Jagged Little Pilk: Konnor Pilkington flirts with no-no, pitches the Dash to victory

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Konnor Pilkington turned in a sorely-needed quality start, only running into trouble in the fifth inning, and the bats were lively early as the Dash defeated the Carolina Mudcats 6-4 on Saturday evening.

Pilkington has flashed dominance over his 14 starts so far with the Dash; a six-inning, 12-strikeout shutout here, seven runs and just one run allowed there. He’s tall, 6’3”, throws in the low nineties, has some bite to his breaking stuff, but sometimes just not enough. Over 64.2 innings thrown before today’s game, Pilkington had given up 43 runs, striking out 64 but walking 30. However, he’s only hit one batter with a pitch, and his five home runs translate to 0.70 dongs per nine (DP9, as I like to call it, or HR/9 as most other people do).

Pilkington showed off his promise on the mound for the Dash on Saturday. Picture credit to Sean Williams/FutureSox

Pilkington, pictured here pitching in Arizona, showed off his promise on the mound for the Dash on Saturday. Picture credit to Sean Williams/FutureSox

This means that while his ERA is 5.98 (5.73 after his effort today), his FIP, which is more concerned with what a pitcher can actually control without fielders, is just 3.85. FIP is adjusted to be on the same scale as ERA, so you can see the mismatch there, and that basically means that Pilkington should, at some point, bounce back from this rough stretch. He’s pitching better than his numbers generally show, and he’s been bitten by the basilisk of bad luck, allowing a .365 batting average on balls in play.

Maybe today was the start of that comeback. Pilkington went through his first four innings like butter, walking one in the first inning and allowing no other baserunners. The fifth inning is where things could have fallen apart much more than they did. Mudcat Eddie Silva broke up Pilkington’s no-hitter to lead off the frame and advanced to second base on Wes Rogers’ single. With two outs (both strikeouts), Pilkington walked Zach Clark, then gave up a two-run single to Brice Turang to cut the Dash’s lead to 6-2.

And then he pitched the sixth inning with ease, three up, three down. He struck out two in the first, one in the third, one in the fourth, two in the fifth, and one in the sixth. He only allowed runners to reach base in the first and fifth innings, and only allowed hits in the fifth. He threw 95 pitches, 62 strikes, 33 balls.

In the seventh, he was relieved by Wyatt Burns, who’s had an interesting year. Burns signed last season as an undrafted free agent and pitched well out of the bullpen for the rookie league Great Falls Voyagers. This season, Burns started with the Dash, pitched pretty well, was pulled down to extended spring training in Arizona midway through April, returned at the beginning of May, continued pitching pretty well, was called up to the Barons after a month, did not pitch well, was sent down after another month all the way to the Intimidators, where he pitched decently, then came back up to the Dash yesterday. Hopefully, he is a member of a frequent flyer program. In any event, he struck out two in a scoreless seventh but then gave up two runs in the eighth, allowing three singles and a wild pitch before retiring a batter.

Bennett Sousa pitched the ninth. He allowed a double, but everyone else he faced struck out swinging. Sousa has allowed a total of five earned runs over 19.2 High-A innings, and all five of those have come on four home runs. That’s a pretty unsustainable number of home runs allowed, but if he only ever gives up runs on dingers…

Speaking of dingers, the Dash scored a bunch of runs in the first two innings and then none at all for the entire rest of the game. Four of their five hits came in those two innings, the fifth a fifth-inning single by Mitch Roman; the only Dash batter to reach base after the fifth was Steele Walker, who walked in the seventh.

Walker has ceded the three-hole to Andrew Vaughn, migrating up in the order to bat leadoff. He started the game off with a single, which was followed up by Mitch Roman’s bunt single against the shift and down the third base line, taking a page out of Craig Dedelow’s book. Vaughn walked on five pitches to load the bases with nobody out. Dedelow, batting fourth, elected not to go for his bunt-to-third strategy, and instead doubled to right field, scoring Walker and Roman. Carlos Perez hit a sacrifice fly to score Vaughn and advance Dedelow to third; Jameson Fisher also hit one to drive Dedelow in.

Walker lived up to his name this game, drawing two free passes, the first with two outs in the second. On a 1-1 count and after several pickoff attempts, Roman lifted one to deep left field, first going, then going, and finally gone, his first home run with the Dash this season. That gave the team a six-spot they would cling onto for the rest of the game.

Overall, Roman had quite the day, going 3-for-4, scoring two runs, and driving in two. Walker singled and scored two runs in addition to his two walks. Vaughn went hitless, but walked once. Dedelow drove in two and scored once on one double.

Jonathan Stiever wraps up this homestand on Sunday at 2 pm.

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