Although Bryse Wilson encountered some difficulties in his first two Triple-A starts, he felt his fastball provided him with a measure of success. Sticking with the heater on Wednesday, he moved past those struggles on the way to a milestone.
The Braves' 13th-ranked prospect broke the team record with a career-high 13 strikeouts and gave up one hit over eight innings as Gwinnett held on for a 4-3 win over Louisville on Wednesday at Coolray Field. It was his longest start since throwing a nine-inning complete game for Class A Rome on July 8, 2017.
Video: Gwinnett's Wilson registers 13th K
"I was really able to locate my fastball really well and mix in some off-speed when I was behind in the count," Wilson said. "It was just to keep them respecting the off-speed, but I executed a lot of pitches and commanded the ball really well. I didn't have to throw as many [changeups] tonight because the fastball was so good -- I think I threw four or five. I got a strikeout with one, a first-pitch strike with another just to be able to show it and have them know that I have that pitch is big itself and makes my fastball even better."
Wilson has moved through the system at a breakneck pace. He began the year with Class A Advanced Florida and has reached Triple-A in four months. Across three levels, he has a 3.27 ERA and ranks 16th in the Minor Leagues -- and second among Braves farmhands behind Touki Toussaint -- with 139 strikeouts.
Gameday box score
In bouncing around three cities in three leagues across the southeast, Wilson said he's learned a lot from the challenges he's faced this season.
"It's been really exciting and I've been really fortunate to be given these opportunities to be moved along as fast as I have," he said. "I know that doesn't happen for a lot of guys, so I'm really fortunate and happy that I'm in this position. And it's been a lot of fun."
After earning a promotion to the International League on Aug. 1, Wilson surrendered 10 runs over 12 innings in his first two starts. The 20-year-old got back on track against the Bats by facing the minimum and throwing 72 of 98 pitches for strikes. Of the 24 batters he faced, four hit the ball out of the infield.
Wilson and the Gwinnett staff noticed coming into the game that some in the Louisville lineup had trouble catching up to high fastballs, so the hurler took that scouting report and ran with it. He was strong from the outset, fanning the first two batters on six pitches before getting ahead of Gabriel Guerrero, 0-2. With a shot at an immaculate inning, the right-hander induced a groundout to third base.
Getting through the opening inning proved an important hurdle for Wilson, who said he settled in after the frame.
"I felt like that first inning really set the tone for the game," he added, "just to get a feel for how good my fastball was going to be this night and how my command was going to be. It really set up the rest of the game well."
Blake Trahan was Louisville's first baserunner, pushing a single into right field with one out in the fourth. Two pitches later, Wilson was trotting back to the dugout after getting Guerrero to roll into an inning-ending double play.
Trahan turned out to be the Bats' only runner against the 2016 fourth-round pick, who retired his final 13 hitters, six via the strikeout. Wilson eclipsed the team record for strikeouts of 12, set by Charlie Morton on April 12, 2009.
To be mentioned in the same breath as a starter with more than 900 Major League strikeouts and an All-Star appearance was a fun nugget for Wilson, but he said he hopes that Wednesday's start is just one in a string of more successful outings.
"It's a really cool stat and obviously I'm happy to have accomplished something like that, but I've just got to go out there each and every time and I want to put up those numbers every time," Wilson said. "I'm just going to focus on what I need to do and how I need develop to get to the next level."
In terms of this year, the start marked the fifth time that the 6-foot-1, 225-pound hurler pitched at least seven innings but the first time he recorded at least one out in the eighth. To get stretched out was an added bonus.
"I feel like as the game goes on I feel more comfortable out there ... with the longer I'm out there," Wilson said. "Just the way everything was working, it was nice to stay in the game that long and just put my team in the best situation to win."
The North Carolina native outpitched former Braves prospect Lucas Sims (4-4), who allowed four runs on three hits and a walk over 5 1/3 innings in his third start for Louisville.
Braves No. 28 prospect Alex Jackson opened the scoring with an RBI double in the second and Phil Gosselin drove in two runs for Gwinnett.