Kolby Allard achieved milestones on the mound and at the plate Thursday.
The Braves' No. 3 prospect enjoyed his first scoreless start for Double-A Mississippi, allowing three hits and two walks while striking out three over five innings, and collected his first professional hit before the team surrendered eight runs in the ninth of an 8-7 loss to Tennessee at Smokies Stadium.
Bound by early-season pitch and innings limits, Allard tossed 71 pitches in his outing, throwing 45 of them for strikes. The 19-year-old left-hander's strikeout total tied a career low, but he pointed to his changeup as a major key to his success.
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"I had pretty good command of it all afternoon and was able to keep it down, which is always big for me," said Allard, who induced seven groundouts compared to four through the air. "It starts when I'm able to locate the fastball to both sides, and the two pitches really complement each other well. If I've got that down, I can do well."
The changeup, given an above-average 55 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale by MLB.com, played a key role in getting Allard out of his only major jam in the third. He got Erick Castillo and Jen-Ho Tseng -- the bottom two batters in the Smokies' lineup -- to strike out before allowing back-to-back singles to Charcer Burks and Andrew Ely. The Mississippi starter walked David Bote on five pitches to load the bases, but escaped when he got Cael Brockmeyer to bounce a first-pitch changeup to third base for the final out.
"I threw a pretty good changeup on the first single that just kinda fell in," said the 50th-ranked prospect by MLB.com, "and fell behind the next two guys on the hit and the walk, which didn't help. With two outs, I knew I had to just get ahead of this next guy and got the good changeup I needed for the out, I guess. That was probably the big outing-turning pitch of the day for me."
Allard's bat did some talking, too. After striking out to lead off the third, Allard stepped up with the bases empty in the fifth and poked a 1-1 fastball from Tseng the other way, depositing his first professional hit in front of Burks in left.
Video: M-Braves' Allard collects first pro hit
"It was pretty fun," said Allard, who is 1-for-3 in his first two games. "I haven't hit in forever in a game like this. ... The first priority is always to get the bunt down. But if you can't do that or it's not an option, just hope you can get a good look at a fastball and drive it. That's what happened."
Allard's first Double-A start Saturday was solid as well as he allowed two earned runs and six hits, including a home run, while striking out five in five innings of a 6-1 loss to Jacksonville. Though he factored in the decision, the outing proved the California native wasn't out of his element by jumping straight to Double-A. Allard and No. 4 Braves prospect Mike Soroka made waves by bypassing the Florida State League and are the only Southern League players in their age-19 season.
When camp broke in Florida, Allard said the Braves didn't provide any special instructions to go with the aggressive assignment.
"Basically, they told me to do my thing and execute pitches," said Allard, the Braves' top pitching prospect. "They just want me to throw the ball well and keep doing what I've done before. Age is just a number to me and Mike, and if they think we can pitch here, then we will."
Despite Allard's efforts on Thursday, the Braves lost after blowing a seven-run lead in the ninth. Relievers Evan Phillips and Danny Reynolds combined to give up seven singles, two walks and one hit batter.
Carlos Penalver's line-drive base hit to left scored Jeffrey Baez from third to give the Smokies the walk-off win.
Video: Penalver caps eight-run comeback with walk-off hit