Last year, Kelvin De La Cruz was limited to just 19 2/3 innings by an elbow injury. In his third start for Kinston this season, he was back to pre-injury form.
De La Cruz worked efficiently in his third outing of the season on Monday, striking out four while inducing 11 groundouts against just three flyball outs. But he wound up not getting a decision after Wilmington rallied to a 4-1 victory.
"My fastball was working good," De La Cruz said, adding he and the Kinston staff had been "working on his delivery" after his first two starts.
The lefty walked one -- former first-round Draft pick Eric Hosmer -- with two outs in the fourth inning, after Hosmer fouled off De La Cruz's first 3-2 offering.
Pulled after six frames due to pitch count considerations, he left with a 1-0 lead having faced just one over the minimum. Kinston lost its sixth straight.
It was the longest and strongest outing in over a year for De La Cruz. In his first two outings for Kinston this season, he had allowed six earned runs on 13 hits while striking out seven over 9 2/3 frames.
The 6-foot-5 21-year-old's 2.98 ERA and 136 strikeouts both ranked third in the Indians' Minor League system in 2008. The Indians placed De La Cruz on their 40-man roster this past offseason despite his injury and lack of experience above Class A Advanced.
It wasn't his first extended no-hit outing. He tossed five hitless frames for Class A Short-Season Mahoning Valley on July 20, 2007 -- and didn't get a decision in that game as well.
The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning on a one-out single by Karexon Sanchez, but reliever Santos Frias (0-1), who had not allowed a run in his previous three outings, gave up a solo homer to Hosmer with one out in the seventh. It was Hosmer's first longball of the season and just the second for Wilmington as a team.
In a game that featured just five hits combined, Hosmer's homer lifted his batting average to a Carolina League-leading .447.
Wilmington starter Michael Montgomery -- another former first-round pick -- was nearly as strong as De La Cruz. The lefty allowed an unearned run on two hits while striking out eight over six frames. Buddy Baumann (1-0) earned the victory with three one-hit innings of relief. He struck out six.
John Parker is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.