Hector Ambriz appears to be getting the hang of this Double-A thing.
Winless in his previous 12 Southern League starts, Ambriz finally broke through with a brilliant performance Wednesday in the Mobile BayBears' 2-0 victory over the Carolina Mudcats at Hank Aaron Stadium.
The 24-year-old right-hander allowed only two singles, struck out eight and walked one to lower his ERA to 1.54 after two starts on the young season.
Ambriz (1-1), who went 5-13 with a 4.89 ERA in 27 outings for the BayBears last year, threw 56 of his 75 pitches for strikes before calling it a night.
"I was definitely disappointed [in my performance last season]," Ambriz admitted. "When you go 5-13, it's never good. But I'm here for a reason and that's to get out of this league. In Minor League ball, you never want to stay in the same spot. You always want to move up."
Though his numbers from last year were less than impressive, Ambriz actually pitched better as his first Double-A campaign went along. He allowed two runs or fewer in each of his final six starts, but did not receive a win in any of those outings.
"As a pitcher, you don't always think about getting the [win]," said Ambriz. "I just can control one thing: trying to go out there and put up zeroes and keep the team in the game."
Thus far, Ambriz is doing that this year.
The Orange County, Calif., native yielded two runs on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts in a 2-1 loss to Huntsville in his season debut Friday, but was much sharper in his second start en route to earning his first Southern League win since beating Montgomery on June 27.
"I'm just going after hitters," Ambriz said. "Walks are the thing that kill starting pitchers. You just want to go after hitters from pitch one. It's always good to get off to a good start."
After yielding a leadoff single to Sean Henry to start the contest, Ambriz got Zach Cozart to ground into a double play. Michael Griffin stroked a base hit with two out in the second, but Ambriz induced Chris Kroski into an inning-ending popout. That started a string of 10 consecutive batters he then retired.
Ambriz walked Shaun Cumberland to start the sixth, but escaped further trouble by setting down the next three hitters to leave the mound with a 2-0 lead. Scott Maine worked around three hits over the final two frames for his first save.
"I had good command of my fastball and I was throwing the ball in and out with my slider and curveball, keeping the batters off-balance," Ambriz said.
The Arizona Diamondbacks' fifth-round pick out of UCLA in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, Ambriz went 10-8 with a 4.08 ERA in 28 appearances at Class A Advanced Visalia in '07 before his promotion to Mobile the next season. He posted a 1-3 mark with a 1.91 ERA in 15 outings for Rookie-level Missoula during his pro debut in '06.
John Torenli 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.