Jordan Balazovic put an exclamation point on a breakout regular season.The fourth-ranked Twins prospect gave up two hits and struck out nine over five scoreless innings Wednesday, but Class A Advanced Fort Myers dropped a 2-1 decision to Dunedin in the first game of a doubleheader at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium.
Jordan Balazovic put an exclamation point on a breakout regular season.
The fourth-ranked Twins prospect gave up two hits and struck out nine over five scoreless innings Wednesday, but Class A Advanced Fort Myers dropped a 2-1 decision to Dunedin in the first game of a doubleheader at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium.
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"Honestly, it was kind of weird. It wasn't one of those days where you felt really good out there," Balazovic said. "And somehow, it was one of my better outings."
The right-hander retired the first seven Blue Jays, striking out three of them swinging, before Nick Podkul drew a six-pitch walk with one out in the third inning.
"I was [ticked] at myself that I walked that batter," he said.
The next six hitters went down, taking Balazovic into the fifth. He got four of those outs via the punchout.
"I didn't try to do too much, just hit my spots, mix it up and I just kept the hitters off-balance," he said. "I didn't try to overthrow or blow it past everybody. Just throw all my pitches, throw them all for strikes and hit my spots."
Balazovic said he's been on a pitch count his last couple of outings -- 80 pitches or five innings, whichever came first.
MLB.com's No. 79 overall prospect lost the no-hit bid on his first pitch to Kacy Clemens, who hit a short liner to right field for a one-out single.
"He was out front and got a good enough piece on it," he said. "Nothing you could really do."
It was a unique inning for Balazovic, who didn't throw a pitch out of the strike zone. The 20-year-old fanned Demi Orimoloye on four pitches, gave up the hit to Clemens, got Blue Jays No. 27 prospect Samad Taylor swinging on three pitches, gave up an infield single to Podkul and punched out Reggie Pruitt on three pitches to finish his start.
"I didn't even know that, to be honest. That's crazy," he said of the fifth. "That was my plan for today: attack the strike zone as much as I could."
It was the second scoreless outing this month for the Mississauga, Ontario, native, who lowered his ERA to 2.33 with 28 strikeouts over 19 1/3 innings in August. Balazovic spent April with Class A Cedar Rapids and went 2-1 with a 2.18 ERA in four starts before being promoted on May 3. In his Florida State League debut two days later, he threw seven perfect innings with 10 strikeouts to earn the Pitcher of the Week honors.
As the season unfolded, Balazovic continued to learn who he is as a pitcher while using his strengths to his advantage.
"I developed my curveball a lot since last year and my changeup has gotten a lot better, too," he said.
The 2016 fifth-round pick threw seven three-hit frames on May 25 against Daytona Beach on his way to a spot in the Futures Game in July. Balazovic With the regular season ending Sunday, Balazovic went 6-4 with a 2.84 ERA in 15 Florida State League games, including 14 starts, striking out 96 and walking 21.
Like he did last year, he plans to spend the offseason working out in Fort Myers, trying to put on weight and build up strength.
"I'm gonna be working on that changeup and my breaking stuff to be able to throw it whenever I want in counts and be more consistent with it," Balazovic said.
Dunedin took the nightcap, 4-3, as Christopher Bec hit a walk-off single in the ninth.
Shlomo Sprung is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @sprungonsports</a