Like a youngster firing up dad's old push lawnmower, a little growth and maturity is helping Felipe Rivero mow hitters down.
For the fourth straight start, Tampa Bay's No. 19 prospect kept his opponent off the board. Rivero limited Fort Myers to two hits over six innings as Class A Advanced Charlotte took the first game in the best-of-3 Florida State League South Division Series, 1-0.
Rivero (1-0), who struck out two and walked three, has not allowed an earned run since Aug. 12. In that time, he's conceded 16 hits with nine strikeouts and nine walks over 21 2/3 innings. He's induced more groundouts than flyouts in all of those games, sporting an 11-to-4 groundout-to-flyout ratio Tuesday.
Pitching coach Bill Moloney told MiLB.com in April that he wanted Rivero to better corral the location and velocity of his fastball. The 57-year-old coach said the left-hander did that particularly well Tuesday.
"His fastball, he can throw any pitch at 95, and that's fine if he can locate it," Moloney said. "He's realizing now that harder isn't necessarily better. He knows when to maybe back off a little. It's just him maturing as a pitcher to maybe figure that out."
Five of Rivero's first six outs were earned on ground balls. He struck out two during a 1-2-3 third inning, then grounded out the side in the top of the fourth.
He induced a key double play with two men on to end the fifth, and then worked around Stephen Wickens' single in the sixth. In fitting fashion, Rivero finished his outing by inducing a groundout from Dalton Hicks.
"I think he's finally realizing that he's maturing a little bit," Moloney said. "He had a few hiccups here and there in the season. He's realizing that, 'Hey, I have to get my act together.'
"His stuff is good enough to get guys out. He's just taking himself more seriously, and that's reflecting in the fact that he's able to bounce back if adversity hits. He's able to stop it in a hurry rather than letting it snowball."
The 22-year-old finished the regular season 9-7 in 25 appearances,including 23 starts. He managed a 3.40 ERA with 91 strikeouts and 52 walks in 127 innings. Hitters only smacked seven home runs against him, recording a 1.35 groundout-to-flyout ratio and a .257 batting average.
Jeff Malm picked up Charlotte's lone RBI, plating Jake Hager with a two-out single in the sixth. Fort Myers' Byron Buxton, the top prospect on MLB.com's Top 100, was 1-for-3 with a walk.
In other action:
Daytona 6, Dunedin 1
The Cubs used a five-run sixth inning to build an insurmountable lead in the first game of the Florida State League North Division Series. Chicago's No. 4 prospect Kris Bryant collected two singles and two RBIs while Pin-Chieh Chen scored twice.
Corey Black picked up the win, limiting Dunedin to five hits with seven strikeouts over five shutout innings. Frank Del Valle, Austin Reed and Lendy Castillo combined to close out the contest. Box score