If you're holding a bat in your hands and you see Gus Schlosser, wait until dark. He's a different man by day.
The Braves prospect gave up three hits over eight innings in sunny, 89-degree weather Sunday afternoon as the Class A Advanced Lynchburg Hillcats blanked the visiting Frederick Keys, 5-0.
"I do like pitching in the day," said Schlosser, who's 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA in matinees. "It's by chance, I guess. Pretty random that my three best starts have come in day games."
His success was more of a sure thing in this latest outing. Schlosser yielded a second-inning double on a low but over-the-middle pitch to Michael Flacco, then retired 14 straight batters. Beforehand, he said, he circled the mound and reminded himself to avoid trying too hard, his mental bugaboo.
"Me and [pitching coach Derek Botelho] have been working on letting the game come to me," he said. "I have been trying to do too much. In our side [sessions], he was telling me, 'Let your stuff work, don't try to do too much.' Bo just tells me to back off sometimes."
The 23-year-old right-hander also gave up singles to Jeremy Nowak in the seventh and Justin Dalles in the eighth but followed each with an inning-ending double play. He credits his changeup with keeping hitters off of his fastball, while his breaking ball was useful but not as sharp.
The Hillcats' starter faced one over the minimum 24, struck out five and recorded 11 groundouts. He would have come out for the ninth -- and a bid at his first career complete game -- if not for throwing 98 pitches.
"Coming off the field, I felt like I could finish," he said, "but Bo was sitting there and said, 'You're done.' Sometimes you don't argue. He's got a reason.'"
The reason being that he'd like to see Schlosser, a 2011 17th-round Draft pick, keep performing at this level. The coach's student matched the longest outing of his career; on Opening Night, he gave up two runs on six hits over eight frames in a 9-3 win over Potomac. His longest scoreless outing occurred on May 15, when he limited Wilmington to three hits over seven innings.
"It's definitely up there," he said of his latest performance. "My start against Winston-Salem and this one are in the top two."
On May 20, Schlosser recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts while limiting Winston-Salem to one run on four hits seven frames.
All told, the Florida Southern College product is 7-3 with a 3.80 ERA through 13 starts in his first full Minor League season. His seven wins tie teammate and Braves' No. 8 prospect J.R. Graham (7-1, 2.58 ERA) for tops in the Carolina League.
Chasen Shreve allowed a fourth Keys hit in the ninth but completed the shutout.
The Hillcats scored three runs against starter Rick Zagone (3-1) before Nick Ahmed and Adam Milligan struck solo homers off Brandon Erbe.
Ahmed also stole his league-leading 20th base and scored on Tommy La Stella's one-out double in the first inning.
Winners of three straight, the Hillcats (33-30) remain atop the Northern Division in their quest to clinch the first-half title.