Since spring turned to summer, no one has been able to cool off Mitch Atkins.
The 22-year-old right-hander struck out 11 over six innings on Sunday to remain perfect in the Pacific Coast League as the Iowa Cubs topped the Salt Lake Bees, 7-3, at Principal Park.
Atkins has won all of his five starts since being promoted last month from Double-A Tennessee, where he won his final five starts.
"Pretty much everything was working for me today," he said. "I was throwing a lot of cutters and getting them over for strikes. And I got good run support."
Much of that run support came from Micah Hoffpauir, who homered, doubled and tied a season high with five RBIs.
With temperatures on the field topping 100 degrees,
Atkins got off to a rocky start. He gave up one run on three hits -- a single by John Czarniecki and doubles by Sean Rodriguez and Kendry Morales -- in the opening inning. But the North Carolina native got help from second baseman Bobby Scales, who caught Dee Brown's popup along the right-field line and nailed Czarniecki at the plate for a key double play.
Atkins did not allow another baserunner, mowing down 16 consecutive batters to lower his ERA to 3.90. He fanned the side in the third and the fifth, falling one strikeout short of the career high he established on Aug. 17, 2006 while pitching for Class A Peoria.
Selected by Chicago in the seventh round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Atkins went 9-6 with a 3.76 ERA in 18 Southern League starts before moving up to the PCL.
"It's been great," he said of his Triple-A experience. "I'm trying to carry over what I did at Tennessee. The hitters here are a little better. They're more patient and looking for a certain pitch.
"But overall, I'm getting comfortable here and feeling pretty good right now."
His first victory with Iowa (68-47) was a 6-2 triumph over Albuquerque on July 11, a game in which he gave up two runs on six hits over six innings.
"That first win was a big one," he said. "It got me going."
Hoffpauir supported Atkins with a run-scoring groundout in the fourth, a three-run homer, his 14th, in the fifth and an RBI double in the seventh. He also drove in five runs on May 13 against Portland and is hitting .402 (41-for-102) with seven homers and 38 RBIs in 23 games since the end of June.
Dustin Moseley (6-7) surrendered six runs on seven hits, fanning three and walking three over five frames to take the loss for the Bees (68-47).