Chris Beck's modus operandi is simple, but that doesn't make it any easier to solve his riddle.
He won't overpower hitters and he rarely issues walks. He wants opponents to hit the ball on the ground and he has faith that his infielders will keep the ball in front of them.
Beck (2-1) scattered three hits and faced one batter above the minimum in tossing a seven-inning complete-game gem as the Double-A Birmingham Barons beat the Mobile BayBears, 2-0, in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader.
"I felt good. My arm feels better than it has recently," Beck said. "It is getting to that time of the year when you're getting stretched out to that 95, 100-pitch range. This was my third start of the year, so it's getting there."
The No. 10 White Sox prospect worked around Jaime Pedroza's one-out throwing error in the first inning and he was perfect in the second and third frames. Mike Freeman led off the fourth with Mobile's first hit, a single to left field, but Justin Greene hit into a 6-4-3 double play to erase the threat.
Jon Griffin singled off in the fifth and Sean Jamieson punched a hit to center in the sixth, but Beck set down the final four batters to preserve his shutout.
It was the second complete-game shutout of his career. While with Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, he blanked Wilmington for nine innings in a 5-0 win last June 7.
"There were a lot of similarities," Beck said. "A lot of early contact and lots of ground balls. I had more strikeouts in that game, but I had zero walks. No free bases. I didn't have any three-ball counts in that game, but I fell behind the first two hitters, Mike Freeman and Justin Greene, 3-1, today."
Selected by Chicago in the second round of the 2012 Draft, Beck put his defense to good use Tuesday evening. He rolled 12 ground-ball outs and induced three double plays, throwing 54 of 78 pitches for strikes.
It was a nice bounceback outing for the 23-year-old who yielded six runs on nine hits over five innings in a loss to Jackson on Wednesday.
"I just kind of lost focus after the first inning," he admitted. "I just put it in cruise control and took it for granted, but [pitching coach] Britt Burns reminded me about it and told me you can never get too comfortable."
The Georgia Southern University product is deceptive to figure out. Even though he's 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, he doesn't miss as many bats as you'd imagine for some who can flash a mid-90s fastball as part of a four-pitch mix.
To wit, of the 97 other pitchers who pitched as many innings (146 2/3) as Beck last year, none had as few as his 79 strikeouts. The reason?
"I honestly couldn't really tell you," Beck said. "Some nights you will have good location, and other times, you'll have a better breaking ball. Tonight I had the fastball command working and the changeup was there luckily because I didn't have much feel for my breaking stuff.
"But if you're down in the zone and attack the bottom half, most of the results will be ground balls. The strikeouts will come. I got early contact with my two- and four-seamer tonight and that played in my hands to keep my pitch count low. I did what a starting pitcher is supposed to do by going deep in the game."
Beck's two-seamer tops out around 90 mph, while his four-seamer typically hovers around 93 mph. The difference in speed and the "one-quarter-inch" movement helps Beck bear down on hitters.
"If it comes out of the same arm slot, you can almost call it a really good changeup on good nights," he said. "That movement and speed will change the outcome of the swing. It changes the look they get. The four-seam can move in on the hands or away from a hitter. The two-seam, you can get it under the bats and down in the zone for double plays."
Mobile's Chase Anderson (2-1) gave up two runs -- one earned -- on five hits and a walk while striking out eight batters over six innings.
In the second game of the twin bill, Birmingham beat Mobile, 5-2. First baseman Christian Marrero hit a two-run homer -- his first of the season -- in the win. The veteran has 40 Southern League long balls, including at least one in each of the past six seasons.