ALLENTOWN – With 12 days off, pitchers can have a tendency to be a bit rusty. Not Nelson Figueroa.
Figueroa had spent his time with the Phillies as a reliever and only pitched 18 innings this year. After clearing waivers, the right-hander stepped into the role of a starter and went a surprising six innings of solid-shutout work as the IronPigs won their second straight game, downing the Charlotte Knights, 1-0.
"He pitched a real good game, he always had good numbers at triple-A," 'Pig manager Dave Huppert said of Figueroa's 2009 campaign that featured a 7-5, 2.25 ERA in 17 starts for Buffalo (N.Y.Mets).
Normally an aggressive team at the plate, Huppert was surprised at the passive approach Charlotte players took toward Figueroa, who throws a lot of strikes. By getting ahead in the count, Figueroa controlled the game from the center of the diamond.
The only run came off the bat of catcher Paul Hoover. His perfectly located bloop single to right field allowed Chris Duffy to score from second.
"We made some real nice plays defensively and got just enough hits to win," Huppert said. "Every hit counted for something."
In the top of the sixth inning, Charlotte's Jordan Danks screamed a Figueroa offering to the deep into the left centerfield gap. A sure lead-off extra base hit was smothered by the diving catch by newly acquired centerfield Willy Tavares.
"That was a nice running catch, he laid all the way out," Huppert described.
Opposing pitcher Matt Zaleski became the hard luck loser on the night. He held the IronPigs hitless into the fifth inning. The first hit surrendered was Chris Duffy's one out single to which he later scored.
Figueroa only gave up two hits in his six innings of work, walking two and striking out four. He was relieved by Oscar Villarreal who retired all four batters he faced.
Scott Mathieson (1.33 ERA) came on to record four outs for his 10th straight save of the season.
"Heck, we haven't been on this side of [one run gmaes], " Huppert said referring to only the sixth one-run win of the year as opposed to 16 losses. "You'd think a team with our record we would be getting blown out every night,"
"If we win half, we'd be .500 around now."
The Iron Pigs (22-35) begin the second half of their homestand with a four game series against Detroits top-feeder team, the Toledo Mudhens (32-26).
Tuesday's game, Nate Bump (5-3, 2.96) takes the mound against Alfredo Figaro (4-3, 4.73) with a start time of 7:05.