Sixto Sanchez hardly broke a sweat Tuesday night. Not bad, considering his start took place during a typical Florida summer evening.
Miami's top prospect allowed two hits and struck out nine over seven innings as Double-A Jacksonville blanked Biloxi, 2-0, at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The seven innings matched a season high for Sanchez, who yielded two runs or fewer for the eighth time in 13 starts for the Jumbo Shrimp.
Video: Jacksonville's Sanchez notches ninth K
The impressive outing lowered Sanchez's ERA to a deceiving 3.20. MLB.com's No. 21 overall prospect has given up more than three earned runs twice with Jacksonville, notably surrendering a career-high eight over 3 2/3 innings on July 2 against Chattanooga. Taking away that outlier, the right-hander's ERA would drop to 2.33.
Jumbo Shrimp manager Kevin Randel credited Sanchez's continued growth to his work during bullpen sessions.
"A lot of work on execution. Obviously, that's our main goal here with Bruce Walton, our pitching coach," the first-year skipper said. "[Sixto] goes out and does his work on his side days executing pitches and takes it right over into the game."
Gameday box score
Sanchez (6-4) was in command from the start. He surrendered a first-inning single to Patrick Leonard, then set down the next nine batters until Dillon Thomas reached on a throwing error by shortstop Bryson Brigman, Miami's 24th-ranked prospect. C.J. Hinojosa collected the final hit off Sanchez -- a one-out single in the fifth. He retired the final eight batters, fanning four, to complete seven frames on 76 pitches, 57 for strikes.
"It was a really quick outing for him," Randel said of Sanchez's fourth seven-inning start of 2019. "He's a seven-inning guy and he had more in the tank. .... He was strong all night, threw strikes, kept [the ball] on the ground for most of the night and we made the plays behind him."
In two starts against Biloxi, the 20-year-old has allowed three hits in 43 at-bats (.070) while striking out 16 and walking two over 13 scoreless frames.
Video: Jacksonville's Sanchez legs out infield hit
The centerpiece of the offseason trade that sent All-Star J.T. Realmuto to Philadelphia, Sanchez was dominant when he took the mound in an injury-plagued 2018. The 6-foot, 185-pound hurler, who can reach triple digits with his fastball, sported a 2.51 ERA and a .224 opponent's batting average with Class A Advanced Clearwater last year. Right elbow inflammation sent him to the injured list last June 9, and he didn't threw another pitch in the Phillies organization.
"It's a special arm," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill told MLB.com. "You keep him healthy and you keep building. ... He's already approaching career innings for him. It's just a matter of getting him into that routine and taking the ball every five days, and going out there and competing."
Wanting to be cautious, Miami kept Sanchez in extended spring training, where they fine-tuned his delivery. He didn't make his official Marlins debut until May 3 with Jupiter in the Florida State League, where he started twice before he was promoted to Jacksonville. Through 15 starts, the native of the Dominican Republic is 6-6 with a 3.41 ERA and an 84-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 87 innings.
"We had delivery work that we wanted to get accomplished with him before he stepped on the field," Hill told MLB.com. "He has worked hard with that. I think you're seeing that growth and development."
2019 MiLB include
Tyler Stevens and Dylan Lee combined on 1 1/3 frames before rain halted play for 38 minutes with one out in the ninth. Miami's 30th-ranked prospect Tommy Eveld recorded the final two outs to earn his third save while preserving Jacksonville's sixth shutout of the year.
Sanchez helped himself in the sixth. He beat out an infield single and scored the game's first run on a double by Justin Twine. J.C. Millan added an insurance run in the seventh with a solo homer, his fourth of the season.
Biloxi continued to limit the innings of starter Drew Rasmussen. The Brewers No. 14 prospect allowed one hit and struck out four over three frames. Cameron Roegner (3-4) gave up one run on two hits and a walk with three strikeouts in three innings.