Rutledge just perfect for Doubledays

It was 12 up and 12 down in top Nationals pick's longest pro start

Jackson Rutledge sports a 3.00 ERA through three starts in the New York-Penn League. (Rick Nelson/

By Duane Cross / | July 21, 2019 8:01 PM

Jackson Rutledge continues to get better with each start, but it'll take some doing for this year's 17th overall pick to top Sunday's outing.

Washington's first-round pick in June tossed four perfect innings in Class A Short Season Auburn's 5-3 loss to West Virginia at Falcon Park.

Gameday box score

Rutledge allowed three runs in his first professional start in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League on July 4. Since his promotion to the New York-Penn League, he yielded two runs against West Virginia on July 9 and one to Lowell to July 15.

"The important thing is that I've gotten better with each start," the San Jacinto Junior College product said. "Every start has been way better than the one before. I'm getting back into the routine, finally in sync where I was two or three months ago."

The 20-year-old right-hander whiffed three while throwing 25 of 41 pitches for strikes.

"Coming off the first start, I was off on my timing and mechanics," he said. "My fastball command was basically non-existent. It's been about staying through the ball and getting everything on time.

"There were some three-ball counts today that I'd like to avoid and also keep the tempo up. I like to work at a quicker pace. Obviously, when I get into a tough spot, I'll take a second to reset. I like to keep the defense on their toes, get back into the dugout. And it may make the hitter uncomfortable."

Exiting with zeros across his stat line wasn't lost on Rutledge or his teammates.

"We did know, but obviously weren't going to say anything about the perfect game," he admitted. "There are a few takeaways from today's game. Obviously, it was a good day, but [I] still want to be a complete pitcher."

The 6-foot-8, 250-pounder noted he does not have specific goals to achieve this season. His focus has been on doing more with his repertoire.

"I want to get better with my secondary pitches," Rutledge said. "Slider, changeup, curveball -- I want command of those in any count. I want to throw the three-ball curve. That's how I'll have success at the next level.

"Right now, I'm on a six-day [rotation], and I know I'll be on a five-day. I have to learn how to prepare for that change. But I'll have to execute pitches. That's the difference as you move up."

Rhett Wiseman put the Doubledays on the board in the bottom of the first with a solo homer to right off right-hander Jesus Valles. In the fourth, Jack Dunn's sacrifice fly to right plated Jeremy Ydens. Jose Sanchez doubled in Wiseman in the fifth to cap Auburn's scoring.

2019 MiLB include

Auburn carried the perfect-game bid into the eighth. A fielding error by shortstop J.T. Arruda on a ground ball by Matthew Fraizer, a triple by Matt Gorski and a base knock from Blake Sabol brought the Black Bears within striking distance. Right-handed reliever Todd Peterson, a seventh-round pick this year, escaped further damage by coaxing Cory Wood to roll into a 6-4-3 double play and striking out Elys Escobar.

West Virginia finished the comeback with three runs in the ninth against Tyler Yankosky (1-2), who yielded a hit and three walks in two-thirds of an inning.

Gorski tripled and doubled, driving in three runs and scoring once.

Garrett Leonard (2-0) scattered a hit and a walk across two frames while striking out two.

Duane Cross is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @DuaneCrossMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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