Tuesday's dominant start by Raul Alcantara might serve as the catalyst that changes fortunes for himself and his team.
The Athletics' No. 11 prospect allowed one hit and struck out six over seven shutout innings as Class A Beloit defeated Peoria, 4-1.
Michael Swinson's single to open the fourth inning was the only blemish in Alcantara's pitching line. Alcantara did not allow a walk and set down the final 12 batters he faced before giving way to the Snappers' bullpen.
Swinson also was the only batter to reach second against Alcantara, advancing on a groundout in the same inning. Alcantara (1-1) permitted just two baserunners, with Breyvic Valera reaching on shortstop Sam Roberts' fielding error with one out in the first. Valera was erased on a strike 'em out-throw 'em out double play one batter later to end the frame.
"Their pitcher threw a ton of strikes, and he threw his breaking ball effectively," Chiefs manager Dann Bilardello told the Peoria Journal Star. "We never got on track. The key to any game is the starting pitcher, he sets the tempo and the whole game."
It was a stark contrast from his previous outing, when Alcantara failed to get out of the fourth on April 4. He allowed seven runs -- five earned -- on nine hits against Cedar Rapids and failed to strike out a single batter.
"We were talking in the dugout that might be one of the best games he pitched in his career, especially with what he was working on after his last outing," Beloit manager Ryan Christenson told the Journal Star. "He threw strikes and pounded the zone. It was a big, big, big thing to see him make those adjustments after the last outing."
For Alcantara, Tuesday's outing potentially represents a big step. The 6-foot-3 Dominican had never gone more than six innings in a pro start. This season is an especially crucial one for Alcantara, as he struggled to a 6-11 record with a 5.08 ERA in 27 games for Burlington in the Midwest League last year. The 20-year-old right-hander allowed opposing batters to hit .307 against him and gave up 12 homers.
Alcantara was originally signed by the Red Sox on July 2, 2009, but came over to the A's organization in a trade that sent him and Josh Reddick west for reliever Andrew Bailey.
The Snappers entered the game on Tuesday with a 1-4 record, and their pitching staff had been roughed up for 25 runs through the first five games.
Ryan Dull took over for Alcantara and allowed a run on two hits over the final two innings. Bruce Maxwell homered and drove in three runs while Renato Nunez went deep for the Snappers.