Andrew Faulkner has very rarely been off the mark this season for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, so there shouldn’t have been much concern about how he would rebound Thursday night coming off his shakiest outing of the year.
And sure enough, Faulkner didn’t just bounce back – he did so while turning in his most impressive start in a season already full of them.
The hard-throwing left-hander yielded only two hits and a walk over seven scoreless innings while matching a season-high with nine strikeouts to lead Myrtle Beach to an 11-2 win over the visiting Potomac Nationals before a lively crowd of 6,166 at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark.
“It was just one of those nights where I felt good and everybody was clicking. A lot of run support too,” Faulkner said.
To say the least. The offense was busy all night while collecting 15 hits to help the Pelicans improve to 49-27 overall and 5-3 in the season’s second half.
Left fielder Nick Williams, designated hitter David Lyon and shortstop Hanser Alberto each had home runs to lead the scoring binge.
As for Faulkner (5-1), he had entered the evening sixth in the Carolina League with a 2.69 earned-run average despite giving up a season-high five earned runs and nine hits in five innings last week against Wilmington.
And he was back in more familiar form Thursday night while allowing only a single and a walk through the first five innings.
The Nationals (43-33, 5-2), who won the first game of the series, didn’t get a runner in scoring position – or have a hard-hit ball to the outfield, for that matter – until Pedro Severino crushed a one-out double off the wall in left-center in the top of the sixth inning. Faulkner retired the next two batters to end the threat, though, and then struck out the first two batters in the seventh before second baseman Christopher Bostick made a full extension diving grab up the middle to end the inning.
Faulkner was very complimentary of his defense, but he deserved plenty of praise himself.
“[He was] just getting back in the groove,” Pelicans pitching coach Steve Mintz said. “We do a thing where we kind of back them off a little bit and then we stretch them out. Last time was just getting him back out and getting his pitch count up, and tonight … getting the breaking ball in the zone for strikes really set up the fastball to be able to put them away.”
It didn’t hurt that while Faulkner was cruising on the mound, the Pelicans were getting the job done just as well at the plate.
“Oh my goodness, when you get in the dugout after the first inning and have two runs, that’s pretty nice,” Faulkner said. “It just helps your confidence, and then all of a sudden you have 7 and 10.”
Chris Garia led off the bottom of the first with an opposite field double to shallow right field, Alberto reached on a bunt single and Williams followed with an RBI single through the right side to give Myrtle Beach a quick lead.
Jorge Alfaro drove home another run on a fielder’s choice groundout, and although the Pelicans left the bases loaded in the first, they nonetheless had a 2-0 lead and had set the tone for the rest of the game.
Lyon led off the bottom of the fourth with his sixth homer of the season, Chris Grayson followed two batters later with an RBI double and another run came home on a double-play groundout by Alberto to make it 5-0.
Two innings later, Williams hit a towering opposite field homer – his seventh – that just cleared the fence in left. And in the eighth, Garia delivered an opposite-field RBI double down the third base line before Alberto followed on the next pitch with a three-run homer (his fifth) to left-center to make it 11-2.
The Nationals got their only runs in the top of that eighth inning when Severino crushed a two-run home off the scoreboard in left-center off reliever Cody Ege.
Garia finished 3-for-5 with two doubles, two runs scored and an RBI, Williams was 3-for-5 with three RBIs, Alberto was 2-for-4 with three runs and three RBI, and Preston Beck, Bostick and Grayson each picked up two hits as well.
Matthew Spann (5-2) took the loss for Potomac, giving up 10 hits and five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings.
“It’s contagious,” Pelicans manager Joe Mikulik said of the offensive outburst. “Hopefully that can carry over.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318 or on Twitter @RyanYoungTSN.