There are generally two ways to succeed in a hitter-friendly environment -- keep men off base and keep the ball out of the air. This year in the California League, known around the Minors for its run-conducive locales, San Jose's Ty Blach has managed to pull off both objectives.
The Giants' No. 19 prospect had one of his stingiest outings of the season on Saturday night, allowing two hits over seven innings, as the Giants handed Lancaster its first shutout loss of the season, 7-0.
"To tell the truth, the defense is what was working for me, letting those guys make plays all day," Blach said. "Get ahead early in counts and let the defense play behind me."
That's the formula that's served him well all year. After striking out five without walking a batter against the JetHawks, Blach (7-2) has served up only two homers -- the fewest among qualifying Cal League pitchers.
The 22-year-old left-hander also has taken care of the other half of the equation. He's issued only six walks or 0.81 per nine innings and is ranked second in the circuit with a 1.05 WHIP.
"That's the thing I pride myself on, getting ahead of hitters, letting the defense play. And they've done a great job all year of making plays," Blach said. "It's easy to pitch with a defense like that."
All of that has led to a 2.70 ERA that also ranks second. And he's averaging a respectable 7.02 strikeouts per nine innings.
Blach has utilized a fastball that he said runs between 90-93 mph and a changeup while mixing in a curveball and slider. The key to his control, he added, is throwing first-pitch strikes that allow him to dictate the rhythm of the at-bat.
"Just be aggressive with strike one. If I'm attacking hitters, I can throw all my pitches for strikes and just be able to keep hitters off-balance," the Creighton University product explained. "Strike one is the most important thing to that. It allows me to expand the strike zone a little bit, make them hit my pitches and, ultimately, that's how you get hitters out."
It's a good deal of success for Blach, who's in his first professional season after the Giants selected him in the fifth round of last year's Draft. San Francisco was aggressive in assigning him to the Cal League to begin his career and, so far, he's responded to the challenge.
"I've worked really hard to get here and I'm not necessarily surprised by [the level of success]. I go out there, try to execute pitches, and if I do that, hitters will get themselves out," Blach said. "Obviously, in this league there's a lot of short porches, it's very hitter-friendly, but if you can execute down in the zone and keep it out of the air, you'll have a lot of success."
Offensively for San Jose on Saturday, Chris Lofton went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs and Bobby Haney chipped in three hits and drove in a run.