Blake Rivera was fairly close to flawless on the mound on Thursday.
San Francisco's No. 18 prospect allowed one hit and two walks over six shutout innings and struck out a career-high 10 in Class A Augusta's 3-1 win over Kannapolis at SRP Park.
Video: GreenJackets' Rivera fans career-high 10th
"Going into the game, we had a hitter-by-hitter game plan," Rivera said, "just trust myself today with the curveball and fastball combination."
Even before stepping on the mound, the 21-year-old right-hander believed he would have a strong start.
"I felt good warming up, getting through my pregame bullpen," he said. "I knew today I was going to feel good, just coming off two pretty decent starts. The confidence is there right now and I'm just going to try to stick with it."
Rivera (3-4) retired the first 10 batters he faced before No. 30 White Sox prospect Lenyn Sosa lined a single to center. The right-hander threw 54 of his 82 pitches for strikes and shrugged off walks in the fourth and fifth. Six of his outs came via groundout.
Rivera said he didn't really have his changeup working, so while he continued to mix it in, he relied heavily on the fastball and the curveball during his stingy start.
"It wasn't a very competitive pitch today, where it has been in recent outings," he said.
Gameday box score
The Alabama native struck out two hitters in the first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth. He whiffed Alex Destino, Corey Zangari and Ian Dawkins twice apiece. His previous career high in punchouts was nine, which he had accomplished twice this season.
Over his last couple of starts, Rivera wanted to stay with a mind-set of not trying to overthrow.
"Just sticking with what I got and pitching at a range that I feel comfortable with and that I know I can throw strikes with," he said.
Rivera improved his ERA to 3.62, with 63 strikeouts and 27 walks across 49 2/3 South Atlantic League innings. He was the Giants' fourth-round pick in last year's Draft and was assigned to Class A Short Season Salem-Keizer, where he had a 6.16 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts) over 19 innings.
2019 MiLB include
Rivera said everyone was on 20-25 inning limits with the Volcanoes.
"Getting that under our belt of seeing those hitters and seeing what that's like," he said. "So now I'm back in a starting role and going out there and throwing 'til my pitch count's up."
The hurler hopes to keep this momentum going by focusing on the strike zone and his fastball.
"Just putting it in places where I know guys shouldn't hit it hard," he said, "and get the ground balls, get the strikeouts, get the pop-ups and stay out there as long as I can."
Kannapolis had the tying runs in scoring position in the ninth, but reliever Franklin Van Gurp struck out No. 20 White Sox prospect Bryce Bush and Zangari to complete the win.