What's more impressive than racking up a high strikeout total? Racking up a high strikeout total when you're not even trying.
Starling Peralta retired the first 17 batters in order and struck out a career-high 14 over seven innings as Class A Peoria defeated Clinton, 5-3, on Tuesday.
Signed by the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent on May 8, 2008, Peralta saw his perfect-game and no-hit bids broken up on the same pitch when he yielded a solo homer to Anthony Phillips with two outs in the sixth inning. The 21-year-old right-hander allowed a single to Jamaal Austin to open the seventh, but finished by fanning the final three batters he faced.
"His stuff has always been good," pitching coach Ron Villone said. "He had command, he had control of his fastball and slider, and he mixed in the occasional changeup. He can move his fastball in and out and his slider in and out."
Remarkably, Peralta needed just 92 pitches to earn his fourth victory for the Chiefs. According to Villone, the Dominican native got first-pitch strikes against 14 of the 23 batters he faced. Villone attributed Peralta's success to keeping the ball down and not looking for the strikeout.
"He wasn't trying to strike anyone out, he was trying to get ground balls," the former Major Leaguer said. "I think when you have someone who has a plus arm -- he was sitting in the mid-90s -- when you have that and a little bit of movement, when he starts taking control of that and using the soft stuff properly, the sky is the limit."
Peralta, who set a Peoria Chiefs stadium record with his strikeout total, is 4-7 with a 3.17 ERA in 15 outings for the Chiefs. Not surprisingly, Tuesday's outing was his best of the season.
"Once or twice early in the season, we had some flashes of him progressing," Villone said. "He's been working hard, keeping the ball down, pitching with good extension, understanding that he is in charge. He put it all together tonight. He had a great tempo. He looked the same on each pitch.
"He keeps his pitches down and he has a lot of movement. His fastball is like a hard, heavy sinker, and it got better as it went on. Guys started chasing pitches. It was great to see him take control of the zone. When you start putting guys away, it's the power stuff. He had control over the power stuff."
Bryce Shafer allowed two runs on three hits while recording two outs, and Larry Suarez recorded the final four outs of the game for his first save for the Chiefs.
Zeke DeVoss was 4-for-4 with four runs scored and finished a homer shy of the cycle while Chadd Krist drove in a pair of runs for Peoria .
Robert Emrich is a contributor to MLB.com.