Sean Murphy got his mom an early birthday present.
The A's prospect recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings Wednesday, leading the Class A Burlington Bees to a 3-1 victory over the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
"It's my mom's birthday tomorrow, so I'd like to dedicate that to her," he said.
Murphy's previous career high for punchouts was seven, set in his first start of the season and matched in his last outing on Friday. The seven innings also represented a career best.
"My fastball location was definitely key tonight," Murphy said. "And then I went to my changeup in the zone and expanded when I needed to. I had the slider and curveball when I needed them, too. It helped out tremendously."
Murphy (2-1) allowed four hits and did not walk a batter. His biggest trouble spot came in the opening inning, when he allowed a leadoff triple to Jace Peterson, but he struck out the side to strand the Padres' No. 20 prospect at third.
"We started off the day with a leadoff triple and I really had to buckle down," Murphy said. "I didn't want that run to get over in the first inning. ... Just from there, I wanted to kick it off and really get after it. It definitely worked to my advantage."
Murphy fanned 10 through four innings, recording at least two strikeouts in every frame. He registered one punchout in each of his final three innings.
Although the Pennsylvania native said he does not necessarily consider himself a strikeout pitcher, he might have to start. After whiffing 39 over 48 2/3 innings between Burlington and Class A Advanced Stockton last year, he has struck out 31 through 23 frames this season.
"I've worked on my slider big-time in the offseason, really getting command of that and burying it when I need to," Murphy said. "I've also been getting a lot of swings and misses on my two-seamer. I'm starting to throw it on the plate and it's just diving off the plate. The hitters are having a tough time with it."
Selected by the A's in the 33rd round of the 2010 Draft, Murphy has put together a 1.17 ERA that ranks eighth in the Midwest League. That's a significant improvement from last season, when he compiled a 6.33 ERA as both a starter and reliever for the Bees.
"I would say just commanding the fastball helps out tremendously," Murphy said. "It really opens doors. If you can hit the down-and-away or down-and-in, elevate when you need to elevate, that's definitely the biggest key."
After his hot start, Murphy said he simply wants to keep his team in games and help record as many wins as possible.
"Really, my goal for the year is to locate the fastball and throw the off-speed for strikes when I need to throw them for strikes," he said. "I know my stuff's good enough to get people out, but I just want to stay within myself and really pound the zone."
Ryan Doolittle tossed the final two frames in relief of Murphy, allowing a run on two hits. He struck out three en route to his second save.
Douglas Landaeta led the Burlington offense by going 3-for-3 with a three-run homer that provided all of the offense. Dusty Robinson was the only other player in the Bees' lineup to record a hit, lining a leadoff single in the seventh.