Jesus Luzardo is no stranger to extra work. The A's second-ranked prospect underwent Tommy John surgery before becoming a pro, was traded to Oakland three starts into his professional career and made it to Double-A in his first full season.
On Sunday, the adversity came in the form of a triple play.
Video: Frisco turns triple play against Midland
Luzardo made his second straight five-inning start without giving up an earned run, allowing three hits and two walks as Midland posted an 8-1 victory over Frisco, which turned its first triple play in five years.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School product had a knack for giving up leadoff hits Sunday, but avoided serious trouble. Michael O'Neill led off the game with an infield single and stole second. Luzardo (4-3) retired Michael De Leon on a line drive to second and got Carlos Garay and Rangers No. 26 prospect Josh Morgan to pop out.
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In the second, Juremi Profar reached on an another infield single, but the left-hander picked him off and set down the next three batters. He plunked Luis Mendez and walked O'Neill with one out in the third but induced back-to-back groundouts. In the fourth, Luzardo gave up a single to Morgan and walked Destin Hood, then forced three flyouts to keep the RoughRiders off the scoreboard.
Luzardo said Sunday may have been his toughest start since making the jump to the Texas League after three outings for Stockton in the California League, where he posted a 1.23 ERA in 14 2/3 frames. With his Double-A ERA sitting at 3.40, he said the biggest adjustment has been rolling with the punches during innings, like he was forced to against the RoughRiders. Doing that enabled him to escape unscathed with his less-than-perfect stuff.
2018 Minor League milestones
"You've got to change things in the game and even in the at-bat, not just after an outing while watching video," Luzardo said. "It's no longer about just finding the things to do better next start. I've got to work on my feet in certain situations and work with the plan I've got coming in. Today, I think I had my worst stuff all year. I didn't feel good at all, but it was just one of those games you have to grind out and battle through and see what you can do. It ended up working out in the end."
The RockHounds gave their starter the lead in the bottom of the fourth. A's No. 6 prospect Sean Murphy walked and stole second before advancing to third on a dropped third strike with Seth Brown reaching first. Murphy scored on a wild pitch, and after Tyler Marincov walked, Mikey White singled in Brown. Marincov raced home on another wild pitch and Rangers No. 13 prospect Jonathan Hernandez walked Brett Siddall to put runners on first and second.
But with one swing, the inning was over as Edwin Diaz hit a ground ball to third and Profar started an around-the-horn triple play, the seventh in the Minor Leagues this season and Frisco's first since July 30, 2013, also against Midland.
Video: Midland's Luzardo fans his first batter of the day
The Midland starter was caught off guard in the dugout, having looked away after watching a chopper hit toward third. All the sudden, he saw the Frisco infield jogging off the field.
"It was one of the craziest things I've ever seen. But I knew we had to just look at it like a double play and I had to go back out there and throw a shutdown inning," Luzardo said. "After something like that, you want to put up another zero."
Luzardo sat down his final three batters and threw 45 of 77 total pitches for strikes in his 13th start of the season. He's yet to work past five innings, a plan he said the A's organization has set for his development despite being more than two years removed from surgery.
"It was a little frustrating at first, only being able to go that far and watching guys go seven or eight while I'm getting pulled without a high pitch count," he said. "But I'd rather them be careful. This shows they're taking good care of me, and my frustration isn't with them. I just want to be out there and compete."
Nolan Blackwood worked around two hits over the final 2 1/3 innings for his eighth save. Murphy added a solo homer, his seventh, in the sixth and scored three times for the RockHounds.