It took some time for Jonathan Hernandez to acclimate to Double-A. He turned in his best Texas League start yet Thursday.
The No. 6 Rangers prospect allowed two hits while striking out nine over six frames as he led Double-A Frisco to a 6-0 win over Arkansas at Dickey-Stephens Park. He walked three.
Video: RoughRiders' Hernandez twirls six scoreless
In his previous start against Corpus Christi on Aug. 2, Hernandez (4-4) gave up one run on three hits while striking out six over 5 2/3 innings. He thought he really turned the corner in that outing.
"At the time, I knew I had to give myself time," the 22-year-old said. "I had to give myself a chance to be better every inning and give my team a chance to win the game."
Hernandez made his Double-A debut June 11. He has accumulated a 5.71 ERA after posting a 2.20 mark in 57 1/3 frames with Class A Advanced Down East. So while it took a little while to get going with Frisco, he thought he found his stride Thursday.
Gameday box score
"It's been a lot," he said of the move to a higher level. "I've been working a lot on my command. My breaking pitches are getting better every inning I pitch. I'm getting stronger on the mental side and getting better each inning at [throwing] everything I want."
Hernandez walked Joey Curletta with two outs in the first inning before settling in. He sat down three straight batters swinging in the second. He got around a two-out double by No. 26 Mariners prospect Chuck Taylor and a walk to No. 17 Eric Filia in the third before punching out Curletta.
The native of Memphis, Tennessee, was seamless in the fourth and fifth before pitching around trouble again in the sixth. After Filia walked, Dario Pizzano singled and Hernandez hit Chris Mariscal with a pitch, he induced a flyout to left from Beau Amaral to end the frame.
"My fastball was working really well on both sides of the plate," Hernandez said. "I was getting quick contact early in the pitch count and getting quick outs with mostly my fastball in and out of the zone. The other pitches too, but tonight it was really the fastball."
Since his last outing, Hernandez has steadily increased his strikeout total. In Thursday's start he notched his high at Double-A. He racked up three consecutive double-digit punchout games with Down East earlier in the season.
"I'm getting comfortable," he said. "I just want to keep doing the same thing I've been doing with that all year."
Hernandez has been working on his control and that's starting to pay off as well. He walked three Thursday after issuing five free passes in his last appearance. His ERA dropped to its lowest point since he's been in the Texas League. But while he felt the best on the mound that he had for any start on the circuit, right now, he's focused on carrying that over into his next start.
"I want to take everything I did in this one and take it to the other ones," said Hernandez. "I want to just keep rolling. Just keep going and giving the team a chance to win. Everything that matters is the win. Going game by game and trying to do that."
Luis Yander La O picked up three hits, two RBIs and scored once while Juremi Profar doubled twice and drove in a run. Michael De Leon added three hits and a run.