James McDonald was nervous about his Triple-A debut, but he channeled his jitters into an impressive performance.
The 23-year-old right-hander struck out 10 over six innings of two-hit ball Wednesday as the Las Vegas 51s topped the New Orleans Zephyrs, 4-2, at Zephyr Field.
"I was a little nervous," admitted McDonald, a Southern League All-Star who was promoted to the Pacific Coast League earlier this week.
"You hear a lot about Triple-A and how good the guys are here. And they are good. But I felt like being nervous helped me stay on my toes and keep focused. I knew I couldn't slack up for one pitch."
The only hits McDonald surrendered were a first-inning homer to Jesus Feliciano and a third-inning single to Andy Green. He also issued two walks.
"I threw the ball well tonight," he said. "I had a good fastball-curve combination. But they hit some good pitches. I tried not to change anything [from Double-A] and just focus on what I had to do."
An 11th-round pick by the Dodgers in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, McDonald went 5-3 with a 3.19 ERA in 22 games at Double-A Jacksonville. He also pitched a scoreless inning last month for the South Division at the Southern League All-Star Game.
McDonald split last season between Class A Advanced Inland Empire and Jacksonville, going 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA. He tied for eighth in the Minor Leagues with 168 strikeouts, including a career-high 13 against San Jose on June 24.
"I'm pretty happy," he said of his progress this season, "but I've got a lot of work to do, especially on keeping my walks down."
Former Major Leaguer Tanyon Sturtze retired the final four Zephyrs to notch his fourth save for Las Vegas (63-56), which has won 10 of its last 15 games.
John Lindsey provided the bulk of the offense for the 51s with a pair of solo homers. Major League veteran Jason added a two-run shot.
New Orleans starter Willie Collazo (4-7) lost his fifth straight decision and remained winless since June 9. He gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings, fanning two without issuing a walk.
Abraham Nunez drove in the other run for the Zephyrs (57-62) with a single in the seventh.
Alan Friedman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.