It's a game that can chew up and spit out the best of players, but then there are times when an athlete makes the game look like child's play. That's the place where Logan Gilbert finds himself right now.
Seattle's No. 6 prospect struck out a career-high 11 over seven innings to lead Class A Advanced Modesto past Rancho Cucamonga, 2-0, on Sunday afternoon at LoanMart Field. Gilbert's second straight scoreless outing extended his shutout streak to 14 1/3 frames going back to his first California League start on May 2 against Lancaster.
"Logan's an ultimate competitor," Nuts pitching coach Rob Marcello said. "I worked with him a bit in the offseason and saw him some during college, so I'm pretty familiar with him already. What he's done so far isn't a surprise. He's just super consistent. That's part of his makeup on and off the field and it helps him through each outing. He's always working, always trying to improve his pitching."
Gameday box score
The 22-year-old faced the minimum through six innings while registering 10 strikeouts on 67 pitches. Gilbert (2-0) surrendered a leadoff single to Marcus Chiu in the second inning, but the Quakes' third baseman was caught stealing by Modesto catcher Cal Raleigh, the Mariners' No. 13 prospect. Nursing a 1-0 lead into the seventh, Gilbert got into some trouble when third baseman Joe Rizzo, the 22nd-ranked Seattle prospect, committed a throwing error on Devin Mann's grounder and Donovan Casey singled to put runners at the corners and one out. Casey swiped second, but Gilbert fanned Chiu and retired 13th-ranked Dodgers prospect Connor Wong on a flyout to left.
"He's not going to show much emotion out there," Marcello said. "That's just not who he is. But when I made that mound visit [in the seventh], I could tell he was pumped up and knew what was needed to get out of that jam. It's a true credit to him. He's one of the hardest workers I've come across and probably one of the hardest workers in the Minors. He's always asking questions and trying to learn. For someone that probably knows the big leagues are in his future, that's an impressive thing."
The 24-pitch frame spelled the end for Gilbert, who tossed 65 of 91 pitches for strikes while completing seven innings for the first time as a professional. The Stetson product has a 1.75 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP and 53 strikeouts in 36 innings spanning seven outings between Class A West Virginia and Modesto.
"We focused all week on throwing all of his pitches for strikes," Marcello said of Gilbert's bullpen sessions. "It didn't matter what [pitch] was called for. We weren't trying to set guys up or anything. It was all about strikes. To that end, we're working hard on developing that fourth pitch for him. That changeup could be a secret weapon and I think you'll see more of it to the point where he's a legitimate four-pitch pitcher."
Standing 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, Gilbert was the 14th overall pick in last year's Draft but was kept out of competitive play until this season. He began 2019 in the South Atlantic League, where he surrendered three hits and a walk while fanning 14 over nine innings in his first two pro starts. The Florida native hopes to follow in the footsteps of a pair of notable Stetson alumni in Cy Young Award winners Corey Kluber of the Indians and the Mets' Jacob deGrom.
Joey Gerber locked down his fifth save over the final two innings. Seattle's No. 19 prospect allowed a hit and a walk while striking out three to complete Modesto's third shutout. Gilbert was the starting pitcher for two of those.
2019 MiLB include
Connor Kopach opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the third and Matt Sanders added an insurance run with an RBI single in the eighth. Luis Liberato, Jack Larsen, Raleigh and Rizzo had two hits apiece for the Nuts.
Quakes starter Leo Crawford (0-3) yielded a run on seven hits with a season-high eight strikeouts and no walks over six innings. The 22-year-old hasn't surrendered more than a run in five straight starts after being tagged for 12 in his first three outings of 2019.
Drew Avans tallied the final hit for Rancho Cucamonga, which was blanked for the third time this year.