By his own admission, the past calendar year has been a "crazy" one for Danny Hultzen. The southpaw made it just a little more outrageous with his Wednesday's outing.
The Mariners' top prospect scattered four hits, a walk and four strikeouts through five shutout innings as Double-A Jackson coasted to an 8-0 win over Chattanooga. Hultzen extended his scoreless-inning streak to 27 2/3 frames, having not allowed a run since May 23.
The run, which includes four consecutive Hultzen wins, has lowered the hurler's ERA from 1.78 to an even-more miniscule 1.19 and improved his record to 8-3. He leads the Southern League in strikeouts (79), wins and ERA, the latter category by 1.35 over D-backs' No. 3 prospect Tyler Skaggs (2.54).
"It's been cool," said MLB.com's No. 11 prospect. "I haven't been thinking about it much to be honest with you because I don't like focusing on that kind of stuff. I just like taking things start to start. I hadn't even realized I was on a streak like this until a few days ago. But if I'm on it, that means things are working and going my way, which is cool.
"You want to have that confidence that you can have this kind of thing going, but that's not always there. So if nothing else, it gives you that confidence right back."
The 22-year-old didn't think Wednesday was destined to be his latest great outing. He surrendered a five-pitch walk to Rafael Yona to begin the game and allowed two singles to Pedro Baez and Travis Denker in the second inning.
Although none of the three reached scoring position -- Baez was caught stealing before Denker could move him to second -- Hultzen still thought something was off.
"I think I was struggling with my command a little early," he said. "A couple of guys reached, and everything didn't seem quite right. But [catcher] Ralph Henriquez really helped me out. He kept telling me to slow the game down and focus on throwing strikes."
The 6-foot-3 hurler did just that as he allowed only two more singles over his remaining three innings. He exited after five frames and 84 pitches (54 strikes) to allow Generals relievers Brian Moran and Yoervis Medina to get a little work in before the Southern League All-Star break set to begin Monday.
Hultzen was named to the circuit's Northern Division All-Star Team and is the odds-on favorite to take the hill first in the prospect showcase on Tuesday.
"It'll be a lot of fun," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. There will be a lot of great players out there for both sides, so that'll be really, really cool. I've been in a few All-Star Games before, and I'm sure this one will be just as fun."
Between the All-Star nod, the league-best ERA and the Generals' first-half Northern Division title, it has been quite the year for the southpaw since he was selected second overall in last June's First-Year Player Draft. That's a fact that hasn't been lost on him either.
"It's been crazy," Hultzen said. "It really has been a life-changing year. When the Draft was coming up a few weeks ago, it really started to hit me that a whole lot has changed since I was in that position last year. It really has been life-changing."
But the biggest changes for the University of Virginia product haven't come between the white lines on the baseball diamond.
"Just being in the real world," he added. "I like to think I'm still not in the real world. I don't really even think I have a job, to be honest with you. But I'm still dealing with being more of an adult. It's definitely different than college, where you have class and all that. You're out on your own, paying bills, all that stuff.
"But it's still a dream come true to play baseball every day."
Joseph Dunigan doubled, singled and drove in three runs as the Generals designated hitter. Mariners' No. 19 prospect Chih-Hsien Chang added a double and two RBIs.