In Jake Odorizzi's last two starts combined, he struck out six batters. He nearly doubled that Monday, fanning a franchise-record 11 in Double-A Northwest Arkansas' 5-0 win over Springfield.
The right-hander scattered four hits and a walk over seven scoreless innings as he dropped his ERA from 6.75 to 4.08, setting the Naturals' strikeout mark in the process.
"I didn't know anything about [the record] until I was done, doing my postgame weight routine," he said. "We had the radio on and they said it over the broadcast.
"It's nice, not just for me, but for the whole team. We'd lost a few in a row and it was good to go out there and have everything go really well. Hopefully this will jump-start some things."
Odorizzi's last two starts, by his own account, had not been his finest. Kansas City's No. 4 prospect lasted just two-thirds of an inning, allowing four runs against Corpus Christi on April 12. On April 17, he gave up five runs -- four earned -- in a five-inning start against San Antonio.
Those came after he struck out eight over five innings of shutout ball in his season debut April 6 against the Hooks.
"I think just throwing strikes [was the key]," he said. "The whole pitching staff, we've had trouble throwing strikes -- me included -- and you just have to go back to attacking the zone. That's the big key, and hopefully it continues to go this way."
Monday's start was the third time Odorizzi had struck out at least 11 batters in a game. With Wilmington in the Class A Advanced Carolina League in 2011, he fanned 13 in a May 10 win over Salem and then struck out 11 in a June 17 loss to Winston-Salem. In neither of those starts, though, did he combine his impressive strikeout totals with a scoreless outing.
"I was just trying to work my best pitches in there, read the hitters. Really all of my pitches just worked off each other, which was really nice," he said.
For Odorizzi, it was a redeeming start of sorts after struggling in his past two outings. MLB.com's No. 46 overall prospect said it was the kind of outing that can set him straight and put him back in his regular rhythm.
"Any time you can have a start go really well like that, you know what you need to do to be effective," he said. "The last two I had were not good, in my opinion, and this one really helps my confidence. Helps with everything that you do on a daily basis, know what it's going to take in my next outing. Hopefully, it keeps snowballing."
Reliever Patrick Keating pitched the two final frames to preserve the Naturals' shutout and record his fourth save.
Northwest Arkansas' two first basemen contributed most of the offense, with starter John Whittleman hitting a two-RBI double in the third and replacement Scharlon Schoop smacking a pinch-hit solo home run in the eighth.