Luis Cruz knows the transition to Double-A is supposed to be the toughest jump on the path to the Majors, but he's not pitching like it.
Making his third Texas League appearance -- and second start -- the left-handed Astros prospect struck out 14 while allowing two hits and one walk over nine innings in Corpus Christi's 5-0 win at San Antonio on Monday. The 14 punchouts tied a franchise record for the Hooks set by Xavier Cedeno on June 27, 2011.
Cruz threw 109 pitches -- 79 for strikes -- and the two hits he allowed came back-to-back. He deemed the feat to be the result of a simple approach.
"It was just working down," he said. "I was throwing my fastball down and throwing outside, and that's it."
Cruz is 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 16 innings at the new level. But he maintained he doesn't have the Texas League all figured out yet.
"It's not that," he said. "I just threw my game. I threw down in the zone. I used my fastball and my changeup away, and I threw my curveball down in the zone."
The 22-year-old retired the first 10 hitters he faced before allowing a one-out single to No. 14 Padres prospect Cory Spangenberg in the fourth inning. Tommy Medica followed with another single.
"In that inning, I lost my concentration a little bit," the native of Puerto Rico said. "But after that I went back out there and kept doing my job. I took a minute. I took a breath and I said, 'Let go now. Go back to the same plan. Keep the ball down in the zone.'"
He walked Lee Orr at the end of a six-pitch battle in the fifth, but Cruz concluded the frame by catching Orr off first base.
"I've played him before and I know how he likes to run," Cruz said. "I saw him getting out a little bit, and I thought, 'Pick him off right now,' and it happened."
After Orr's walk, Cruz was perfect for the rest of the game, setting down 13 in a row. He struck out the side in the sixth and the seventh, but he didn't let that string affect him one way or the other.
"Nothing was different," he said. "I stuck to the same plan every inning."
He finished the outing by whiffing Spangenberg.
"Wow," he said. "I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe I did it."
The 2008 fourth-rounder was 8-6 with a 5.16 ERA in the Class A Advanced California League, where he struck out 129 in 113 1/3 frames and was a key part of Lancaster's no-hitter on May 12. He couldn't decide whether that or Monday's accomplishment was more rewarding.
"It's the same or... I'm not thinking about that," he said. "I'm just concentrating on how I threw my game."