Solar Sox cruise behind Nolin's scoreless start

Blue Jays prospect earns second straight win with five-inning outing

Solar Sox cruise behind Nolin's scoreless start

In his past two starts in the Arizona Fall League, left-hander Sean Nolin has been nearly unhittable. He threw three hitless innings last Saturday and was sharp again when he took the mound Friday.

Nolin, the Blue Jays' No. 11 prospect, threw five scoreless innings and allowed two hits and one walk. His strong start helped lead Mesa to a 5-2 victory at Glendale.

Nolin's last two starts have been a marked improvement on the way he started the fall. After throwing two scoreless innings in his first start, he allowed six runs on nine hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings over his next two.

On Friday, as was the case in his last start, Nolin said he felt comfortable with his stuff on the mound.

"I was definitely feeling good," Nolin said. "Rhythm-wise, it was coming back. I don't know if I was getting a little bit of rust off [those] first two starts or what."

Nolin retired the first nine batters he faced Friday before Darnell Sweeney led off the fourth with a single. Undeterred, Nolin got the next out and then induced an inning-ending double play.

As Nolin was shutting down the Desert Dogs, the Solar Sox were having a difficult time solving right-hander Matt Magill. He struck out two batters and scattered one hit and four walks in four scoreless innings.

"We were definitely matching each other," Nolin said. "He was getting some ground balls, even if he was getting in some trouble."

Mesa scored the game's first run in the fifth after right-hander Zac Reininger relieved Magill. Left fielder Dwight Smith Jr. hit a two-out single past Sweeney at second base to give the Solar Sox the lead. They added two more runs in the seventh thanks to another two-out single, this time from catcher Pedro Severino, and tacked on two more in the ninth.

Smith Jr., Nolin's teammate in the Blue Jays organization, finished the game 3-for-4 with a walk, two runs and an RBI. Severino, the Nationals' No. 11 prospect, went 1-for-4 with a walk and two RBIs.

After three Solar Sox relievers followed Nolin with a scoreless inning apiece, Glendale avoided the shutout thanks to Tim Anderson's home run off right-hander Arik Sikula to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Tyrone Taylor followed with a double and came around to score, but Sikula was able to limit the damage to two runs and finish off Mesa's victory.

Anderson, the White Sox No. 2 prospect, finished the game 1-for-4 and has two home runs this fall. Sweeney, the Dodgers' No. 13 prospect, also went 1-for-4 and has now reached base safely in all 12 games he has played in the Fall League.

Nolin earned the victory Friday, his second in a row. He said he has been working on pounding the strike zone, especially early in the count, and putting batters away this fall. As the season has progressed, he said he's done a better job of executing those things in games.

"The last couple starts, I've been competing a lot better," Nolin said. "I've been throwing strikes early and late. I'm focusing on not walking too may batters."

Thanks to the Fall Stars Game on Saturday, both teams have the full weekend off before starting the final two weeks of the AFL season on Monday. Mesa is 11-9-1 and in second place in the East division, 3 1/2 games behind Salt River. Nolin said the Solar Sox are clicking as a team.

"We're all playing pretty hard and we're all coming together as a team pretty well," Nolin said. "The first few days, everyone was pretty much with their own teams, but I think that comes with the job we have to do here. Everyone seems to be having a lot of fun and working hard at the same time."

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.