the sixth inning Monday night for arguing with plate umpire Jesus Gonzalez. Schofield took issue with a called third strike against Kevin Franklin. Alex Greer then struck out, and the Mustangs squandered a two-on, no-out situation trailing by three runs. Things only went downhill from there.
ON THE MOUND: Mustangs pitchers didn’t benefit from eight errors, but starter Jeremy Kivel (0-3) didn’t help himself when he committed two of them on the same play in the fourth inning. He mishandled an Ahart tapper that allowed the speedy leadoff hitter to reach first, then fired high over first base, which put Ahart on second. The hard-throwing Kivel was pulled after he gave up a two-run homer to Jacob Chigbogu two two-outs in the fifth.
AT THE PLATE: Ahart, an Akron product, had eight hits in the three-game series. The Raptors had 18 hits in Monday’s finale, including three by both Colin Hering and 18-year-old catcher Julian Leon, who raised his average to .333. Greer had a big night for Billings, going 3 for 4 with two triples and two RBIs. “He hasn’t had much playing time, so it was fun to watch,” Schofield said.
UP NEXT: The Mustangs hope their fortunes change on the road. After Tuesday’s off day, Billings will travel to Idaho Falls for three games starting Wednesday. A four-game series at Ogden begins on Saturday.