Don't mess with success.
J.B. Bukauskas has played at four different levels this season, and his attitude since getting called up to the Carolina League on July 30 has been simple: "Just keep doing what I've been doing. Don't try to change too much."
Coming off the best outing of his career, Houston's No. 8 prospect raised his bar even higher Wednesday -- yielding one hit and one walk while fanning five over a career-long seven innings -- to pace Class A Advanced Buies Creek to a 5-0 blanking of Winston-Salem at Jim Perry Stadium.
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"I always want to throw all my pitches for strikes, and I've been developing all of my pitches and that's been helping me a lot," Bukauskas said. "The goal is always to keep getting better and keep executing my pitches."
The right-hander allowed three hits and two walks with six punchouts over six shutout innings against Down East on Aug. 9, and his back-to-back performances lowered his ERA to 1.00 over three Carolina League starts. In 18 innings on the circuit, Bukauskas (2-0) has amassed 16 whiffs, five walks and a 0.72 WHIP.
Facing one over the minimum Wednesday, the 15th pick in the 2017 Draft dominated a starting lineup containing six of the top-30 White Sox prospects -- three of whom are in MLB.com's overall Top 100.
"I felt good out there, I had a lot of things working for me," he said. "My slider felt good, my cutter felt good, my changeup was working, and I had my fastball early but then lost control of it towards the end. But the other pitches helped me get through it."
Bukauskas retired the first nine batters he faced on 33 pitches. Chicago's No. 14 prospect Luis Gonzalez lined a 1-1 offering over the middle of the plate into left field in the fourth inning. But Bukauskas induced a 5-4-3 double play on the next pitch to baseball's No. 25 prospect Luis Robert. Two pitches after that, fourth-ranked Chicago prospect Nick Madrigal grounded out to first baseman Jake Adams, who tossed to the covering 21-year-old to end the frame.
"I tried to be efficient out there. I wanted to get the team back in the dugout as quickly as possible," Bukauskas said. "That last inning was a little longer, maybe a little fatigue, but I really wanted to get through it."
The North Carolina product navigated through the fifth on seven pitches and then worked another 1-2-3 inning in the sixth. Gonzalez reached after a six-pitch walk to lead off the seventh, but he was stranded on the basepaths after Bukauskas struck out Robert swinging and then got Madrigal and seventh-ranked Blake Rutherford to ground out.
"I got together with our catcher [Chuckie Robinson] and pitching coach [Drew French] before the game. We sat down and came up with a very in-depth gameplan on how to attack certain guys," Bukauskas said. "Then I just went out there and tried to execute that plan to the best of my ability and hoping for good results. Luckily, we got them. ... I'm really enjoying my time here, it's been awesome."
Right-hander Carlos Sanabria preserved the shutout for Buies Creek after allowing two hits while striking out a pair over the final two frames.
Bryan De La Cruz collected three hits, an RBI and a run while Jacob Meyers added three hits and a run to pace the Astros offense.