Ample confidence and a sense of identity have Steven Brault in the midst of his finest season as a pro.
The Pirates' No. 7 prospect recorded his 10th straight quality start on Saturday, yielding two hits and three walks while striking out five over seven scoreless innings as Triple-A Indianapolis topped Syracuse, 8-2, at Victory Field.
Gameday box score
"He threw strikes, he controlled counts and he was able to take advantage of a pretty free-swinging team," Indians pitching coach Stan Kyles said. "He did a nice job of staying on top of the guys and inducing weak contact."
Fresh off posting seven zeros against Buffalo, Brault (10-5) won for the sixth time in eight starts. He's gone at least six innings in each of those outings, yielding more than five hits just once [on June 24 against Louisville].
Video: Indians' Brault registers a strikeout
The left-hander set the Chiefs down in order in the first inning before working around a single by Brandon Snyder in the second and a walk to Zach Collier in the third. After issuing back-to-back walks to Neftali Soto and Snyder to open up the fourth, he retired nine of the next 10 batters to keep Syracuse off the board through the sixth.
Brault needed eight pitches to get through a perfect seventh before departing for reliever Montana DuRapau.
"He didn't have the one great put-away pitch tonight, but I think it was just [using] all of his pitches and a good mix that was the most effective thing that he did tonight," Kyles said.
The 25-year-old lowered his International League-leading ERA to a season-best 1.94. Since going 0-3 with a 3.86 ERA over 25 2/3 innings in April, Brault is 10-2 with a 1.43 ERA over 94 2/3 innings in his last 16 appearances.
"Mostly, it's just been his confidence," Kyles said. "It's his second year here in Triple-A. He had a chance to go to the big leagues last year and do well for himself and learn a lot of things that he needed to work on. I think he's come here this season and applied those things and just had a huge growth spurt in his ability to execute pitches consistently."
That confidence has allowed Brault to pitch more aggressively, enabling him to develop an identity on the mound.
"I think he's recognized that his identity as a pitcher is an aggressive mind-set, a guy that pitches to contact more," Kyles said. "He's still able to put hitters away, but I think he's become more efficient with his pitches. He attacks hitters early in the count and induces weak contact."
Brault is 0-3 with a 4.82 ERA over 37 1/3 innings in 10 big league appearances. However, Kyles has little doubt the 2013 11th-round pick will be able to handle another callup.
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"Is he ready to go to the big leagues now and perform? Absolutely," the pitching coach said. "He's proven that over the course of the season. He understands that right now it's keeping himself prepared and waiting for an opportunity. If the opportunity presents itself, I think he'll be more than willing and able to go and take advantage of it."
Pirates No. 21 prospect Jordan Luplow went 2-for-4 with a solo homer for Indianapolis, which got two hits and two RBIs from Elias Diaz.
Chiefs starter John Simms (0-3) was tagged for five runs on seven hits and two walks while fanning three over five innings.