Sheffield goes distance in Thunder shutout

Yankees No. 6 prospect spins three-hitter, first complete game

Justus Sheffield grabbed a share of the Eastern League lead with 64 strikeouts in 13 starts. (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

By Tyler Maun / MiLB.com | June 18, 2017 4:24 PM ET

Justus Sheffield was loving his teammates' work so much he couldn't watch anymore. During a six-run fourth inning, he had to take a break.

Sheffield followed the lengthy break with a shutdown inning, a common theme on Sunday afternoon, as the Yankees' No. 6 prospect tossed a three-hitter for his first career complete game in Double-A Trenton's 6-0 blanking of Erie in the first game of a doubleheader at Arm & Hammer Park.

Trenton completed a sweep with a 4-2 win in the nightcap.

"I hold myself to a high standard every time out there and every time I'm out there, I'm shooting for the limits," Sheffield said. "I knew we had seven [innings] today and I wanted to get seven in. If we were just playing a normal game, I'm shooting for nine, even though that can be tough at times with the pitch count and things like that. I feel like if you set yourself at a high standard, you'll be able to be efficient, keep the pitch count low and pitch deep into games. That's one of my goals this year."


Gameday box score


With that mindset, MLB.com's No. 68 overall prospect breezed through his 13th start of the season and dropped his ERA to 2.99. Sheffield allowed a leadoff single to Gabriel Quintana in the second inning and hit Mike Gerber with a pitch one out later but stranded both. The left-hander issued his only walk of the day to Harold Castro with one out in the third but also left him aboard.

Then came that fourth. After retiring the SeaWolves in order in the top half, Sheffield watched as his team sent 10 men to the plate and scored six runs in the bottom half -- or at least watched as long as he could.

"I went back under the stadium in the cages and threw a little bit, walked around, stretched out a little bit just so I stayed loose because I remember earlier in the season where it was kind of a long inning and I ended up going out there not feeling warm because I was sitting down for so long," he said. "I just didn't feel like I was feeling before that inning. I thought back to that and told myself, 'Let's get up, move around, get the arm moving.'"

Abiatal Avelino provided the big hit in Trenton's fourth, plating two runs with a double to right. Sheffield was determined to get his teammates back in the dugout quickly.

"Those are the biggest innings," he said. "When you get up, obviously, the biggest thing is to put up a zero."

Video: Trenton's Sheffield finishes off first shutout

The 21-year-old did just that, setting Erie down in order in the fifth. The SeaWolves got two-out doubles from Dominic Ficociello in the sixth and Tigers No. 27 prospect Grayson Greiner in the seventh but left both in scoring position.

"I'm continuing to work the days I'm not pitching," said Sheffield, who has allowed one earned run or fewer in five of his last six starts. "I'm really focusing on my bullpens in between outings. I'm working with my pitching coach on my pitches. I'm just going outing by outing, learning from each one and making the adjustments that I need to make.

"Attacking the zone is one of the main things I've been working on, trying to be efficient."

Sheffield threw 62 of 97 pitches for strikes and distributed eight outs on the ground and eight in the air.

"It's been like that all year," he said of his defense. "Never have I doubted my defense behind me or never have I doubted my catchers. That's been one thing this year I've been able to rely on, especially in deep counts or when I'm behind in the count, just trying to make the pitch and let them put the ball in play and let my defense work behind me."

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In the nightcap, Billy McKinney homered, doubled and drove in two runs for the Thunder.

"I was definitely gassed that second game. I was barely holding my eyes open," Sheffield said with a laugh. "I was tired. It was a hot day today. But those guys keep it entertaining out there and I'm always the type of guy to cheer on his team whenever I'm not on the mound."

Trenton improved to 46-23, moving six games in front of second-place Reading in the Eastern League Eastern Division.

"We've got a good thing going on right here," Sheffield added. "We've got a good team,and the guys, our chemistry is unreal. We've just got to keep it going."

Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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