Coming off arguably his worst start of the season, Mike Shawaryn faced a tough task to rebound. The ninth-ranked Red Sox prospect took the mound Wednesday to face the only Minor League team with two players among MLB.com's top 12 prospects: the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
But Blue Jays phenoms Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette couldn't spoil a solid outing for Shawaryn.
Gameday box score
The right-hander tossed seven scoreless innings, recording a season-high eight strikeouts while allowing three hits and a walk, as Double-A Portland clinched its first road series of the season with a 7-1 victory over New Hampshire at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
Shawaryn's win came on the heels of a loss on Friday in which he gave up four earned runs, five hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings. Then, on Monday, he watched Guerrero Jr. homer twice on a five-RBI night and Bichette draw three walks. But Portland pitching coach Paul Abbott said his starter focused on his own strengths and not those of the prolific batters he was facing.
"People come in and see that they both had big openers in the series and you could pitch passively and backwards," Abbott said. "He was aggressive with them and got ahead in the count. If he'd pitched carefully, you can easily fall behind, but he jumped ahead from the beginning and gave himself an advantage."
Video: Portland's Shawaryn gets 8th punchout
Things looked shaky early as Bichette -- ranked 12th overall -- singled up the middle in the bottom of the first, but Shawaryn got Guerrero Jr. to line into an inning-ending double play to second baseman Chad De La Guerra. The Sea Dogs starter eased through the next three frames before the Fisher Cats put a pair of baserunners on in the fifth.
With two outs, Shawaryn gave up a double to right to Connor Panas, then walked Andrew Guillotte. But the 23-year-old protected a 2-0 lead by striking out Gunnar Heidt. In the sixth, Shawaryn gave up another two-out knock, but Guerrero Jr. was thrown out at third trying to stretch a double.
Both Bichette and Guerrero Jr. went 1-for-4.
While Shawaryn got help from his defense on two key inning-ending plays, Abbott said his ability to handle two of the Minors' top hitters should pay dividends as the season progresses. The 23-year-old is in his second full season of pro ball and has progressed through the system quickly. Abbott said Wednesday's game should prove to Shawaryn that he belongs in Double-A.
"Pitching professionally versus pitching in the amateurs is very different," Abbott said. "These guys playing in Double-A are bigger names ... and this is a confidence booster to show he can get good hitters out. His stuff can play at a higher level. At the same time, this gave him a better feel for how his pitches work together. His changeup showed a lot of potential and his slider and cutter helped him become complete.
"When you do it against a high-caliber offense, it punctuates that you can continue to do it there."
Red Sox No. 11 prospect Josh Ockimey put Portland on the board in the second with a leadoff homer and Austin Rei padded the lead with a two-out RBI double. The Sea Dogs added insurance in the ninth, with Cole Sturgeon's three-run homer capping a five-run outburst.
Tony Renda led Portland with three hits and Daniel McGrath gave up an unearned run on one hit over the final two innings to notch his first Double-A save.
Fisher Cats starter Jon Harris (1-3), the Jays' No. 30 prospect, gave up two runs on six hits and a walk with two strikeouts in five innings.