Knowing his emotions on the mound can occasionally run high, Patrick Sandoval has learned the value of using a deep breath to refocus. This mind-set -- coupled with some brilliant stuff -- has allowed him to dominate over the past two months.
The Astros southpaw allowed one hit over five scoreless frames to earn his first Carolina League win as Class A Advanced Buies Creek defeated Myrtle Beach, 6-1, on Thursday at Jim Perry Stadium. Sandoval (1-0) matched a career high with nine strikeouts and extended his scoreless streak to 25 1/3 innings.
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"I felt confident going into the game," Sandoval said of his debut on the circuit last week. "Today, the slider was working really well and I just think it comes down to me containing myself on the mound and breathing when I'm out there. It keeps me sane, it keeps my emotions from not getting too high or too low."
Sandoval has not yielded an earned run in seven consecutive starts, beginning May 23 with Class A Quad Cities. Throughout May and June in the Midwest League, the 2015 11th-round pick sported a 1.10 ERA in 49 innings before his promotion on June 27. Through nine innings at the next level, he's allowed just three hits, whiffed 12 without issuing a walk.
So far, according to the native of Mission Viejo, California, the transition has been seamless. He said he's adjusted to throwing to specific hitters and attacking individual weaknesses rather than pitching to a one-size-fits-all zone.
"It's still attacking the zone to a specific spot where we think chances are that hard contact will be less," Sandoval said. "It's just a focus on the mound. Most of these guys here are from Quad Cities, so it's good to see these guys all again. And this locker room, we have chemistry all throughout the organization."
Staying loose and in command from the get-go Thursday, Sandoval threw 43 strikes on 62 overall pitches and faced the minimum in the outing. The southpaw fanned nine of the first 11 batters he faced and did not allow a runner into scoring position, allowing just two balls to leave the infield.
Sandoval was perfect through the first four frames, before No. 25 Cubs prospect Wladimir Galindo smacked a first-pitch single to right. The 21-year-old settled down quickly, fanning Kevonte Mitchell on three pitches before getting Roberto Caro to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
Despite having pitched from the windup through most of the outing, transitioning to the stretch didn't prove to be a challenge, according to Sandoval. Having 13 career relief appearances under his belt, the left-hander said he's used to change and working through different moments.
"I don't know if any organizations do that, but coming out of the bullpen helps a lot coming into situations that I was definitely not used to coming into pro ball," Sandoval said. "It's a little different, you get a little bit more of an adrenaline rush coming out of the 'pen, especially if you have to come in during an inning and clean it up. ... It makes you prepared for anything they throw at you."
Now through 16 appearances, 11 starts, between the two levels this season, Sandoval has posted an 8-1 record with a 2.19 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 74 innings.
"I think I've just got to trust my stuff," he said. "If one thing isn't working, I've got to figure out a way to at least throw my stuff in the zone. .... It's just being prepared and trusting all the work that you put in in between outings. And we put in a lot of work here, so it gives you a sense of confidence on the mound and that these hitters are in for it today."
Astros No. 28 prospect Abraham Toro blasted his 14th homer of the year, doubled and scored two runs to pace the Buies Creek offense.