Double-A Mobile manager Sal Fasano knows Grayson Long hasn't received much run support in his starts this season, but believes that's only made the right-hander a stronger pitcher.
So when the BayBears notched some early runs Sunday, his skipper was confident the No. 5 Angels prospect would pull through again.
Video: Long records seventh strikeout
"Me and [pitching coach] Buddy Carlyle talked in the past and we said we wished we'd have a stopper," Fasano said. "When this guy takes the mound, he gives you a chance to win. ... Every game he's pitched in has been close."
Long (5-5) scattered four hits and a walk while striking out seven over six innings to lead Mobile to a 6-0 win over Tennessee at Smokies Stadium.
"Grayson had his game down and almost pitched the gameplan to a T," Fasano said. "His fastball had good control, he didn't fall behind very many guys. When he did get a chance to finish them, he got a punchout. I thought he did a good job executing his plan."
Gameday box score
The 2015 third-round pick, who made three starts with Class A Advanced Inland Empire to start the year, is tied for the BayBears lead in strikeouts with 79 and stands sixth in the Southern League with a 2.76 ERA through 84 2/3 innings, even though his team hasn't been giving him more than three runs per game. What stood out to Fasano on Sunday was that Long tossed 66 of his 97 pitches for strikes.
"It was just the location of his fastball," the skipper said. "I think if you talk to any pitching coach or manager, they'll say the same thing, but for Grayson, the fastball command is the utmost importance. When he has command, he's really tough to hit. And the introduction of his slider, just a little bit at times to get those guys off balance. For the most part, it was finishing with fastballs up in the zone."
Long hit a slight speed bump during his first two outings in July, when he was charged with four runs -- three earned -- over just 6 2/3 innings. Since then, he's thrown 12 consecutive scoreless frames.
"It was probably just as simple as how he located," Fasano said. "In the shorter outings, I know he'll sometimes get sporadic with his command and pulls balls at times, which means it kind of acts like a cutter. When he stays through it and he gets good spin rate on it, it's a tough ball to handle for a hitter."
The Texas A&M product allowed a leadoff baserunner in the first three innings, but escaped unscathed every time. In the third, Erick Castillo started the frame with a single, but Long fanned Charcer Burks and got Andrew Ely to bounce into a double play.
"It really boosts your confidence where you're not going to be concerned," Fasano said. "He doesn't get rattled, he's able to execute his pitches with restraint and not pitch with too much emotion. When you have guys on base all the time, sometimes you're like, 'Man, I've got to make the perfect pitch,' and you starting pitching with too much emotion and you miss your spot. That's how you give up those crooked numbers."
Daniel Spingola smacked a double with one out in the fifth off Long, but he fanned Carlos Penalver and Castillo to end the threat. In the sixth, the Texas native worked around Ely's one-out single.
"Right before we pulled him out, he was facing their meat of the order and they've got a pretty good order," Fasano said. "He executed some pitches to the 3-4-5 guys, and I was like, 'Wow, that was a nice job right there.' He didn't get rattled today, he didn't get worried, just made his pitches. That's why I was like, 'We have a chance today.'"
Video: Mobile's Rojas hits first Double-A homer
On the other side of the ball, Jose Rojas extended his hitting streak to 25 games in the eighth with a two-run shot, his first in Double-A. The 24-year-old amassed a .319/.355/.479 slash line with seven home runs and 55 RBIs in the California League before his promotion to Mobile on Saturday. After two games, he's 2-for-7 with three RBIs.
If Rojas has the streak on his mind, it's not something Fasano has noticed.
"I see a guy that has a really nice swing -- it's pretty," the manager said. "I know most lefties look better than righties, but he's got an effortless swing. He's short to the ball, knows how to get through it and the ball jumps off the bat in the short time we've seen it. I know he had a lot of success with [Class A Advanced Inland Empire], but it'll be fun to watch his progression against a little better pitchers with better command."
For the Smokies, 19th-ranked Cubs prospect Adbert Alzolay (0-1) allowed three runs on six hits and two walks in five innings.