Winkelman whiffs career-high 10 batters

Astros lefty fights through illness to spin six scoreless innings

Alex Winkelman has yet to give up a run this season, allowing just five baserunners in 14 1/3 innings. (Sean Flynn/MiLB.com)

By Chris Tripodi / MiLB.com | April 18, 2017 10:31 PM ET

If Alex Winkelman still felt the effects of illness, he didn't show it on the mound in Myrtle Beach on Tuesday.

The Astros left-hander struck out a career-high 10 over six scoreless innings, but Class A Advanced Buies Creek eventually fell to Myrtle Beach, 6-0. Winkelman punctuated his outing by striking out the side in his final frame, catching three consecutive Pelicans looking at strike three.


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"Honestly, I had a rough week. I was sick and feeling fatigued by the end and I just wanted to get out of there," he said. "You always want to go back out there for your team, but it was a good way to end it. I felt really strong and was happy with the performance overall."

Winkelman managed to gut out 81 pitches, a number he previously topped once in his career on May 9, 2016 for Class A Quad Cities against Burlington. His follow-up start on May 15, 2016, marked the only other time he's completed six innings as a professional -- a scoreless outing against Beloit.

The 2015 21st-round pick came out of the gates firing Tuesday, striking out Carlos Sepulveda, Connor Myers and Trent Giambrone to retire the side in order in the first inning. He allowed a two-out double to Tyler Alamo in the second, but got Jesse Hodges to ground out to extinguish the only threat he faced.

Video: Buies Creek's Winkelman whiffs 10th batter of game

"I didn't think [the pitch to Alamo] was too bad; I caught a little of the plate and he got it," Winkelman said. "I felt lucky -- he hit it well enough to get out of the park, but it got knocked down. I wanted to get the next guy to make sure I didn't extend the inning, [so I] went right after him and got him to hit that jam job to short."

The 2015 21st-round pick cruised from there, retiring the next 12 hitters as he faced one over the minimum. His outing ended in the sixth exactly as it started -- by striking out the side to preserve a 0-0 tie.

"I've just been attacking and getting ahead of hitters. In the past when I've struggled, it's because I'm pitching away from contact, walking people and getting into jams," Winkelman said. "Right from the get-go, I've been coming after people and dictating the pace of the game my way rather than having to adjust to how the hitters are approaching the game."

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound southpaw's words back up his numbers this season as he has walked one batter in 14 1/3 innings after issuing 55 free passes in 128 2/3 career frames entering 2017. He's allowed four hits and sports a 0.35 WHIP along with his spotless ERA.

"Pitching coach [Chris Holt] and Anthony Hermelyn -- our catcher -- had a good gameplan going on how we were going to attack the main guys in their order," Winkelman said. "We were able to execute and keep them off balance. Hermelyn called an amazing game. I didn't have to do too much or work really at all, we were on the same page the whole time."

As part of Houston's piggybacking system in the Minor Leagues, Winkelman was coming off a 3 1/3-inning appearance out of the Buies Creek bullpen against Winston-Salem on April 13. He allowed two hits and struck out two in that outing after allowing one hit and one walk while whiffing nine over five innings in his first start on April 7.

"I'm [piggybacking] with Justin Ferrell -- it's different because most starters want to be just starters and most relievers want to be just relievers," Winkelman said. "But as any Minor Leaguer will tell you, any way you can get to the big leagues you do it, and if you show some versatility, it's nice to have in your repertoire."

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After his exit, right-hander Andrew Thome (0-1) took over and was tagged for six runs -- four earned -- on four hits while striking out two in one-plus innings. The big blow came off the bat of Cubs No. 10 prospect Eddy Martinez, a two-run homer in the seventh before the Pelicans put up four in the eighth to chase Thome before he recorded an out.

Myrtle Beach left-hander Justin Steele matched Winkelman zero for zero through 5 1/3 scoreless innings, scattering five hits and two walks while striking out five. Dillon Maples (2-0) gave up one hit and two walks and fanned three in 1 2/3 innings.

Osvaldo Duarte notched three of Buies Creek's seven hits, all of which were singles. The four-game hitting streak for Astros No. 2 prospect Kyle Tucker came to an end after he went 0-for-3 with a walk.

Chris Tripodi is an editor for MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @christripodi. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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