Jesus Luzardo bent in his debut at the Minor Leagues' highest level, but as has become his calling card in 2018, he didn't break.
Oakland's top prospect scattered eight hits over five innings, striking out six and not issuing any walks, as Triple-A Nashville blanked Sacramento, 6-0.
Video: Nashville's Luzardo gets the K in Triple-A debut
Luzardo pitched through challenges in his first Pacific Coast League action. The southpaw allowed leadoff singles in each of his first four innings and multiple hits in three of those, but Sacramento never capitalized. Luzardo faced the minimum in the second inning, getting Miguel Gomez to ground into a double play after Ryder Jones' leadoff single, and faced just one baserunner in his final frame when Peter Bourjos singled to right with two outs but was stranded at first.
The Athletics have been heavily monitoring Luzardo's workload. Monday's start marked his 15th of 20 this season in which the 20-year-old went five innings. Against the River Cats, baseball's No. 12 overall prospect threw 52 of his 76 pitches for strikes.
Gameday box score
"Everything he throws toward the plate is quality with the stuff and the command," Double-A Midland manager Scott Steinmann said last month. "He mixes it up -- he can pitch backwards, get aggressive. He's just a really talented, young individual that has a really good feel at such a young age.
"He goes out there with a mission. He knows he's got a limited number of innings every time he goes out because we're getting him through this season with a certain inning count. He knows he's only got those innings, and he's going to compete and put up zeros every time. It is special to watch him. Just the way he goes about his business is total focus. He just wants to go out there and compete."
The lefty's first Triple-A start was the 10th straight in which he didn't allow more than a run. Over that span, Luzardo has posted a 5-1 record with a 0.53 ERA, a 0.61 WHIP, a .135 opponents' average while striking out 54 batters and walking seven in 51 innings
"He definitely does limit his pitches," Steinmann said. "He goes after hitters, he doesn't get ahead and just kind of toy with them. He's getting ahead, and he's wanting to get them out right away. I love that about the way he pitches. I think it leads to some of the other guys watching that and knowing that they can do it too. As a 20-year-old, I think he's doing a good job of showing the other guys how to pitch."
Luzardo's first full season in the Athletics system has been a revelation. The 2016 third-rounder powered through two levels to reach Triple-A, going a combined 9-4 with a 2.12 ERA through 19 starts between Class A Advanced Stockton and Double-A Midland. Oakland acquired the Stoneman Douglas product from Washington last July 16 as part of the trade that sent big league pitchers Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle to the nation's capital.