The first inning has been tough for Stephen Gonsalves.
After working around a two-out double by Juan Herrera on Friday night, the Twins' No. 15 prospect allowed only two more hits over seven innings as Class A Cedar Rapids coasted to an 11-0 rout of visiting Peoria.
"I just want to keep my pitch count down, so I'm throwing as many strikes as I can. [As a result,] I'm plating a lot of 0-2 pitches and getting a lot of mistakes," he said.
Gonsalves gave up singles to Cardinals No. 11 prospect Carson Kelly and Vaughn Bryan in the second and third, respectively, before tossing four near-perfect frames. The only other Chief to reach against him was Kelly, who got aboard on third baseman Jonatan Hinojosa's in the seventh.
"I had Mitch Garver behind the plate, who was helping me a lot. He made sure I stayed down and gave me good targets," Gonsalves said. "Once you feel confident with every pitch, all I have to do is see whatever Garver puts down and where he wants it."
The 20-year-old left-hander lowered his first-inning ERA to 5.40, struck out five for the third straight start and did not issue a walk for the third time this season.
"Control has always been good, fastball-wise. I always felt like I could put it where I wanted to," he explained. "I got into two 3-0 counts and was able to get out of it. I can throw strikes because my defense can make the plays. It's been a whole lot different since high school, knowing that you have all-stars at each position behind you."
The 2013 fourth-round pick notched his first win since his Midwest League debut on July 27 and is 2-2 with a 1.57 ERA in five starts since his promotion from Rookie-level Elizabethton.
And while he was trying to keep his pitch count down -- he threw 89 -- Gonsalves (2-2) said he didn't mind having to throw extra warmup pitches in the bullpen while the Kernels continued their hot hitting in the fifth and sixth innings.
"That's the greatest feeling in the world, once they're putting up runs every inning," he said. "It's always good to have your offense there, but a lot of times you'll get a little cold."
Hinojosa drove in four runs with a triple and a double, while Alex Swim and Tanner Vavra chipped in two RBIs apiece.
Jared Wilson and Dallas Gallant each threw a hitless inning behind Gonsalves as Cedar Rapids registered its eighth shutout of the season.