If the distinguishing characteristic of a true professional is that he learns from his mistakes, it didn't take Mark Appel long to prove he's arrived.
Coming off the first start in which he allowed more runs than the number of innings he pitched, the Astros' No. 4 prospect struck out a career-high six batters over five frames, permitting a run on two hits in Class A Quad Cities' 6-1 win over Burlington on Monday. With the victory, Appel improved to 2-1 with a 4.18 ERA in the Midwest League.
"I took what I needed from last time. The big thing was just not that anything was physically wrong with me. I wasn't tired or anything. It was just location and not getting ahead," Appel said. "Tonight I got behind a few batters, but I got back in the count with quality fastballs down in the zone.
"I don't think my stuff was different. It's just location. You can throw as hard as you want, but if you can't locate it well, they're still going to hit it. The location was the best for me since being a pro."
Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow announced Wednesday that this would be Appel's penultimate start of the year. Did that affect the way this year's No. 1 overall pick approached the start?
"No, not at all. I'm just going out there pitching, just like it's the middle of the season," Appel said. "I feel like I've got 15 more starts with me, so it's not my call to call it quits or say when I'm done. I'm just glad to go out there give my best whenever they want me to pitch."
The 22-year-old righty retired the first seven Bees he faced.
"Mentally, I prepare myself the same for every batter. I try to get ahead early," the Stanford University product said. "They put a couple good swings on fastballs, but I was really focusing on getting the ball down."
With one out in the third inning, Riley Good knocked a single passed River Bandits shortstop and top Astros prospect Carlos Correa.
"The hit was on a good pitch. He just flared it over Carlos' head," Appel said. "That's baseball. It happens -- sometimes they hit a rocket right at a guy, and sometimes they get a hit on a little bloop."
Angel Rosa led off the Burlington fourth with a double, advanced to third on a bunt and scored on a wild pitch.
"It was a tough count for me," Appel said. "[Zach Wright] took a not-very-good swing on a slider earlier in the count, and when I came back to the slider, I spiked it a little bit."
He whiffed Wright, and also the last two batters he faced during a 1-2-3 fifth.
"Strikeouts are fun. That was a good way to end it," he said. "I guess it wasn't striking out the side in the ninth for a complete game, but striking out the last two guys in this game felt pretty good to me."
Correa scored a run in the win and 19th-ranked Astros prospect Danry Vasquez had two hits and two RBIs.