Former relief pitcher Chris Province retired the first 19 Richmond batters Wednesday night, leading the New Britain Rock Cats to a 3-1 win over the Flying Squirrels in Eastern League action.
Province (6-5) registered 13 ground ball outs, and was aided by several defensive gems from his infielders. Shortstop Estarlin de los Santos was busy all evening, recording nine assists.
“My defense was magnificent, the effort they put in tonight was unbelievable,” Province said.
Making just his third start of the season after 41 relief outings, Province carried a perfect game into the seventh inning. After retiring Darren Ford on a fly ball to center, Brad Boyer broke up the no-hit bid with a hard grounder that just eluded the dive of second baseman Steve Singleton.
Thomas Neal followed with a run-scoring double, and an out later, Province left the game to a standing ovation from the crowd of 5,971 at New Britain Stadium.
“I looked up at the scoreboard every inning, and there was no way to hide it,” Province said. “I tried to attack every hitter with a plan, and get them out with as few pitches as possible.”
“I’m really happy for him,” said Rock Cats manager Jeff Smith. “He got off to a rough start early in the season, coming over from (the Boston Red Sox) organization, but he’s got bulldog mentality, he’s a winner and he’s got a lot of fight in him. I like his composure and the way he handles himself on the mound.”
Carlos Gutierrez pitched the final 2 1/3 innings to earn his second save.
Jair Fernandez provided all the offense the Rock Cats would need in the second inning, belting his fourth home run with Singleton on base off Richmond starter Mike macDonald (4-8).
New Britain added an insurance run in the fifth on a fielder’s choice grounder by de los Santos. Mark Dolenc was tagged by catcher Tyler LaTorre, but knocked the ball loose to score the run.
The Rock Cats will look to sweep the three-game set Thursday when they entertain the Squirrels in the series finale at 7:05 p.m.