By Blue Rocks PR 2:29pm, May 4, 2014 - Updated 2:40pm, May 4, 2014There was a time when Christian Binford would rather serve up a double off the wall than hand out a base on balls, such is the distaste he harbors for allowing hitters to reach first without earning the right to do so.
So you can imagine the satisfaction Binford felt Saturday night after his performance in Class A Advanced Wilmington's 8-1 win over Carolina, in which he limited the Mudcats to three hits over seven scoreless frames.
The Royals' No. 12 prospect no longer prefers fence-scraping doubles to walks. But he still hates walks, which were nowhere to be found in his eight-strikeout start.
"It's so critical to get strike one," Binford said. "It sets up the pitches for later in the at-bat. When you can get the fastball over for strike one, everything else kind of falls into place. When you go in and out and are always working ahead in the count, it kind of screws with the hitters' heads."
Binford (2-1), who lowered his ERA to 1.91, struck out the side in the first inning. He was perfect until the fifth, which Jeremy Lucas led off with a double. After Binford struck out Anthony Gallas, he yielded a single to Jerrud Sabourin to put men on the corners.
At that point, Wilmington's defense came to its starter's aid, as a grounder from Alex Monsalve was turned into an inning-ending double play. Binford praised his teammates, not just for their fielding but also for their hitting -- the Blue Rocks scored two runs in the first, one in the second and five in the fourth.
"You try to get ahead of guys, and after a while they know you're trying to throw strike one," Binford said of pitching with a lead. "So when they try to jump on that first pitch and it's a hard grounder, some guys don't get to those balls, but our infield is absolutely ridiculous. When you know you can give up a mediocre grounder up the middle and Mondesi is on it or Lopez or whoever, it's a great feeling to know that you can get ahead of guys real fast."
Binford threw only 82 pitches, 60 for strikes.
"He's got four pitches," Blue Rocks manager Darryl Kennedy said. "The little two-seam fastball with sink that he throws and commands well. Then you add his breaking ball, which he can throw for a strike. He's got a slider that runs away pretty hard on right-handed hitters and then he's got a changeup.
"Plus, he throws all of them for strikes. Anytime you can get four pitches like that, that you can command, it doesn't matter how hard you throw. When you have command like that, you put a lot of thoughts into a hitter's head. And that's what Binford does."
Binford, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009 as a high school sophomore, is in his third professional session after Kansas City selected him in the 30th round of the 2011 Draft.
As good as Binford's outing was, the 21-year-old right-hander probably pitched better on April 12, when he allowed two hits across seven scoreless innings against Winston-Salem, finishing with 10 strikeouts and no walks.
In between that start and this one, he surrendered four runs over 4 1/3 innings and three runs -- two earned -- over five in a couple starts against Myrtle Beach.
"It's slowly getting there," Binford said. "I really want to throw more strikes than I have been. Seems funny to say that, but the couple games against Myrtle Beach I was kind of shying away when I should have just been going straight at them. And I think that was a big difference in those two games. Our team gave us a three-run lead against Myrtle Beach and I squandered it away. I'm still kicking myself for that. But you've got to move on."
Binford didn't give himself much cause for regret Saturday, but the Mudcats did. They committed a season-high five errors, leading to five unearned runs. Mondesi, Bubba Starling and Johermyn Chavez each collected two RBIs for the Blue Rocks, with Starling -- the Royals' No. 8 prospect -- slugging his second homer of the season.
Torsten Boss helped the Mudcats avoid a shutout with a solo shot in the ninth.
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