On Tuesday night, Jake Buchanan had the kind of problem starting pitches like to have -- his team kept him in the dugout for a long time between innings.
"Trying to stay loose was the biggest problem," the Astros prospect said. "We were scoring a lot of runs, so I was getting up and going to give guys high-fives and handshakes and moving around in the dugout a lot. That probably helped out."
Buchanan stayed loose enough to twirl his second career complete-game shutout while setting a personal high with 10 strikeouts in Triple-A Oklahoma City's 12-0 win over the Zephyrs in New Orleans. The 24-year-old righty scattered six hits without walking a batter and improved to 4-3 with a 2.63 ERA.
"I had the good sinker today and a good slider going for me early on," Buchanan said.
Over his last three starts -- all of which have resulted in RedHawks shutouts -- he's tossed 23 2/3 scoreless innings. He's allowed two walks over that span.
"I felt like I've thrown ball pretty well overall. I had one bad outing in Colorado Springs [on April 16], and after that, I had to go back to making sure the sinker was there and I could keep it down," he said. "If I can keep it down, I try to be efficient and let the defense work, pitch to contact."
Max Stassi, who's been Buchanan's catcher several times but served as designated hitter Tuesday, likes that game plan for Buchanan.
"When he keeps the ball down, he's almost unhittable," Stassi said. "He was phenomenal. That was one of the best I've ever seen him pitch. He's been throwing extremely well lately. It was just ground ball after ground ball, with strikeouts scattered in there."
Buchanan recorded 13 outs on the ground and required a mere 97 pitches to go the distance. He allowed one hit his first time through the New Orleans lineup, and he worked out of trouble twice in the fourth inning.
After hitting Matt Angle to open the frame, he induced a grounder to second base from Juan Diaz for a double play. The Zephyrs' Kyle Jensen then singled and reached second on a throwing error by third baseman Enrique Hernandez. Buchanan got another dribbler to second from Brian Bogusevic to end the danger.
"I felt confident in my pitches at that point in game," Buchanan said. "I had a good plan to get guys out, and I knew I just had to make pitches."
The North Carolina State product cruised from there, never allowing more than one runner to reach in any inning and tossing 1-2-3 frames in the sixth and ninth. He struck out the first two hitters -- Jensen and Bogusevic -- of the final inning.
"That was huge, especially [Jensen]. You always want to try to get the first one," Buchanan said. "On Bogusevic, I tried to go in on him, and it sailed on me a bit. Luckily, he swung at a bad one."
Stassi, who's Houston's No. 12 prospect, had seen his average dip from .280 on May 1 to .250 entering Tuesday's action. He lifted the mark back to .272 by going 4-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs.
"Stassi's bat was really impressive tonight -- 4-for-4 -- that's not an easy thing to do," Buchanan said.
The 23-year-old backstop said he had not been frustrated by his slump.
"I've been working on a few things in the cage. As a hitter, sometimes things come and go. You have to forget the past and focus on the present. I've just been maybe a little tick off," he said. "I go out every day and try to compete, and I had a couple balls go my way tonight. I tried to make the most of it, and I happen to get those hits."
Fourth-ranked Astros prospect Jon Singleton had four walks and has now earned a free pass in six of his last seven plate appearances. Domingo Santana, who's ranked four spots behind Singleton, was 4-for-6 with a double, three runs scored and an RBI.