As his dominant stretch continues, Class A Cedar Rapids' Clark Beeker has put himself within striking distance of a Midwest League record.
The Twins prospect allowed three hits and issued three walks over seven innings in the Kernels' 3-0 blanking of Quad Cities at Perfect Game Field.
The North Carolina native has gone 32 2/3 innings, spanning four starts, without surrendering a run. The league record for consecutive scoreless innings in one season is 42, set by Clinton's Mark Grant in 1982.
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"Pound the strike zone, mix it up and keep the hitters off-balance and try and get some of that really weak contact early in at-bats," Beeker said. "I did a pretty good job of getting the fastball inside early in the game and I think that just kind of kept the hitters off-balance enough where, when they did get pitches to hit, maybe they don't barrel it up as much."
The 24-year-old right-hander credits his recent dominance to a game plan that establishes a changeup he said was almost non-existent prior to the past month. The Davidson College product started using the pitch more often in hitters' counts as well as earlier in the game rather than the second or third time through the order.
Video: Beeker tosses seven scoreless for Cedar Rapids
"I think that's definitely allowed me to have an extra pitch and keep the hitters off-balance," Beeker said. "Then really just mixing the fastball to both sides of the plate and being able to use the fastball late in at-bats rather than the hitter just sitting on an off-speed pitch."
In 20 starts this season, Beeker (11-3) boasts a league-leading 2.03 ERA with 84 strikeouts over 128 2/3 innings. He appeared in 14 games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast and Appalachian leagues last season and had notched at least one strikeout in every appearance in his professional career until Friday night.
"It probably hit me about the sixth or seventh," the 33rd-round pick in last year's Draft said. "If the defense is making great plays behind me, I'm OK with not getting strikeouts as long as I'm keeping runs off the scoreboard."
The start against Quad Cities also was his first since July 14 in which he issued a walk, ending a streak of 32 1/3 innings without a base on balls.
"I didn't really know the walk streak as much as the run streak," Beeker said. "If I'm walking a guy, it doesn't give a chance for the defense to make a play behind me. Not really a whole lot you can do to get people out if you're walking people."
Beeker retired the first five batters he faced on fly balls before allowing a triple to Josh Rojas that put the scoreless streak in peril. But he got seven consecutive outs on the ground before issuing a free pass to Kristian Trompiz. Chas McCormick followed with a single through the middle, but Beeker got Raymond Henderson to bounce out to shortstop to end the threat.
With two outs in the sixth, Troy Sieber knocked a single to center and Abraham Toro-Hernandez walked before ninth-ranked Astros prospect Daz Cameron bounced into a forceout. Beeker also walked Rojas leading off the seventh but induced a double play from Trompiz.
Beeker's batterymate -- and roommate -- No. 21 Twins prospect Ben Rortvedt hit a solo homer in the second and delivered an RBI single in the third.
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"We're constantly talking baseball, even in the house. He knows the kind of the game plan that I want to pitch," Beeker said. "He put a really nice swing on a fastball tonight, kind of gave our team some life early on. I'm probably one of his biggest fans on the team, especially with him being my batterymate and my roommate here."
Twins No. 10 prospect Lewin Diaz singled twice and drove in a run for the Kernels.