The 24-year-old right-hander allowed just one hit over six innings as Class A Greenville blanked Asheville, 5-0. It was just the second start of the season for the Golden State native, who has made 21 appearances as a reliever this season, after allowing six runs on seven hits in two frames against Charleston in his first start on July 15.
The team needed a few spot starts after Mickey Pena went down with a hamstring injury on July 6. McCarthy, a starter during his time at University of Redlands (2007-'08) and Cal State Bakersfield (2010-'11), was a natural fit to fill in, and the move paid dividends Monday.
"I just wanted to give the team a chance to win," said the 6-foot-3 hurler. "They hadn't told me about a pitch count or anything. They just said, 'Go out there, and show us what you've got.'
"I tried using my fastball a lot to get some early outs, but unfortunately, that didn't happen early on. I had two 3-2 counts in the first inning and walked a guy as well. But then I got in my groove as it went along, and the defense did a heck of a job behind me."
Among the defensive plays that impressed McCarthy were shortstop Nick Natoli's diving snag on a popup in the third inning and Cody Koback's race to grab a ball in center during the fourth. Plays like those allowed the Drive starter to take a no-hitter into the sixth, and he surrendered an infield single to Jose Rivera with two outs in the frame. He retired the next batter, Brian Humphries, to close the book on his night.
Entering Monday, McCarthy's longest stretch without surrendering a run was five innings over three relief appearances from May 28-June 3. As a reliever this season, he was 1-3 with a 4.19 ERA and one save. Boston's 14th-round pick from 2011 noted he's learned more about the difference between the two roles lately.
"Tempo's the biggest thing," he said. "When you're starting, you're dictating the pace and setting things up for the rest of the game. In relief, you can't determine when you're coming in and what it's going to be like. There might be a big rally that puts your team ahead or you might be in a really tight game. There's a lot of different things. Relieving definitely has more pressure situations."
McCarthy added the team did not immediately tell of him of his role going forward, but after Monday's gem, he certainly seems to have made the decision a more difficult one.
In fact, before he even took the mound, the Golden State native already knew his latest start would be a good one. As previously mentioned, the pitcher is a newspaper columnist. He says it's a way for him to pass on what he's learned and what he wished he'd learned through his travels in baseball as well as life.
In his latest piece published Saturday, he wrote about "awe moments" -- times during the day that "remind myself of all the beautiful things around me that I should take more time to appreciate."
He experienced one of those moments in Asheville on Monday before he took the hill for just the second time as a starter this season.
"I went to a shopping center across the street from our hotel, and the skies were all nice and blue," McCarthy said. "Then when I came back out, it was just dumping rain. I didn't want to come out yet, so I waited a few minutes before I wrapped up my stuff in a trash bag and ran back through the rain.
"But it completely cleared up by 6. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. I really felt like that was an opportunity to step back, look at the chance I had before me and give it everything I've got."