Jake Odorizzi decided to give Naturals fans an encore performance.
The Royals' No. 4 prospect tied a season high with 11 strikeouts and gave up a run on two hits over 7 1/3 innings Saturday as Double-A Northwest Arkansas edged the Tulsa Drillers, 2-1.
Odorizzi retired his first nine batters before allowing a leadoff homer to Josh Rutledge in the fourth inning. After walking Tim Torres with two outs in the fifth, the 22-year-old right-hander set down eight straight Drillers before Torres ended his night with a one-out single in the eighth.
"It was one of those starts where all your pitches show up," Odorizzi said. "The key was getting ahead, throwing strikes and commanding the zone."
Nearly two weeks ago, Odorizzi fanned 11 batters over seven shutout innings against Springfield. While matching his own franchise record was nice, Odorizzi was pleased with Saturday's outing for other reasons.
"Not even with the strikeouts, they had just the one hit before the last inning," he said. "I was just happy with the way I kept the ball in the zone. And the defense played great behind me."
Odorizzi endured an up-and-down April, going 2-2 with a 4.18 ERA in five starts. On April 12 against Corpus Christi, he endured the second-shortest outing of his career, retiring two batters and giving up four runs on a hit and three walks.
"Early in the year, you're not in perfect form, but I'm not going to blame that," the Illinois native said. "It's just a couple of rough outings and I'm glad I rebounded from it. Hopefully, I can just keep on carrying on. Nights aren't always going to be like this, but hopefully I can be consistent."
Odorizzi, who registered a career-high 13 strikeouts for Class A Advanced Wilmington last May 10, believes the key going forward is pretty simple.
"Just throwing strikes and getting ahead early," he said. "Once you get ahead, there's a lot more things you can do. Hitters take a different approach; you don't have to throw fastballs in a fastball count. You have a lot more options when you're ahead in the count."
Wil Myers, the Royals' No. 2 prospect, slugged his eighth homer, matching his total for all of last season.
"When he's out there hitting on a daily basis, it helps our staff out and our team out," Odorizzi said. "He can hit, he doesn't care who is on the mound. He drives the ball in just about every at-bat. He's a great hitter and I think we're going to see more of it."
Blaine Hardy took over for Odorizzi and recorded the final five outs, allowing one hit, en route to his third save.