By now, Kyle Crick has a well-established track record as being the kind of pitcher who can rack up more than his share of strikeouts.
But even by his own standards, the top Giants prospect outdid himself Tuesday.
The Class A Advanced San Jose right-hander turned in a career-high 11 strikeouts as he scattered two runs on four hits and two walks over five innings but the Giants went on to lose to the Visalia Rawhide, 4-3. Crick fanned the first seven batters he faced.
"The fastball command was a big thing," he said. "Early on, I had pretty good command of my fastball and used the changeup and slider and curve later. [Eleven strikeouts are] awesome, but you know the strikeouts are gonna come as long as you're around the zone and throwing strikes."
After missing all of May and much of June with a strained left oblique this year, Crick has found his groove, making his last seven starts as scheduled and throwing at least five innings in six of those outings after he didn't reach five frames in any of his first three starts of the year.
In addition to striking out batters in bunches, he's also been working on cutting down on walks. He issued five free passes in his first start before heading to the Futures Game and then walked another five in his first outing after coming back from New York.
But in his last two starts, he has walked just three in 11 innings.
"We were working on that in the bullpen sessions and stuff like that. [San Jose pitching coach Mike Couchee] helped me a lot with that," he noted. "Feels good, I've got a lot of confidence up there with my changeup, the slider ... every pitch I feel confident with and they all feed off the fastball."
On the season, the Texas native has a 1.58 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 27 walks in 45 2/3 innings.
All the punchouts have given Crick a 12.61 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio, one of the best rates in the Minors and one that would rank him near the top of the California League if he had enough innings to qualify.
"When I'm way ahead, like 0-2, it kind of crosses your mind, that you don't wanna give them something to hit. Get them to chase something out of the zone," he said of his strategy for sitting batters down. "But usually I just try to throw strikes and get outs."
Crick relished his Futures Game experience, which saw the 21-year-old issue two walks and record an out in the ninth before Washington's A.J. Cole came in for the save.
"That was awesome. I got to meet a bunch of good guys, some really good talent there," he said. "And the stadium was pretty crazy too. Pitching in something that big, just a good experience to have."
Myles Schroder smacked a two-RBI triple while Brock Bond reached safely four times out of the leadoff spot and scored a run for San Jose.
But Jon Griffin hit a solo homer and Kevin Medrano, David Peralta and Sean Jamieson plated runs to rally Visalia to the win.