At the rate Matt Smoral was going, the Blue Jays prospect would have ended with 24 strikeouts had he pitched the full nine.
With eight punchouts across three scoreless innings, the Bluefield southpaw was on pace for a shutout, too. But since Monday marked his 2014 debut, that is where his line ended. The fans at Kingsport's Hunter Wright Stadium must have been grateful, considering that Brandon Brosher hit his Appalachian League-leading fourth homer of the season off a Blue Jays reliever in the fifth.
That's not to say the Mets prospect wouldn't have gone deep off Smoral, but the pitcher was undeniably dealing in Bluefield's 7-2 win.
"I felt great," the 2012 first-round (50th overall) pick said. "I didn't have my fastball as much as I'd like to, but my slider and my changeup felt really good. ... All eight of my strikeouts were on sliders. It feels good and I'm getting more comfortable out there."
After spending time in extended spring training, Smoral yielded one hit, issued three walks and threw a wild pitch in his Appy League debut. He struck out three in the first, three in the second and two in the third.
"I would like to cut down the walks, but other than that, it was a good outing," the 20-year-old southpaw said. "It's something to build on and hopefully, I'll go out there next time and keep attacking 'em."
Last year, Smoral made 15 appearances, including five starts, in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He went 0-2 with a 7.01 ERA, finishing with 27 strikeouts against 26 walks across 25 2/3 innings.
Monday's results aside, the Ohio native was just happy to be on the mound in a game again.
"It was unbelievable," Smoral said. "Just to be out here, under the lights, competing, that's what it's all about. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season."
Francisco Rios (1-0) pitched five innings after Smoral's exit, and while he kept the shutout going through the fourth, Brosher got to the 19-year-old right-hander in the fifth.
After Pedro Perez drew a two-out walk, Brosher turned on a 1-1 changeup from Rios, belting a home run for the third day in a row.
"To be honest, I can't really explain it," the 2013 36th-round pick said. "I put a lot of work in in the offseason. I'm kind of surprising myself, I guess, by my performance."
Brosher already has blasted more homers this season than he did in 22 Gulf Coast League games last summer. After going 0-for-4 in the Mets' opener on Thursday, he cranked two homers on Saturday before smacking another Sunday and one more Monday.
"You always expect to do well, but I don't think anybody really expects to start off like I have," the 19-year-old Florida native said. "It's almost surreal. Now that I think about, I can't believe it. ... I'm soaking in every moment of it."
Four games in, Brosher is batting .400 (6-for-16) with a 1.638 OPS and seven RBIs. He struck out in his other three at-bats Monday, meaning he was not the Kingsport batter to record a hit against Smoral. That honor belonged to Oswald Caraballo, who led off the bottom of the third with an infield single.
For Bluefield (2-3), Richard Urena and Anthony Alford both turned in 3-for-4 nights at the top of the lineup. Urena delivered an RBI single in the fourth and walked ahead of Alford's two-run homer in the sixth.
Andrew Church (0-1) took the loss after yielding four runs in four innings. He gave up 10 hits and a walk while fanning one.