In an otherwise rough month, Kyle Zimmer's seven shutout innings June 29 at least let him turn the calendar on a high note.
The way things are shaping up early this month, that form is carrying over into a very productive July.
Zimmer (3-8) struck out a career-high 13 on Tuesday, yielding just a run on four hits without any walks in six innings as Class A Advanced Wilmington topped Frederick, 8-1.
The second-ranked Royals prospect suffered through a first half that saw him post a 5.98 ERA in 13 starts, but since the All-Star break, his numbers have gone in the other direction. In his last four starts, he's registered a 2.77 ERA in 26 innings with 32 strikeouts and just five walks.
His dominance Tuesday capped the sharp turnaround for the 2012 Draft's fifth overall pick.
"Everything felt pretty good, all four of my pitches I was able to throw for strikes," he said. "My fastball command felt really good, I got ahead of their hitters and finished them off pretty well when I got to two strikes. I was just getting ahead, being aggressive in the zone. I felt like I was able to move the fastball back and forth across the plate and throw my curveball for strikes. Elevate the fastball to get some swing-throughs and had the curve sharp in the zone."
The 21-year-old held a season-high ERA of 6.32 after he allowed five runs without making it out of the first inning in a June 7 start.
Since then, he's been able to work it down to an even 5.00, and he has 103 strikeouts in 84 2/3 frames for a 10.95 K/9 rate. He's also only walked 30.
"I feel like my mechanics are starting to come together. I'm staying on line pretty well, throwing all my pitches in the zone and being able to pitch guys backwards," he said. "I can manipulate my fastball, just been working on attacking the zone more consistently. Working on my mechanics, staying on line with my front side. There were a couple starts where there was just one big inning hurting me, so I've been able to avoid those innings lately."
Zimmer added that recording 13 strikeouts was a nice accomplishment, but not one that he intended to dwell on.
"I mean that's a nice topping, but really what I think matters most is the 'W,' and I think our team did a great job. Great defense behind me, the offense came alive -- we had some great two-out at-bats that led to some big production out of our offense. The team as a whole played great, so it was a good win for us.
"I think [the season] is going well, but just like any other day I have to wake up tomorrow and find something to get better at. It's a long season, a long grind and I think just waking up every day with a purpose to improve yourself in some way is key to getting better over the course of it."
Designated hitter Tyler Chism went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and catcher Parker Morin doubled, drove in another three runs and scored twice for the Blue Rocks.
Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to MiLB.com.