While many eyes undoubtedly were fixed on the the season debut of top Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez, his Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach teammate Oscar De La Cruz quietly stole the show.
The fifth-ranked Cubs prospect scattered five hits over seven frames to record the first complete game of his professional career as the Class A Advanced Pelicans rolled the Lynchburg Hillcats, 7-0, at TicketReturn.com Field. De La Cruz did not allow a walk, struck out only one and his seven innings matched a career high.
Gameday box score
The 22-year-old right-hander threw a season-low 71 pitches, 54 for strikes, despite going deeper than he had in any other game he started this year. He amassed seven one-pitch at-bats and eight two-pitch at-bats.
Video: De La Cruz pitches complete game for Myrtle Beach
"That's something we've been talking about, instead of strikeouts, pitch for contact," Myrtle Beach pitching coach Anderson Tavares said. "If you get into situations where you have to strike guys out, use your breaking ball, use your changeup or elevate and change eye levels. We just talk about pitching for contact and he did it tonight. It was a great outing for him."
De La Cruz ran into some difficulty at the start of innings, allowing leadoff singles to Sam Haggerty in the first and Andrew Calica in the second. After Calica's hit, De La Cruz got Martin Cervenka to fly out to left and coerced a 6-4-3 double play from Daniel Salters. The double play began a streak of six consecutive batters retired before Sicnarf Loopstok's infield single with one out in the fourth.
"With Oscar, it's just get ahead," Tavares said. "He was really effective with that fastball glove side -- away for right-handed hitters, inside for left-handed hitters. I think that was the key, getting ahead with that fastball. After that, he can make his pitches."
Video: Jimenez pushes home a run for Myrtle Beach
The native of the Dominican Republic finished strong for the Pelicans after surrendering another leadoff single in the fifth to Haggerty. He set down six in a row to complete the game, including his only strikeout, with Loopstok going down swinging for the second out of the sixth.
"That fastball glove side is the thing we've really been working on this week because he had been struggling to throw [it] and he finally did it," Tavares said. "Hopefully, he can keep doing that because ... I said, 'That's going to be the pitch that's going to take you to the big leagues.' It's so effective, the hitters can't see that if you keep the pitch down and away, so it's going to be hard for them to make good contact."
Jimenez found an RBI opportunity with two runners on in his first at-bat and came through with a run-scoring knock through the left side. Eddy Martinez followed with a three-run homer.
"He competed, showed presence in the box and saw the ball out of the hand," Pelicans hitting coach Guillermo Martinez said in a statement. "It's great to have him in Myrtle Beach."
The 20-year-old left fielder bounced out in the third and knocked a base hit up the middle in the fifth to finish the first game 2-for-3. He added a hit and walked three times -- twice intentionally and once for the walk-off base on balls in the 13th inning -- in a 5-4 victory in the nightcap. Daniel Spingola finished 3-for-5 with a three-run double in the seventh, and is hitting .343 on the year.
Video: Jimenez's walk-off walk in the 13th for Myrtle Beach