Hours after Oakland fans learned that top prospect A.J. Puk underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2018 season, second-ranked A's prospect Jesus Luzardo gave them something to smile about.
The 20-year-old left-hander piled up a career-high 10 strikeouts while allowing a run on two hits and three walks over five innings in Class A Advanced Stockton's 5-3 win over Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday night at Banner Island Ballpark.
Gameday box score
"All my pitchers were working, but I struggled early with my breaking ball a little bit," he said. "I found it later, but three walks is not what I want. But I battled through and I'm pretty happy with it overall."
Luzardo etired the first seven Quakes, striking out the side in the second inning. The first walk went to Cody Thomas with one out in the third, but he (1-1) rebounded by fanning the next two batters.
"After the first [inning], I kind of settled in," he said. "I usually take that time in the first to settle in and, after I found my release point, I knew it was good, it could be a nice game for me."
MLB.com's No. 60 overall prospect whiffed two more in a 1-2-3 fourth.
"I used my changeup a lot," he said. "I was mixing in my fastball in and out, and my location was good with [the fastball]."
Seventh-ranked Dodgers prospect Jeren Kendall led off the fifth with a five-pitch walk and Gavin Lux -- Los Angeles' No. 13 prospect -- followed with a single to left field that sent Kendall to third. Lux moved to second on the throw. It didn't occur to Luzardo that it was Rancho Cucamonga's first hit.
"I didn't really have that in mind," he said. "I was just worrying about getting out of it without any damage."
The southpaw recorded another punchout before Thomas lined an RBI single to right. Luzardo sandwiched a walk to Donovan Casey between two more strikeouts to end the threat.
"I was just trying bear down and make good pitches and keep the ball down," he said. "I didn't go K-hunting or anything like that. I was just looking to get outs and get out of the inning."
He ended up throwing 51 of 85 pitches for strikes. Although it rained through much of the game, Luzardo didn't think the weather affected the feel for any of his pitches.
"I wouldn't blame it on that -- two [of the walks] were before the rain [started] and on the last one [the rain was a factor] kind of, but it wasn't mostly that," he said. "No, I was just trying to be too fine toward the end. That was the real thing."
A 2016 third-round pick of the Nationals out of Florida's Stoneman Douglas High School, he was traded to the A's in last summer's Sean Doolittle deal. He went 2-1 with a 1.66 ERA and 48 strikeouts across 43 1/3 innings in 12 games, including 11 starts, between two Rookie-level teams and Class A Short Season Vermont last year. He began this season by striking out six over 4 2/3 innings in a loss to Lake Elsinore on April 5.
With 16 punchouts over two starts, Luzardo leads the California League.
A's No. 15 prospect Kevin Merrell was 3-for-5 with two triples, two RBIs and two runs scored, while rehabbing catcher Josh Phegley was 1-for-4 with an RBI.
Lux finished 2-for-4.