Behind one of the best pitching staffs in the league, the Hillcats have a slender lead in the second-half standings. It seems that as Gus Schlosser goes, so does the Atlanta Braves' Class A Advanced affiliate.
Schlosser gave up one hit while striking out six batters over eight innings Wednesday as the Hillcats beat the Potomac Nationals, 6-2.
P-Nats' leadoff hitter Adrian Sanchez singled to right field to begin the bottom of the first inning. He stole second base and advanced to third on catcher Shawn McGill's throwing error, but Schlosser induced a 5-2 forceout off Xavier Nady and got David Freitas to fly out to center field to end the inning.
"It was on an 0-2 count," the 23-year-old said. "I made a [bad] pitch in the middle half of the plate. It was just in a bad spot. It was a fastball that caught too much of the plate.
"I would throw the same pitch again, I would just want to command it better. The plan was right, I just didn't execute. I can't beat myself up about it."
After threatening to score in the opening frame, Potomac never came close again against the Florida Southern College alum, who then tossed seven perfect innings. After Sanchez's single, Schlosser retired 24 consecutive batters.
"I was pretty good," the 6-foot-4 right-hander said. "I made some pitches early in the count to get ahead. Overall, I was pretty good.
"I mostly threw my four-seam and two-seam fastball, but I used my slider in good spots. I think I had two strikeouts with my slider on 3-2 counts. I didn't use my changeup that much. I was able to get ahead with my fastball and I moved it in and out. There was only one lefty in the lineup and we had a solid approach."
Despite throwing only 87 pitches -- 62 for strikes -- the Hillcats replaced Schlosser with Blaine Sims in the ninth. Sims allowed two runs on three hits, a walk and an error, but he wrapped up the victory to keep the Hillcats at the top of the standings.
The win helped Schlosser improve to 10-4 and lower his ERA to 3.22.
His 10 wins move him into a tie for first place in the Carolina League with teammate Cody Martin, while his ERA ranks fifth among all qualifying pitchers on the circuit.
"[This start] probably ranks second or third," said the native of Sarasota, Fla. "I had a start vs. Winston-Salem (one run on four hits while striking out a season-high 10 batters over seven innings) that was very good and the one against Frederick (eight three-hit innings) was also pretty good.
"This year has been pretty good. I've been working with my pitching coach [Derek Botelho] and Bo has helped me a lot. We've been making sure I can command the ball to lefties better and let my two-seam work."
On Wednesday, Lynchburg left fielder Adam Milligan homered, tripled and plated two and shortstop Nick Ahmed added a pair of doubles, three RBIs and a walk in the triumph.
Potomac starter Chien-Ming Wang (0-1) allowed three runs on three hits over four innings pitched. He walked two batters, struck out one and threw 66 pitches, 36 for strikes.
The rehabbing veteran is 3-2 across four Minor League levels this year. He was 2-3 with a 7.61 ERA in seven games -- four starts -- with the Nationals this year.