Audio: Peterson's record-breaking run
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Zach Peterson swears he's not a strikeout pitcher. Sure, the Idaho Falls Chukars right-hander gets a few whiffs every time he starts, but he's looking more to pitch to contact and get outs.
Peterson became a strikeout pitcher Tuesday, setting a Pioneer League record by fanning 11 consecutive batters in the Chukars' 9-1 romp over the Billings Mustangs.
Peterson gave up one hit, a single to Justin Reed leading off the game, over six shutout innings. He registered a career-high 13 strikeouts and did not walk a batter.
"I'm kind of amazed," he said. "I was just successful getting ahead of guys and getting all of my pitches over the plate early in the count for strikes. I felt like when [the ball] came out of my hand that it was just going to go to the glove. It didn't seem like they were going to touch it. It was just going to go to that spot and they were going to swing and miss for a strike."
The record-breaking streak started in the second, when Peterson (5-3) fanned Brandon Waring and Jason Bour to end a 1-2-3 inning. He proceeded to strike out the side in the third, fourth and fifth innings, with only one of the 11 punchouts coming on a called strike.
The run ended when Angel Cabrera led off the sixth by flying out to right field. Peterson fanned the next two Mustangs among 17 consecutive batters he retired.
The single-game Pioneer League mark of eight straight strikeouts was set by Helena's Tyrone Hill on July 11, 1991, and matched by Ogden's Paul Stewart on Sept. 2, 1996. Billings' Jeff Montgomery struck out 11 consecutive batters over three appearances in August 1983.
Peterson, who went undrafted out of the University of Illinois-Chicago, wasn't blowing hitters away. He throws three pitches, a fastball that ranges between 88-91 mph, a curveball and a changeup. Ironically, the Mustangs had their way with him on Aug. 11, scoring seven runs -- four earned -- on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.
"I've been working on my curveball. I had some good depth to it and it came out of my hand real well," Peterson explained. "I was able to get it over for a strike early in the count and keep the hitters off-balance.
"I don't necessarily have a strikeout pitch. I use all three to strike guys out. Tonight, I was able to locate my fastball and guys were swinging through my breaking ball. I was going after them with all three pitches."
Peterson was able to "go after them" because the Chukars (14-8) gave him an 8-0 lead by the fifth. Wilson Tucker went 5-for-5 with three runs scored and two RBIs in just his third game for the Chukars. Devery Van De Keere contributed two hits and three RBIs.
Van De Keere tripled home Tucker, then scored on O.D. Gonzalez's sacrifice fly in the third to make it 4-0. Tucker doubled home two more runs in the fourth and Clint Robinson smacked his 14th homer in the fifth. Mike Bionde singled in a run later in the inning.
Billings (10-12) avoided the shutout in the ninth, when Brandon Waring's two-out single plated Michael Jones. Burke Baldwin struck out Bour to end the game and pick up his second save.
Mustangs starter Andrew Bowman (0-4) was roughed up for six runs on four hits and five walks with three strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings. Adam Pointer fanned five in 3 1/3 frames, yielding a run on four hits.
Billings' Brett Bartles went 0-for-4, ending his 13-game hitting streak.
Tim Leonard is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.