Johnny Hellweg has kept Pacific Coast League hitters in check this season but has experienced occasional control issues. He kept them in check Friday night in a start that showed what he can do when he puts everything together.
The Brewers' No. 3 prospect yielded a run on five hits over seven innings for his third straight win as Triple-A Nashville shut down Iowa, 3-1.
Hellweg (4-4) struck out five batters and walked two in lowering his ERA to 3.65. He threw 62 of 101 pitches for strikes in his 11th start of the season.
"[My] fastball was working pretty well off the bat, built my confidence the first couple of innings," he said. "Later in the game, I started mixing my changeup in and that got me some big outs. Basically, just stuck with the fastball, pounded the righties in and got the ground balls I needed."
Hellweg has been able to get ground balls all year long, making him one of the tougher pitchers to hit in the Pacific Coast League. Opponents are batting .198 against him, the third-lowest average in the league, and that's a credit to his fastball, which was clocked between 96-98 mph in his final inning Friday.
"I'm just using my fastball. I get a lot of good sink and late life on it," the 24-year-old right-hander said. "I just battle guys with it and show it to them until they show they can handle it consistently. Until they show me they can hit it consistently and keep putting it in play, there's no reason for me to change my game plan."
The problem for the Michigan native has been walks. Heading into Friday's start, Hellweg issued 37 free passes over 49 2/3 innings. In his previous four outings, he issued 15 walks, including a season-high six on May 16 against Salt Lake.
"It's something that I feel like needed to be addressed," Hellweg said. "Today, I focused on it a little bit more, making guys hit their way on base, and I think that got me a little bit more success tonight."
Acquired last summer in the four-player trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Angels, Hellweg has yielded one earned run or fewer in three of his last four starts to shave nearly a whole run off his ERA.
"I've put together some halfway decent starts and [the team has] picked me up," he said. "I threw the ball pretty well and they came through for me at the end. We've been playing a lot better as a whole and everything is starting to click for us."
Josh Prince snapped a seventh-inning tie with an RBI double, then scored on a base hit by Anderson De La Rosa to give the Sounds a 3-1 lead.
Rob Wooten tossed a hitless ninth for his eighth save for Nashville.
Cubs starter Yoanner Negrin fell to 0-2 after allowing three runs on five hits over six innings.