By his body language, Daniel Norris looked like one frustrated young pitcher.
The 22-year-old left-hander was impressive for stretches of Wednesday’s game at Coca-Cola Field. He tied his season high for strikeouts by fanning nine Lehigh Valley batters.
But too many times he fell behind in the count. Twice he gave up lead-off doubles. He was one strike away from getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth, but he gave up a triple that helped the IronPigs seal a 5-4 win over the Herd.
“I’m trying not to get frustrated,” Norris said. “It’s just part of the game. Sometimes you’re going to be really sharp. Sometimes you’re not but at the end of the day you’ve got to battle.
“Stuff wise everything feels good and that’s what I’ve got to look at right now. I feel good and everything. The tide will change at some point, I guess.”
Adding to the challenge was Norris’ counterpart for the IronPigs. Aaron Nola was making his second Triple-A start. He stymied the Bisons in his debut with Lehigh Valley on June 18 and continued the trend Wednesday night.
Drafted seventh overall by the Philadelphia Phillies last year, he is the No. 2 ranked prospect in the organization.
Wednesday night he mowed through the Herd’s lineup through the first seven innings. Nola would work a 10-pitch inning, putting Norris right back on the mound without much rest. “Yeah, shame on him for being really good,” Norris said with dry humor.
Nola was tagged for two earned runs in the eighth, breaking up his shutout bid. He gave up six hits with seven strikeouts and threw 96 pitches with 69 strikes.
“It’s a little frustrating from my end,” manager Gary Allenson said. “I’m not up there hitting. Guys are taking a lot of fastballs, you want to know what they’re looking for but then you find out the movement the guy’s got on his pitches there. A pretty polished guy for signing a year ago. Obviously he has a bright future.”
Allenson noted Norris also has a bright future. That 1-7 record doesn’t indicate how well he’s pitched, particularly since he entered the game with the Bisons giving him an average of just 2.2 runs per outing.
“I think it’s just polishing up and getting first-pitch strikes over,” Allenson said. “If there’s a negative, he got behind too much and had to come back and make a pitch.”
And Norris is pretty confident in the way he feels on the mound these days, something which is much improved form when he was optioned to the Bisons from Toronto on May 1.
“Honestly right now if I keep doing what I’m doing, I’m going to be fine,” Norris said. “I couldn’t have said that maybe the first few starts down here. There’s definitely stuff I needed to get better at but I mean right now I feel like I’m in a good place. My last couple outings I felt really good body wise, stuff wise, command wise minus a couple pitches but I can’t expect myself to be perfect.”