Like any good chart-topping hit, Bryan Rodriguez found success on Friday night with two staples: rhythm and consistency.
The Padres prospect recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts without issuing a walk and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings in Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore's 9-3 loss to visiting Modesto.
"He's been pretty consistent," Storm pitching coach Bronswell Patrick said. "His delivery's been pretty consistent, arm slot's been pretty consistent and he's throwing all of his pitches over for strikes. That's been his main focal point as far as being consistent this year.
"On our side days, we just worked on his rhythm, breaking his hands [in his delivery] and trying to get him some more rhythm, get him a little bit more movement with his hands and the timing of everything. He carried it into the game and put together seven solid innings."
Not only did the 22-year-old right-hander notch his first double-digit strikeout performance, he matched the longest outing of his career. In fact, the native of the Dominican Republic was perfect for six of his seven frames, encountering trouble only in the third. That's when Matt Wessinger and Derek Jones singled and moved into scoring position with two outs before Rodriguez retired red-hot Trevor Story on a fly ball.
Rodriguez retired his final 14 batters, cruising as the game got deeper.
"It was good because he didn't change his game plan," Patrick said. "He saw that they couldn't catch up with his fastball and he threw his fastball in the right counts. He broke out his slider when he had to, when he needed a strikeout. He threw two quality pitches as far as fastball-slider mix tonight, and it kept them off-balance. He stayed aggressive with that."
After losing all of 2011 to an elbow injury, Rodriguez is in his third season in the United States and is beginning to absorb the intricacies of the Class A Advanced level. He ranks third in the hitter-friendly California League with a 2.54 ERA.
"The main thing now is just the mental part of it," Patrick said. "We talk about pitch sequences. We go through the lineup and talk about not letting different guys hurt you in this situation, knowing who you can go after and mainly being aggressive. That's the main thing. A lot of kids, especially in the Cal League, they tend to pitch away from contact. With all the pitchers, it's more the mental part of the game now, as far as getting them more comfortable and aggressive in the strike zone."
Rodriguez was poised for his first win of the season when he departed with a 1-0 lead, thanks to Corey Adamson's RBI groundout in the fifth. But the Nuts didn't go quietly.
Modesto scored eight times in the eighth inning and snapped a nine-game losing streak. Dean Espy dealt the decisive blow in the inning with a three-run double, then scored on Derek Jones' triple.
Reliever Cody Hebner (2-2) bore the brunt of the Nuts' outburst. He retired two batters and was charged with seven runs on six hits.
Modesto starter Devin Burke (2-1) matched Rodriguez by going seven innings. He allowed a run on four hits with five strikeouts.