The act of pitching is, inherently, subject to a lot of variance. Good, even great pitchers go through swings in which it seems like they can't get anyone out.
Second-ranked Royals prospect Kyle Zimmer has had to adjust to that this year. The fifth overall pick of the 2012 Draft has had some bumps in the road during the first couple months of his first full professional season, but Wednesday at least, the luck started to bounce back his way a little bit.
The right-hander scattered two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out four over six innings to secure his first victory of the year in Class A Advanced Wilmington's 9-5 win over Salem.
Zimmer (1-6) bounced back nicely from his last outing on June 7, when he was struck for five runs on five hits and walk while recording just two outs in two-thirds of an inning.
"It was good to get the monkey off the back, get that first [win]," he said, "I didn't think it would take quite this long, but stuff happens. I just gotta keep going out there every fifth day, find a way to get better. It was good to get the first one."
Zimmer emerged from Thursday's outing with his ERA down to 5.98. The primary culprit for the higher mark has been a seemingly inflated home run rate this year, especially when compared to last season.
The 21-year-old has been tagged for longballs on 11.9 percent (7-of-59) of the hits allowed, a significantly higher mark than he surrendered in his full-season debut with Class A Kane County last year (2.9 percent) or the Carolina League average of the past five years (2.0 percent).
His walks (2.43 per nine innings last year, 3.84 per nine this season) are also a tick higher, but then again, so are his strikeouts (10.89 per nine this season to 9.53 per nine last year).
If that home run rate normalizes, it stands to reason that the ERA would start to reflect his broader skill set in due time.
"There's definitely been a lot of what felt like, a long streak of bad luck," he said. "And with that, you go out there and put more pressure on yourself to get every guy out, make every pitch perfect. Bit by bit that builds up, but you just gotta learn from it. In the long run, it'll make you better. You just compete and execute pitches. Once it leaves your hand, there's nothing you can control."
Zimmer's raw totals for the season include 71 strikeouts against 25 walks in 58 2/3 frames for the Blue Rocks.
The University of San Francisco product, whose primary offspeed pitches include a slider and a curveball while the fastball tends to run between 95-98 mph, had a 2.43 ERA with 29 strikeouts to eight walks in 29 2/3 innings in the Midwest League last year. He also threw 10 innings in the Rookie-level Arizona League before a promotion.
His previous three starts had proved a particularly rough patch, with 17 runs allowed -- 15 earned -- over 9 2/3 innings.
He said he hopes Wednesday's start marks the beginning of a bit better stretch.
"I'd like to build off this momentum, sure. Our defense played great tonight, some really great plays behind me," he noted. "[I] just go out there and make quality pitches, try to get outs and give the team a chance to win."
Offensively for Wilmington, Parker Morin went 4-for-5 with three RBIs, and Geuilin Beltre and Lane Adams each added three hits.