Anthony Banda entered Thursday's start with uneven results through his five outings this season for Triple-A Reno. He got back on track with a little help from his offense against Salt Lake.
Arizona's No. 1 prospect spun seven scoreless innings as the Aces routed the Bees, 22-3. Banda allowed four hits and a walk while striking out nine in his first quality start of his 2017 campaign, made easier by the 12 runs of support he received in the first three innings.
"It's easy to get relaxed when you get a big lead, but our job as pitchers is to stay focused and pitch -- out to out and inning to inning -- and that's what I did today," he said. "[A big lead] doesn't change it at all."
Banda (3-1) started his outing by fanning the side in the first inning on 14 pitches. He got Eric Young Jr. swinging before Carlos Perez and Kaleb Cowart took called third strikes.
"We always try to set a tone as far as good tempo, getting early contact and obviously throwing strikes down in the zone -- quality pitches," Banda said. "But overall, we try to set a good tempo and go right after hitters."
Video: Reno's Banda gets out of trouble, induces flyout
The 23-year-old southpaw then watched his teammates put up a six-spot in the bottom of the frame against Salt Lake left-hander Manny Banuelos. The scoring started when Ketel Marte -- who nearly hit for the cycle Wednesday -- lined an RBI single to center and was capped by Hank Conger's two-run single to center.
"You know your team is supposed to give you run support, your job as a pitcher is to put up a zero and get them back into the box," Banda said. "They responded real well -- it was really fun to watch and exciting to see. It's a great feeling when they're doing their job at the plate, you've just got to turn around and do your job."
The 2012 10th-round pick allowed two singles and a walk over the first six frames and didn't allow a runner past first until there were two outs in the seventh with his team ahead, 16-0. Rey Navarro singled and advanced to third on a double by Matt Williams, but Banda got Bo Way to fly out to right to keep the scoreboard clean.
"[That out was] very important because I had done so well so far, and my team had a great defense behind me and gave me big run support," Banda said. "It's easy to fall into comfort where you tend to be lazy ... that's when it can get ugly. I told myself to stay confident, stay down in the zone and let my defense work and try to get them off the field and out of the inning."
Thursday's outing marked something of a milestone for Banda, it was the first time he finished six innings this season and his first start with fewer than two walks. Coming in, he had walked 16 in 23 2/3 frames this year after issuing passes to 94 batters over 301 2/3 frames in 2015 and 2016 combined.
"I just worked on some specific stuff throughout the week in my bullpen -- fine-tuning my mechanics in the windup, staying back a little bit more and powering the ball down in the zone -- little stuff like that," Banda said. "When it's game time, you let your natural ability take over, and hopefully you've done it enough where it becomes habit and you find yourself executing."
Banda hadn't record a quality outing through five starts, although he came within an out of one in two of his past three games before elevated pitch counts -- 96 on April 18 against Albuquerque and 102 on April 23 against El Paso -- forced him to exit. He tossed 103 pitches -- 73 for strikes -- against the Bees on Thursday, combining efficiency with effectiveness.
"I was just pressing a little too hard and trying to be a little too fine," Banda said. "Now you're learning from start to start, getting back to your old self, pitching and executing your pitches. That was it, just fine-tuning little things here and there and gaining my confidence back."
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound southpaw's teammates also built confidence, scoring 14 runs against Banuelos (2-3) and right-hander Drew Gagnon over three-plus innings without the benefit of a home run. Carlos Rivero's grand slam in the seventh pushed the Aces to the 20-run mark, and the third baseman finished 3-for-7 with six RBIs -- tying his career high set May 8, 2007 for Class A Lake County -- and three runs scored.
Video: Reno's Arcia hits RBI double to center in fourth
Oswaldo Arcia also had a monster day, setting a professional best with five hits -- including a career-best three doubles -- with four runs and three RBIs. Marte collected two hits and a walk and scored three times, maintaining the Pacific Coast League lead with a .422 average.