With the season approaching the middle of August, all it took for Jose Rodriguez to rebound from his most difficult start for Class A Advanced Inland Empire and turn in a record-setting performance was a little bit of rest.
The Angels prospect recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts over six innings Friday night as the 66ers defeated Rancho Cucamonga, 5-2, at San Manuel Stadium.
Gameday box score
"He had really good life on his fastball and he was able to establish the strike zone pretty well with his fastball and the slider that he's got," Inland Empire pitching coach Michael Wuertz said. "He was able to expand the top of the zone with his fastball and he was able to expand down with his slider, so that was a good combo for him."
Rodriguez (8-11) allowed a run on three hits and reeled off eight consecutive punchouts over his final three innings, falling one shy of the team record set by Sean Newcomb in 2015. The strikeout total eclipsed his previous high of nine, which he set on May 10 and matched 10 days later. Friday's performance lowered his ERA to 5.08 in 23 starts.
"He had gotten into that stretch ... it was like just sit back and watch him pitch," Wuertz said. "There really wasn't much we said. The biggest thing for him was getting ahead and staying ahead, then putting guys away."
Video: 66ers' Rodriguez picks up 13th strikeout
The Venezuela native lasted 3 2/3 innings in his previous start on Aug. 2, surrendering seven runs on five hits and four walks at Stockton. Prior to that outing, Rodriguez pitched every fifth game consistently since June 26. He also participated in the California League All-Star Game on June 20, giving up a pair of runs on three hits in one inning.
"He didnt have the full three-day break, like the rest of our guys did," Wuertz said. "He was a guy that has been battling. The heat and different things have just kind of taken a little grind to him. We just were able to back him up a little bit and give him a little extra rest."
Zach Reks took Rodriguez deep to right on the game's first pitch, a fastball left over the heart of the plate. The 21-year-old bounced back to retire the next eight batters, fanning five.
"After [the homer], he was fine," Wuertz said. "He just settled in nicely and he was able to execute and make pitches. They got some guys that can do some damage in their lineup and he was able to execute and make quality pitches when he needed to."
Reks smacked a two-out single to center in in the third and 13th-ranked Dodgers prospect Omar Estevez followed with a hit to left, but Rodriguez got No. 29 prospect Luke Raley to fly out and end the inning. The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder struck out the side in both the fourth and fifth and fanned Reks and Estevez to start the seventh before Raley ended the streak with a bouncer to first.
Rodriguez's outing ended after 90 pitches, 63 strikes, with 11 of his 13 strikeout victims going down swinging.
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Jordan Zimmerman contributed a three-run shot, his second California League homer, and a sacrifice fly for Inland Empire. Angels No. 2 prospect Jahmai Jones added a double and a single to extend his hitting streak to 14 games, while Kyle Survance Jr. tripled, singled and scored a run.
Estevez added a ninth-inning solo shot for the Quakes.