Chris Flexen has been very consistent in his second stint in the Appalachian League, but he took his performance to another level Tuesday night.
The Mets prospect allowed two hits and tied a career high with 11 strikeouts in his first nine-inning complete game as Rookie-level Kingsport shut out Burlington, 1-0, at Hunter Wright Stadium.
"I felt really good today -- a complete-game shutout, can't complain there," Flexen said. "The defense picked me up on all the plays, the offense put up enough. It was one run, but it was enough. My catcher [Adrian Abreu] and I were on the same page as always. I'm just happy to come out on top."
Flexen (7-1) won his seventh straight decision by striking out Bobby Fisher-Brown with the tying run on third base and two outs in the ninth to seal the win and match his career best in Ks, established July 21 at Princeton.
"Everything was on, my command was very good. I was able to spot up pitches and mix it up well," said Flexen, who throws four- and two-seam fastballs, a curveball at two different speeds and a changeup.
The 19-year-old signed above slot instead of heading to Arizona State after being selected in the 14th round of the 2012 Draft. He went 1-3 with a 5.63 ERA in 32 innings for Kingsport -- pitching at a higher level than many prospects of the same age because the Mets don't operate a Gulf Coast League affiliate.
"If we did have a GCL team, that's where I would've been and this would've been my Kingsport year anyway," Flexen told MiLB.com earlier this year. "This extended [spring training] with all the pitching coaches, we hammered out some mechanical tweaks."
Flexen made his first start of 2013 on June 24 and allowed one unearned run in four innings. In his next start, he yielded five runs in four innings. Then he turned the corner in his third appearance, giving up one run in six innings for his first win. Since then, he has gone at least seven innings in all but one start, including a stretch of five straight seven-inning outings in which he posted a 5-0 record.
"I'm a little more experienced. I've learned to try to read hitters a lot more this offseason and through extended spring training, where I was working on command. My command was a big problem last year," he said.
The native of Newark, Calif., had previously never thrown more than seven innings as a pro.
"My arm feels great. My pitch count going into that last inning was pretty low, sitting in the low 80s," he said.
The 6-foot-3 right-hander has fanned 56 and walked 12 in 63 innings for a 2.14 ERA this season.
"I've been staying aggressive and really attacking these hitters," Flexen said. "My defense is making excellent plays behind me, and having those guys behind me making plays, picking me up, is really helping. It's not every time you come out and strike out 10 guys."
With Kingsport's last game scheduled for Aug. 30 against Bluefield, Flexen is hoping to put himself in position for a promotion at the start of 2014.
"My goals for the end of the season are to stay consistent and keep trying to do what I've been doing, try to get 'W's for the team," he said. "As for next season, you always want to move up levels, so the biggest thing is staying consistent, staying healthy and to keep performing and getting better every day."
No. 20 Mets prospect Amed Rosario doubled in Pedro Perez with one out in the second inning for the game's only run. Rosario, who also stole his first base of the year, added a single and was the only batter with more than one hit for either team.
Brandon Simes is a contributor to MiLB.com.