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Crawford fans nine in Whitecaps' shutout
Tigers prospect allows three hits over seven innings in longest outing
05/23/2014 11:12 PM ET
Jonathon Crawford turned in his third scoreless outing of the season in Friday night's Whitecaps win. (Emily Jones/MiLB.com)

Weeks or months from now, Jonathon Crawford may look back at Friday night's start and see the moment when everything came together.

The Tigers' fourth-ranked prospect recorded a career-high nine strikeouts in his longest outing as a pro, allowing three hits and a walk over seven innings as Class A West Michigan edged Dayton, 1-0.

"From the get-go, I felt pretty good," Crawford said. "In between starts, I've been working on staying down on my finish and following through a little more. That definitely helped me out in the game.

"From the first inning on, I had every pitch working. I could throw it for a strike really whenever I wanted to. It's just one of those nights where you're happy as a pitcher because everything's working."

The Dragons struggled to find any sledding against Crawford (2-1) in his eighth start of the season. He allowed just one baserunner and faced the minimum over the first four innings, thanks to a double play that erased Sebastian Elizalde's leadoff single in the second.

Elizalde was just about the only member of the Dayton lineup to crack Crawford, bunting for a leadoff single in the fifth, but again, his time on the bases was short-lived as he was picked off and caught stealing.

West Michigan gave Crawford a slim cushion in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Raph Rhymes walked, took second on a passed ball by Joe Hudson and scored on a single by Dominic Ficociello.

"I really don't want to give up a run in [any] start," Crawford said of his mind-set in a tight game. "I don't really worry about the hitters. I try to let them do their thing and try not to let that affect the way I pitch."

If anything did affect Crawford on Friday, it hardly showed. With his pitch count climbing into the seventh, the Tigers' 2013 first-round pick pitched to contact, recording two flyouts and a groundout in his final inning. Perhaps most importantly, Crawford felt comfortable with his mechanical adjustments.

"I was better balanced on my leg kick and staying on my back leg and my finishes," he said. "In my previous start, I was flying off really bad. This start, I wasn't nearly as bad, and I think that translated to executing better pitches and better results.

"I'll definitely be able to look back at this outing and when I'm struggling -- if I'm struggling -- just to kind of remember this game and mimic it later on down the road."

The 22-year-old right-hander lowered his ERA to 2.16, which ranks seventh in the Midwest League. He's also averaging just under nine strikeouts per nine innings.

Clinging to a one-run lead, the Whitecaps turned to their bullpen for the eighth and ninth. Julio Felix worked around a hit by striking out the side in the eighth and Joe Mantiply stranded runners at the corners in the ninth for his fourth save.

Dayton starter Sal Romano (3-3) took the loss, giving up an unearned run on two hits and a walk while striking out six in six innings.

Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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