The right-hander, making just his second start at Triple-A, scattered one run on five hits and a walk while striking out nine over six innings as Indianapolis topped Louisville, 6-1, to clinch the International League West Division title.
The win embodied what the Indians (80-53) do best, as evidenced by their IL-leading 3.16 team ERA.
"Our pitching has carried us all year," said manager Dean Treanor. "We've had a strong rotation, our bullpen's been strong too. Early in the season, we weren't scoring too many runs and the rotation really carried us. And over the last month or so, we've had a little bit of a struggle scoring and the pitching picked us up again. It's really stood out, all year it's been real consistent."
Leading that rotation has been Rick VandenHurk (12-4). The veteran right-hander is tied for second in the league in wins and sixth on the circuit in ERA at 3.04. No. 7 Pirates prospect (9-5) Jeff Locken has also posted a 2.68 ERA (fourth in the league) with 118 strikeouts and 39 walks in 131 innings. No 8 prospect Justin Wilson (9-6) is tied for second in the league in strikeouts with 131.
Offensively, Jeff Clement has led the team with 16 homers and No. 3 Pirates prospect Starling Marte produced a team-leading 62 RBIs and 12 home runs before his promotion to Pittsburgh.
Treanor said this particular squad, which between promotions and trades, has had a fluid roster this season, was probably defined by the laid-back atmosphere the clubhouse has consistently maintained.
"A lot of these guys were here last year. We had that real bad start and then got into the wild-card race and took it to the last weekend of the season. That carried over to this year," he said. "They wanted to get it done. We have a lot of characters here, it's one of the best clubhouses I've been in.
"They're as loose as they can be, they really have a good time together. I think that it brings them closer. It's why they want to finish this, that's going to be their goal."
Indianapolis outpaced second-place Columbus (68-65) by 12 games to earn the IL's first division title of the year. The Indians will host Games 1 and 2 of their first-round series Sept. 5 and 6.
High Desert 18, Lake Elsinore 9
The Mavericks (42-17), a Seattle affiliate, completed the division-title double, capturing the Class A Advanced Cal League South second-half crown after doing the same in the first half.
Steven Proscia went 4-for-5 with two home runs and six RBIs, No. 18 Mariners prospect Leon Landry went 3-for-5 with a two-run shot and Mike McGee added another three-run homer.
Brett Shankin (7-2) earned the win, scattering six hits and three walks while fanning four over seven shutout frames. Complete story
Elizabethton 6, Pulaski 4
Jose Berrios (2-0) held the Mariners to two runs on five hits without walking any walks while striking out six over five frames to deliver the Twins the Appy League West title.
D.J. Hicks and Jorge Polanco each drove in a pair of runs for Elizabethton (41-19). Max Kepler went 3-for-5 with a triple and an RBI, and Adam Walker also tripled and brought in a run. Box score
Burlington 6, Johnson City 3
The Royals (39-22), meanwhile, clinched a playoff spot in Appy League East behind the arm of Yender Caramo (4-3), who scattered two runs -- one earned -- on eight hits without any walks and three strikeouts over seven innings.
Mark Threlkeld hit a grand slam in the third inning and Fred Ford followed him with a solo shot. Burlington now leads second-place Danville by five games with five to play in the B-Royals' hunt for a division crown. Box score