Jake Faria experienced slippage last week at Louisville, something the Durham Bulls righthander knew he had to address.
His performance Friday night in the Bulls 3-0 win over Buffalo showed he’s work was successful.
After issuing a season-worst five walks in his previous start at Louisville last Saturday night, Faria walked only one Buffalo batter while striking out a season-high 11 in his six shutout innings of work before a crowd of 8,642 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
“He pounded the zone and got the swings and misses,” Bulls manager Jared Sandberg said. “It was impressive.”
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Faria (3-0) maintained his perfect record for the season and increased his strikeout total to 39 over his five starts against just 13 walks.
Last summer, when Faria made his Triple-A debut with Durham, he went 4-4 in 13 starts. He struck out 64 but walked 32 in 67 ⅔ innings of work.
When he walked five Louisville batters during a 103-pitch, five-inning outing in a game the Bulls won 7-1 last weekend, Faria didn’t like his lack of command. In between starts, he focused on the areas of his game that he and Bulls pitching coach Kyle Snider have worked on.
“We had kind of gotten away from what we’ve been working on,” Faria said. “I reverted back to what I did last year when I walked a ton of guys. This whole last week, we had to get back to what we’ve been working on. Trust the process. Trust what we’ve been working on. Trust my stuff.”
Rated the No. 9 prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, Faria found his groove quickly Friday night with three first-inning strikeouts wrapped around a one-out single.
He issued his lone walk to Dwight Smith, Jr., to start the second inning but induced a double-play ball to kill that rally.
He retired seven consecutive Bisons batters before Smith’s lead-off single in the fifth inning. Faria escaped that inning unscathed when he retired the next three batters, two on strikeouts.
“That was really, really impressive,” Sandberg said. “He was in control the entire time. He pounded the zone with the fastball. The cutter and the changeup off of that were really good. He incorporated the curveball for a first-pitch strike at different times and just kept them off balance. They were aggressive early in the counts and he was able to throw that changeup and get the cutter underneath some of the left-handers bats.”
The Bulls backed Faria up with single runs in the first, third and fourth innings with red-hot Patrick Leonard figuring in two of the rallies.
After going five-for-five in Thursday night’s win over Syracuse, Leonard collected singles in his first two at bats Friday night. A fifth-inning walk extended his on-base streak to 11 consecutive plate appearances before he struck out in the eighth inning.
In the first, Leonard kept Bulls inning alive with a two-out single that allowed Jake Hager, who had singled earlier, to reach second base. Casey Gillaspie’s looping single to centerfield drove in Hager for a 1-0 Bulls lead.
Hager doubled to lead off the third inning and scored on Leonard’s two-out single to center for a 2-0 Durham lead.
The Bulls made it 3-0 in the fourth inning when Curt Casali singled, took second on a passed ball and moved to third on Keon Wong’s single one out later.
When Wong stole second base, Casali scored when Buffalo second baseman Jonathan Diaz was charged with an error for missing the throw.