Hernandez finds an extra gear for Drive

Red Sox No. 9 prospect yields two hits, fans eight in 6 1/3 innings

Darwinzon Hernandez has allowed one run or fewer in 10 of his 19 starts this season. (Mike Burton/Greenville Drive)

By Michael Avallone / MiLB.com | August 12, 2017 12:09 AM ET

Like most other young Minor League pitchers, Darwinzon Hernandez prefers the positive results to the sometimes painful process. His pitching coach, Walter Miranda, continues to stress that the opposite is more important.

Both pitcher and coach got what they wanted on Friday night.

Hernandez allowed two hits and matched season highs with eight strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings as Class A Greenville walked off with a 1-0 win over Rome at Fluor Field at the West End in the first game of a scheduled doubleheader. The nightcap was postponed due to rain.

Video: Hernandez's eighth punchout for Greenville

The 17th-ranked Red Sox prospect is unscored upon in three of his last six outings and has given up one earned run on five hits spanning 11 1/3 innings in his last two. Due largely to pitch count limitations, he's completed five innings in nine of 19 appearances this year. 

"His last two outings have been great," Miranda said. "The main thing we've been working on is being focused with each pitch. We just want him to not get ahead of himself and control what he can control. These last two outings, he's done that and pitched himself into good counts with a good first-strike percentage. Tonight he was 16-of-24 [on first-pitch strikes]. He used both sides of the plate, elevated the fastball and used his secondary pitches."

Gameday box score

Looking to win for the second time in 13 starts, Hernandez hit a batter and issued a walk over the first three innings. Cristian Pache singled with out in the fourth for Rome's first hit and Drew Lugbauer led off the seventh with a single for the other hit off the southpaw, who was lifted with one out in the seventh after issuing his second walk of the game. 

"He had that consistency tonight, which is what we've been looking for from him," the pitching coach said. "From the very beginning, he was locked in and focusing on each pitch. He had great command of his fastball and used all of his secondary pitches -- his slider, his curve and especially the changeup -- when he needed to.

"That's what we want to see from him and all of our pitchers. These young guys who are hard throwers want to just throw as hard as they can and do more than they're capable of. We try and teach them that more is less. It's about learning how to pitch and not just throwing."

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Hernandez had a 2.72 ERA through the season's first two months before hitting a rough patch in June. He also spent two separate stints on the disabled list.

"The mental aspect of the game is so important. But I've seen big improvement on his part with that as the season has continued," Miranda said. "He used to get distracted, like many young pitchers do, but the talent is there. He has four Major League-ready pitches, I think. But the mental part of his game wasn't there. We needed him to slow things down and not focus so much on the results but stay with the process and trust in it.

"That's really the hardest thing for a [Minor League] coach. We focus on the process, knowing how important the results are, too. The players focus more on [the results]. As coaches, we try and take care of one thing at a time and try and do it early in the season so they'll start seeing those results as the year goes on. I tell all of my guys, 'If you want good results, [follow] the process, stay consistent with it and you'll see it happen."

Robby Sexton (4-6) walked one and struck out three over 1 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up the win.

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Roldani Baldwin drove in the winning run with a single to left field with two outs in the eighth for Greenville's second straight walk-off win.

Braves starter Joey Wentz allowed four hits and three walks while striking out eight over 5 2/3 scoreless innings. The ninth-ranked Braves prospect has yielded two runs or fewer in 18 of 21 starts.

Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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