Nik Turley had a solid idea of what contributed to his career night for the Chattanooga Lookouts.
"I was able to get ahead with my fastball," he said.
The heater gave...
Complementing the fastball with the hook was...
It was that kind of night.
The Minnesota left-hander struck out a career-high 14 -- including eight straight to close his night and match a Southern League record -- as Double-A Chattanooga fell to Tennessee, 1-0, in the seven-inning finale of Tuesday's doubleheader.
"It was fun. I had a good time out there," Turley said. "I was on the same page with (Dan Rohlfing, Chattanooga's catcher). That's always a fun thing when you're on the same page and are able to actually execute what you're trying to do. I think it was a big step moving forward. It was a good night."
Turley's start to 2017 had already been impressive. Through his first three outings, the California native hadn't allowed a run on just three hits over 13 1/3 innings, striking out 22 and walking four. Six days ago against Biloxi, Turley pitched five hitless frames with four strikeouts and three walks in his first start of the year. In his fifth outing, everything came together.
"I was throwing three of my four pitches for strikes, getting ahead, and I was locating my fastball up," he said. "It was tough for them to lay off the high fastball, so I was using that a lot too, using that off my curveball."
Turley (0-1) used virtually any pitch he wanted while allowing a run on two hits and walking two. The southpaw fanned multiple batters in five of his seven innings. His fastball proved to be a dynamic tool.
"I love challenging guys with my fastball, going after them and them challenging me, swinging at it and missing," he said. "It's always a good thing when your fastball's on and you're able to locate and use it a lot. It's a lot easier to go through the lineup three and four times when you're able to do that."
After Carlos Penalver flew out to right field to lead off the fifth, Turley fanned Andrew Ely, kicking off his record-tying roll of whiffs. He fanned the side in the sixth and seventh, ending his night by catching Cael Brockmeyer looking.
"I wasn't thinking about it," he said. "I knew I had struck out a good amount of people, but that's not what I'm thinking about. Honestly, if you asked me what happened right after the inning, I wouldn't be able to tell you. It takes me a few hours to actually be able to go back and think about the outing and how things actually went."
The eight consecutive strikeouts matched a feat previously accomplished by Chattanooga's Jim Jefferson on April 15, 1988, Carolina's Dan Miceli on May 6, 1996, and most recently, Tennessee's Anthony Reyes on Aug. 16, 2004.
The only inning in which Turley didn't record a strikeout was the first, when Tennessee scored the game's only run. Charcer Burks worked a leadoff walk, stole second, went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Jeffrey Baez and scored on David Bote's groundout to third. That's the lesson that sticks with Turley most coming out of his dominant night.
"Leadoff walks," he lamented. "Can't walk the leadoff guy. He came around and scored, and that was the only run of the game, so that's big. I'm trying to lock it in from pitch one. That's the biggest thing."
Through four games, Turley sports a 0.44 ERA, a 0.54 WHIP, a .078 opponents' average and 36 strikeouts against six walks in 20 1/3 innings. He spent last season split between Double-A Portland in the Boston system and an independent team. Now in his fourth organization, he's showing the stuff to stick.MiLB include
"I know I'm able to pitch at this level," the 27-year-old said. "I've pitched here before, but I've never started on a streak like this. I'm trying to build it off each outing and trying to stay consistent because that's always been the thing, consistency. I'd be good for a couple outings and then not so great. I'm just happy with the consistency I've been able to have."
Turley's now in the 10th year of a long-shot professional career after being drafted in the 50th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, a round that no longer exists.
"I think if you asked the 18-year-old that signed, I think I would've thought I'd still be playing. I knew I had the stuff," said Turley, a draft-and-follow signee with the Yankees out of high school. "It wasn't quite like I was a 50th-rounder. It's a cool story. Coming out of the Draft, I was very confident in myself, and I was able to perform. I feel like I've performed pretty decently every year. I definitely thought I'd be playing for a while."