When Aaron Brooks got the ball for the first game of the Pacific Coast League playoffs, he knew he had to turn in a strong performance.
"I definitely wanted to set the tone off right," the Royals prospect said. "Obviously, I wanted to get us a chance to get a 'W' to start the series, especially at home."
Brooks met his goal on Wedneday night, matching a career high with 10 strikeouts and allowing five hits over eight innings as Omaha beat Memphis, 7-0, in the opener of the PCL semifinals.
The 24-year-old right-hander last hit double digits in strikeouts on Aug. 9, 2011 for Rookie-level Idaho Falls. He fanned seven over seven scoreless innings in his final regular-season start for the Storm Chasers and brought the same mentality into the postseason.
"I just tried to treat it the same was I would treat any other start and stay consistent with the stuff that we've been working off," he said. "The playoffs are just like the regular season [in that] I want to go out there and get a win."
Brooks (1-0) allowed two baserunners in an inning just once, when Luis Mateo and Rafael Ortega hit consecutive two-out singles in the fifth. He struck out Thomas Pham to preserve a 2-0 lead.
"I definitely had the strikeout pitch working today," he said. "It probably helped that I did a good job of getting ahead with every pitch. Everything was coming in for strikes, and that shows the hitters they can't sit on any one pitch."
The Cal State-San Bernardino product got all three outs on whiffs in the sixth and fanned two more in the eighth.
"Putting the pressure on the hitter as opposed to having the pressure on me helped me settle in," Brooks said, "and I was confident in everything I threw."
Whit Merrifield, who had two homers in his first 73 games with Omaha, went yard for the second time in four contests.
Royals No. 15 prospect Cheslor Cuthbert and Matt Fields also homered, while Jorge Bonifacio, Kansas City's seventh-ranked prospect, went 2-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored.
Mateo and Scott Moore both finished with two hits for the Redbirds.
Game 2 is Thursday in Omaha.
In other Pacific Coast League action:
Las Vegas 5, Reno 4
L.J. Mazzilli singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning in his second Triple-A game as the 51s won the opener of the other semifinal series. Mets No. 2 prospect Kevin Plawecki went 2-for-4 with a solo homer for Las Vegas, while D-backs No. 9 prospect Nick Ahmed was 2-for-5 with a triple and a run scored for the Aces. Gameday box score
Josh Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com.