Beau Burrows realized last summer that trying to strike out every hitter wasn't an ideal option, so he decided that pitching to contact would be more useful. On Friday night, he figured out an even better option -- allow as few hits as possible.
The Tigers' No. 2 prospect allowed one hit over a career-high six innings as Class A West Michigan won its 10th straight game, 2-1, over South Bend on Friday night. It was the third consecutive scoreless outing for Burrows, who has yielded one run or fewer in seven of his nine starts and ranks 10th in the Midwest League with a 2.01 ERA.
"I had the curve working pretty well tonight," he said. "I was able to consistently get ahead in the count and keep guys off-balance. Just getting ground balls and fly balls and pitching to contact. Obviously, it helps to have a defense that is awesome. The guys made a couple of nice plays tonight, too, and that's the kind of stuff they can do. I trust them 100 percent, and I know if the ball is put in play, they'll get the job done for me."
Allowing the opposition to put the ball in play is something the 19-year-old has tried to do more of since becoming a professional last year. A hard thrower at Weatherford High School in Texas, where he whiffed 132 batters in 71 innings, Burrows (4-3) has avoided the urge to use his high-octane fastball to rack up strikeouts. Instead, he's focusing on pitching deeper into games. On Friday, he needed just 77 pitches to maneuver through six frames.
"The strikeouts are nice," Burrows said. "But when you're down in the zone and pitching to contact, that's less pitches being thrown, which will allow me to go deeper into the game. If I get ahead of the guy, 0-2 or 1-2, I'll try for the strikeout, yeah. But if not, I'll pitch to contact and let the defense do their work."
The Tigers' 2015 first-round pick did just that against South Bend, getting six outs on the ground, including a pair of double plays, and six in the air. He walked one, struck out one and also hit a batter, facing two over the minimum.
"I felt fine to go longer, but [pitching coach] Mark Johnson made the right call to take me out and let the bullpen get some work," Burrows said. "And whatever they want to do, I let them make that decision."
Toller Boardman was charged with a run on four hits and a walk in two innings for West Michigan. Tigers No. 24 prospect Gerson Moreno worked around a hit and a walk and fanned one in the ninth to notch his ninth save.
Cubs starter Preston Morrison (4-3) allowed an unearned run on four hits and fanned four in six innings.
Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB.