The only thing hotter than the weather in San Antonio on Wednesday might have been Keyvius Sampson.
The Padres' No. 15 prospect struck out a career-high 12 batters and allowed two hits over seven innings as Double-A San Antonio blanked Tulsa, 1-0.
Sampson (5-4) walked one and threw 59 of his 91 pitches for strikes. After walking Jaron Shepherd with two outs in the fifth inning, the Florida native retired the final seven batters he faced, striking out five in a row at one point.
"Just to get ahead early and attack the zone," Sampson said of his gameplan. "Curve was on, slider was on, change was on later in the game and the fastball I was able to command to both sides of the plate."
With temperatures reaching the upper-90s at gametime, the 22-year-old right-hander was doing the same with his fastball. According to Sampson, his fastball hit 96 mph, not an uncommon occurrence as he's touched 98 at times this season.
Over his last three starts, Sampson has allowed two unearned runs on 10 hits over 18 2/3 innings. He's struck out 23 batters and walked six during that stretch. One of the keys has been making an effort to maximize his pitches.
"That's something I always try to focus on, trying to let my defense do the work," Sampson said. "Get a ground ball on one or two pitches and get out of the inning on seven or eight pitches. That's always my goal."
Of the 21 outs he recorded Wednesday, eight came on three pitches or fewer. Sampson needed just 10 pitches to strike out the side in the sixth.
The 2009 fourth-round pick opened the year in the Pacific Coast League, going 0-1 with a 8.03 ERA in four starts for Tucson. Since being sent to the Texas League, Sampson is 5-4 with a 2.73 ERA in 12 appearances for the Missions. He's fanned 60 batters in 59 1/3 innings and has held batters to a .230 average this season.
"Just knowing that when you make mistakes they get hit the majority of the time," Sampson said of what he learned in Triple-A. "Up there, it was kind of like you have to be attacking the zone but making good quality pitches.
"Early in the year, I wasn't extended out and that hurt me in the PCL. Now that I'm over that, I'm feeling good. I'm able to spot up and have all my pitches working."
Sampson, who called his curveball the strikeout pitch Wednesday, recorded 10 whiffs on April 7, 2011 while pitching for Class A Fort Wayne against South Bend in the Midwest League.
Jeremy McBryde walked one in a hitless eighth and Matt Stites fanned two in the ninth to notch his sixth save.
Adam Buschini's sixth-inning RBI single accounted for the Missions' lone run. Yeison Asencio was 3-for-4 and scored a run.
Sean Gallagher yielded a run on nine hits and struck out seven, falling to 3-2 for the Drillers.