With one of baseball's youngest phenoms putting up zeros on the other side, Kendry Flores responded in kind.
The Giants' No. 20 prospect allowed two hits over six innings in his fifth quality start in his last six outings Friday night as Class A Advanced San Jose beat visiting Rancho Cucamonga, 3-0.
"He was both effective and efficient," Giants pitching coach Mike Couchee said. "To me, the greatest thing his last few starts, particularly his last two, he's really done a very good job of keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate. He's pitching to contact, making guys put the ball in play, but there's not a lot of balls hit hard off of him."
Since surrendering seven runs in back-to-back starts on May 29 and June 4, Flores (4-6) has been in the midst of his best stretch of the season, boasting a 2.15 ERA over his last six outings. He's struck out 45 while walking only eight over 37 2/3 innings in that span.
Pitching against 17-year-old Quakes starter and No. 3 Dodgers prospect Julio Urias, Flores nearly matched the young lefty through Urias' three innings. San Jose's starter allowed one hit, while Urias completed three no-hit innings before departing.
"He sees somebody over there throwing up zeros in the hit column and the run column, and he goes out and tries to match it," Couchee said. "They're starting to learn that keeping your team in a game is extremely important, whether it's a 2-0 game or a 5-5 game. They're starting to realize that you don't always have to go out there and throw a no-hitter or a shutout."
With Urias on the bench, Flores continued to stifle Rancho Cucamonga. The 22-year-old right-hander faced the minimum through four frames before allowing three baserunners over his final two. Having piled up 40 strikeouts over his previous five starts, Flores worked with his defense on Friday, recording four outs on the ground and eight in the air while fanning five and walking two.
"I think [inducing contact is] a huge thing for him," Couchee said. "When you learn you can make pitches and have them put the ball in play as a good thing for you, obviously that's what allows him to get deeper into games. It keeps his pitch count down. He can get outs in three or four pitches in an at-bat instead of having to throw five, six, seven just to get the strikeout. It's a big confidence-booster."
Three relievers finished off Flores' victory. Bryce Bandilla walked the bases loaded in the ninth but escaped for his third save.
After Urias exited, the Giants jumped on reliever Gustavo Gomez (1-1) for two runs in the fourth. Brandon Bednar delivered an RBI double and scored on a base hit by Brian Ragira. Elliott Blair produced an insurance run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Gomez (1-1) worked four innings and allowed two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out four.