Tyler Alexander left the mound on Wednesday feeling better than he had all season.The Tigers' No. 12 prospect yielded three hits and struck out eight without issuing a walk over a career-high 7 1/3 innings as Double-A Erie edged Altoona, 2-0, at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
Tyler Alexander left the mound on Wednesday feeling better than he had all season.
The Tigers' No. 12 prospect yielded three hits and struck out eight without issuing a walk over a career-high 7 1/3 innings as Double-A Erie edged Altoona, 2-0, at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
Alexander (6-6) faced three batters over the minimum and did not allowed the Curve to advance past second base after the first inning. The left-hander retired the side in order four times and set down 11 of the final 12 hitters he faced.
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"I got more comfortable with my off-speed pitches as the game went on," Alexander said. "I felt my slider get a lot better as I got later in the game and I got more comfortable with it."
The 23-year-old surrendered a leadoff single to Wyatt Mathisen in the eighth, then struck out Jordan George before departing in favor of Kurt Spomer. It was his third scoreless outing in 21 starts this season and the first since tossing five frames on May 14 against Hartford.
Alexander said his dominance resulted from weeks of focus on fastball command. Although he's issued only 17 walks in 103 1/3 innings -- a rate of 1.5 per nine innings -- opponents have hit him at a .320 clip.
"I've been working a lot with [pitching coach] Willie Blair on really getting my fastball to be effective and down in the zone," the Illinois native said. "I spent the last two weeks really working on that. I think all my pitches stem off my fastball."
At first, Alexander struggled to translate his work to the mound during a game. In his previous two outings, he was roughed up for 12 runs on 21 hits over 7 1/3 frames to raise his ERA to 5.61, its highest point since April 19.
"It's been a little sporadic, no doubt. Probably more up in the zone than I would like," Alexander said. "I've been working on that fastball, throwing on a downhill plane and keeping it low in the zone. I can throw it away, but if it's up, it gets hit."
Everything finally fell into place against Altoona as the 2015 second-round pick said his command felt better than in any start this season.
"I would say just the consistency throughout the game was the best it's felt," he said. "I've had a few games where I've felt it really good through the first half of my outing and I may lose it. Tonight, I was consistent with it, which is what I've been looking for."
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Kurt Spomer recorded one out in the eighth and Bryan Garcia closed out the game for the SeaWolves, fanning two over 1 1/3 perfect frames to earn his eighth save.
Erie's offense was led by fifth-ranked prospect Tigers prospect Christin Stewart and No. 14 prospect Dawel Lugo. The duo combined for three hits and two RBIs.
Altoona starter Casey Sadler (1-2) gave up two runs on seven hits and struck out two over five innings.
Alex Kraft is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and chat with him on Twitter @Alex_Kraft21.