Austin Brice is a creature of habit who believes in routine. He's got his pregame schedule nailed down to the minute and that consistency helps breed success on the mound.
And while his Class A Advanced Hammerheads were left with little to show for his latest gem, the right-hander knows top performances don't always go hand in hand with results.
Brice struck out a career-high 10 batters over six innings of one-run ball Monday in Jupiter's 5-3 loss to the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
"It's baseball and stuff like that happens all the time," he said. "At the end, their guys made great plays and played an all-round great game. It can go either way no matter how good you are, that's the great thing about baseball."
Miami's No. 17 prospect surrendered three singles and two walks in lowering his ERA to 3.74. He exited with a 3-1 lead, but Charlotte rallied for four runs against the bullpen in the eighth inning to ensure he would not factor in the decision.
Selected by the Marlins in the ninth round of the 2010 Draft out of Northwood High School in Pittsboro, North Carolina, Brice previously struck out nine batters in a game six times in his pro career and three times this year, most recently against St. Lucie on June 24.
The 22-year-old allowed an infield single to Thomas Coyle in the first and an RBI single to Maxx Tissenbaum with two outs in the third. Coyle was hit by a pitch with two outs and he stole second base to get into scoring position. Johnny Fields drew a walk on a three-ball pitch that went to the backstop and allowed Coyle to advance to third and Tissenbaum followed with a base hit to right field.
The only other hits allowed by Brice came in the fourth when Ariel Soriano singled to left, but he was stranded on second base.
"I just went with the same approach I always have, the same routine," said Brice, who has only won one of his past six starts, despite limiting his opponents to two runs or fewer in four of those contests. "I didn't really do anything different. Just the cards were in my favor. I had pretty good location today. I was able to correct the mistakes when something wasn't going right, and all three pitches were working for me."
As for the routine, it's methodically mapped out from start to finish.
"We play at 6:35, so I go out there at 5:55," said Brice. "Right at 6 o'clock, I start running to center field, I go right to the warning track then I run back. Then I go through my leg stretches with 90 feet running. Then after five minutes of that, I do my upper body stretches.
"When 6:10 hits, I start my first throw all the way through my throwing program to 120 feet. I usually finish at 6:18. Then at 6:20, I throw my first pitch in the bullpen, then just go by how I feel. I throw until I'm warm and I come back a couple minutes before start time."
That routine was a new addition for the 2014 season and was born out of what Brice calls a lack of effort last winter. He was 8-11 with a 5.73 ERA in 26 South Atlantic League games with Class A Greensboro last year and told himself he would work harder going into the 2014 season.
"I had a really hard time last season," the 6-foot-4 hurler said. "I didn't really get the results I wanted and I attribute all of that to my lack of effort I put in that offseason.
"So after the 2013 season, I sat down for about two weeks before mini-camp and I said to myself, 'Hey, I've gotta get my butt in gear,' so I did. I worked every day on strength training and my game. Not just physical, but mental too. And just made a promise to myself that I wouldn't ever put in a poor effort ever again."
Jupiter's leadoff hitter Justin Bohn went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run to lift his average to .309.
Charlotte reliever Jose Alberto Molina (5-5) worked around an eight-inning run to earn the victory.