Hooks' Cosart returning to top form

Astros prospect allows four hits over six scoreless innings

By Sam Dykstra / Special to MLB.com | June 24, 2012 8:24 PM ET

Not long ago, Jared Cosart might have been concerned about going up against a Frisco lineup that typically features three of the Rangers' top 20 prospects, including MLB.com's No. 4 overall prospect Jurickson Profar. He would have overprepared. He would have thought about the lineup too much. He would have psyched himself out.

"That's been -- I don't want to say an issue -- but it's something I've been working on," Cosart said. "You obviously don't want something like that to happen. But I was putting some pressure on myself when I went out there, even if it was just my subconscious and I didn't even realize it."

As his use of the past tense would indicate, it certainly didn't appear to be a problem on Sunday evening.

The Astros' No. 2 prospect gave up four hits and issued two walks over six scoreless innings as the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks held on for a 3-2 victory over the RoughRiders.

Cosart (4-4) stretched his scoreless streak to 15 innings over two starts. That followed a four-game stretch in which he surrendered 17 earned runs over 24 2/3 innings, causing his ERA to jump from 2.84 to 4.50.

The 22-year-old right-hander felt like he had to return to the form -- both mentally and physically -- that prompted MLB.com to rank him among baseball's Top 100 Prospects.

"I've been doing tremendously better," he said. "I put a little pressure on myself and got away from what's made me successful. But recently I'm getting back to that, definitely. I feel like A-ball, big leagues, the mound is still 60 feet, 6 inches away from the plate."

A big part of returning to that success has come from Cosart's ground game. During his subpar four-game stretch from May 18-June 9, his groundout-to-flyout ratio was 1.93. In his last three starts, that number has nearly doubled to 3.63. Of the 18 outs the Texas native recorded Sunday, 11 came on the ground, six came on fly balls and only one was a strikeout.

Even with the low strikeout count, those are the type of results Cosart has been looking for in his first full season with the Hooks.

"We've been preaching pitching down, pitching down in the zone with everything since the beginning of the year," he said. "If you make a mistake low, it's a line drive or a ground ball. If it's up in the zone, it's a home run or an extra-base hit.

"The last three games, I've been pretty good about that compared to the beginning of the year. I feel like I've been getting three times as many balls on the ground now. It's been a pretty good barometer."

Sunday was the fifth time Cosart has faced Frisco, by far his most common opponent this season. He's 3-2 with a 3.29 ERA against the first-half South Division champions and 1-2 with a 3.89 vs. the rest of the Texas League.

Thanks to that familiarity with the RoughRiders, the Texas native has gotten a few clues about how to attack some of Minor Leagues' best hitters.

"The more you face a team, the more you realize what they've got," he said. "Guys like Profar, [Mike Olt], they don't have many weaknesses, so you really have to focus on your execution.

"Look at the hitting charts for guys like Josh Hamilton. They're hitting .300 or better in every part of the strike zone. If you can get away with the same pitch twice, they're probably not a good hitter. So against those better players, it's all about changing speeds and changing eye levels to keep them off-balance."

Cosart held Profar to a single in three plate appearances. Rangers No. 19 prospect Engel Beltre doubled for Frisco's only extra-base hit against him.

Cosart exited with a 3-0 lead, thanks to back-to-back RBI doubles from Travis Buck and Drew Locke third and a solo homer by Jose Martinez in the fifth.

Two nights after recording his first career three-homer game, Chris McGuiness drilled a two-run shot in the ninth as the RoughRiders avoided the shutout.

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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