When Kyle Cody was told that his day was done, he had mixed emotions.
"I wanted to go back out, but my pitch count was there," he said. "So it was a sigh of relief."
After exiting with runners on base who eventually came around to score in his last start, the Rangers' No. 18 prospect was happy to have a clean final frame on Sunday. He gave up a hit and two walks while striking out eight over seven innings as Class A Advanced Down East blanked Buies Creek, 3-0, on Sunday at Grainger Stadium.
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"That was one thing that me and my pitching coach [Steve Mintz] discussed is getting out of that inning without walking two guys," he said. "And [Sunday], my focus in the seventh inning was just to get through it and give my bullpen a clean inning. So I was really happy I was able to do that."
On Monday, Cody issued a pair of walks and left with two outs in the third inning against Carolina. Although he yielded just one hit and tied a career high with 11 strikeouts, the 23-year-old was charged with two runs after Jose Valdespina allowed the inherited runners to score.
Determined not to let that happen again, Cody cruised against the Astros.
Cody allowed a leadoff single to Rodrigo Ayarza in the third and issued a leadoff walk to Carmen Benedetti in the fourth. Both times, his defense helped him out with double plays as he faced the minimum through five innings.
"I'd say being able to throw my slider for strikes and just getting them off my fastball a little bit [was key]," he said. "I was able to execute a few changeups as well. It was all working through the middle innings, through the fourth, fifth and sixth. I just kept the hitters off-balance and the defense did a nice job behind me. And that's all I can really ask for."
After working around a walk to Alex De Goti in the sixth and plunking Astros No. 11 prospect Jake Rogers in the seventh, Cody retired Randy Cesar on a comebacker on his 94th and final pitch.
"I felt really good from the beginning, I just tried to get my fastball command going and get the slider working after that. Slider was a little spotty today, but I was able to command it enough to give my defense some opportunities to work," he said. "I think the past two months, month and a half, I don't think I've felt better than how I have right now, so just got two more starts left and I just got to finish strong."
That good feeling says a lot, considering Cody is wrapping up a breakout year. In his first full season, the right-hander allowed two runs over 30 2/3 innings in July for Class A Hickory before earning a promotion. In three Carolina League starts, Cody has a 2.41 ERA.
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"Made some slight adjustments with my delivery, but besides that, it's been just focusing more and zoning in, just trying to hit my spots and letting everything else play out for itself. It's all worked so far; I'm just going to try to finish strong," he said. "From the beginning, they told me, 'Don't try to be a different pitcher, don't try and do anything new [at the new level], just keep doing what you have been doing.' I think that helped a lot, just coming in and staying relaxed and just focusing on what's been working for me."
Scott Williams loaded the bases in the eighth, but Jeffrey Springs retired all four batters he faced to wrap up the Wood Ducks' ninth shutout.
LeDarious Clark and Carlos Garay each drove in a pair of runs for Down East.