Asked to describe the way Alberto Bastardo has started the season, Inland Empire 66ers pitching coach Charlie Hough needed just one word: great.
In his third start of the year, Bastardo allowed only two hits over seven innings as the 66ers blanked the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, 4-0, to snap a five-game losing streak.
"I don't get to grade them, I just report how they threw it," Hough said. "He's throwing well and that's all we care about right now."
The 25-year-old left-hander displayed impressive command of his fastball against the Quakes and, with the help of a sharp changeup and slider, recorded six strikeouts. He fanned Clay Fuller to open the game, the start of four perfect innings.
After getting the first out in the bottom of the fifth, Bastardo gave up back-to-back singles to Efren Navarro and Jeremy Moore, ending his bid for a perfect game. But he recovered quickly, picking off Moore at first and fanning Anthony Norman to end the inning. He threw two more hitless frames before turning the game over to the bullpen.
"He's thrown the ball well every time out so far," Hough said. "He's been super. He's locating his fastball well, good and aggressive. He's done a great job."
Bastardo took the loss in his first start of the season, allowing two runs over five innings with eight strikeouts against the Quakes on April 9. He followed that up by allowing two earned runs in a 5 2/3-inning outing at Lancaster on April 14. Sunday's effort gave him a 2.04 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 17 2/3 frames.
This is Bastardo's second season with the 66ers after going 5-8 with a 5.19 ERA in 2008. He joined the Dodgers organization as a Minor League free agent in 2006.
Hough might not be able to grade Bastardo, but considering the pitching coach spent 25 seasons in the big leagues, his frequent use of the word great goes a long way toward describing how much confidence he has in the southpaw from Venezuela.