For a couple of hours, Jalen Beeks led the International League in strikeouts.The 15th-ranked Red Sox prospect jumped atop the leaderboard with a 10-punchout performance for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday, but the moment was fleeting as Durham starter Anthony Banda overtook the No. 1 spot with an eight-strikeout effort. In addition to
For a couple of hours, Jalen Beeks led the International League in strikeouts.
The 15th-ranked Red Sox prospect jumped atop the leaderboard with a 10-punchout performance for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday, but the moment was fleeting as Durham starter Anthony Banda overtook the No. 1 spot with an eight-strikeout effort.
In addition to recording double-digit strikeouts for the second time in his career, Beeks allowed two hits and two walks over six scoreless innings, pitching the Red Sox to a 6-0 victory over Gwinnett at McCoy Stadium.
"Tonight, he was going with fastballs-cutters," Pawtucket pitching coach Kevin Walker said. "He had a real sneaky life to the fastball. He was able to command it really well ... up in the zone. ... His cutter was really working off the fastball today -- especially to right-handed hitters. He was able to get it inside [and] when it was time for kill counts, he was able to [go backdoor] with his cutter."
The fastball-cutter combination proved lethal. The left-hander provided an even split with five swinging strikeouts and five looking. Beeks threw 59 of 98 pitches for strikes to stay under his 100-pitch limit.
"The crispness of his stuff is allowing him to get the strikeouts right now," Walker said.
Beeks (1-1) pitched just two clean innings -- the third and fifth -- but did not deal with much adversity after the opening frame. He put down Tyler Smith looking to work out of the first-inning jam, stranding runners at second and third. After that, he did not deal with more than one baserunner at a time.
The University of Arkansas product completed four innings in each of his first two outings, dealing with high first-inning pitch counts on both occasions. Pitching deeper into the game was a goal for Beeks and Walker on Saturday.
"Efficiency-wise, he wasn't where he would want to be," the pitching coach said. "He threw a lot of pitches through his first two outings. The big thing tonight was getting through that first inning.
"It's about being efficient and going out, as a starter, trying to give your team length every time you're out there."
Gameday box score
A double by Chris Stewart in the second and a single by Carlos Franco in the sixth were the only hits Beeks allowed. The Fayetteville, Arkansas native held MLB.com's No. 2 overall prospect, Ronald Acuña Jr., hitless in three at-bats.
Walker said that facing Major League-ready talent is nothing new for Beeks, recalling an exhibition against Team USA prior to the World Baseball Classic during last year's Spring Training. The 2014 12th-round pick shined after being thrust into a spot start on 15 minutes notice.
"He threw two innings and threw the ball extremely well against some of the best hitters on the planet," Walker said. "I think that's really where it kind of hit him that he's got some stuff to pitch at the Major League level. He continues to get better every day.
"The thing about Jalen is he's so even-keeled. He prepares well. He knows what he does well. He doesn't let certain teams, certain players affect what he's doing. He's going out there and executing his game plan."
The pitching coach added that the 24-year-old also does an exceptional job of hiding the ball.
"All the pitches come out of the same slot," he said. "It's deceptive. I think that accounts for more swing and misses than overall stuff.
"He's able to throw the fastball up in the zone effectively and get swing and misses up there. He's developed a nice little cutter to go off the fastball. Tonight, it was a strikeout pitch. It's more designed to get some early-in-the-count outs [and] change looks to right-handers, getting inside."
In the future, Walker said he would like to see Beeks use his changeup more often, especially when facing a heavily right-handed lineup.
"That's going to be a big pitch for him moving forward," Walker said.
Red Sox No. 5 prospect Sam Travis delivered an RBI single in the first and walked.
Braves No. 6 prospectKolby Allard started for Gwinnett and allowed two earned runs on four hits and three walks with five strikeouts over five innings.
Chris Bumbaca is a contributor for MiLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @BOOMbaca.