After navigating one of the more trying periods of his career, Stephen Gonsalves has carried an extremely hot hand of late for Triple-A Rochester.
The fourth-ranked Twins prospect yielded three hits and walked one over six scoreless frames Wednesday before the Red Sox rallied past the Red Wings, 6-5, at Frontier Field. Gonsalves struck out six and has not allowed a run in three of his past four outings, sporting a 0.42 ERA over that 21 2/3-inning span.
"Tonight was the first time I actually felt free and in control," he said. "I think we made progress from the last month and now we're starting to get comfortable."
Video: Gonsalves finishes strong for Rochester
The 23-year-old made five starts in August 2016 in which he surrendered only one earned run in 32 2/3 frames (0.28 ERA) for Double-A Chattanooga. The stretch included the first nine-inning complete game of his career on Aug. 11 against Birmingham, where he was tagged for an unearned run on three hits with eight strikeouts.
His current hot streak began with a 5 2/3-inning one-hit outing against Buffalo on June 16. In three prior starts, Gonsalves had allowed 17 runs over 10 2/3 innings and his ERA inflated to 5.89. Following Wednesday's gem, the San Diego native lowered his season ERA to 3.86.
"The last month, I've been feeling pretty bad, just kind of battling myself mentally," he said. "I've got a Gold Glover [Byron Buxton] in center field and a couple big leaguers in the infield, so it's pretty easy to take the pressure off myself and let them put the ball in play and see what happens."
Gonsalves has been dealing with high walk totals during both good and bad stretches. He had issued 13 free passes in three starts before Wednesday with 38 total bases on balls in Triple-A.
"I've been kind of having a mental block," the lanky southpaw said. "I kind of focused on velo and then I started kind of getting erratic. I was thinking my mechanics were out of whack. I was kind of losing my mental game and just focusing on attacking hitters and getting outs."
Gameday box score
MLB.com's No. 73 overall prospect began the holiday tilt with Pawtucket locked into a pitchers' duel with Jalen Beeks. The 15th-ranked Red Sox prospect was perfect as the pair matched zeros through the first three innings, and Gonsalves worked around two singles and a walk.
"[Battling with Beeks] helped me stay focused on the game," the 6-foot-5, 213-pounder said. "The competitor came out inside. Just going back and forth, throwing zeros."
Kennys Vargas lined a two-run homer to left field in the fourth and Cameron Rupp went the same way for a solo shot in the fifth for Rochester. The fourth-round selection in the 2014 Draft faced the minimum over his final three frames, getting help from veteran backstop Rupp, who threw out Aneury Tavarez trying to swipe second following his base hit to lead off the fifth.
Gonsalves exited after throwing a season-high 104 pitches, 68 for strikes, and completed six innings for the first time since May 6 against Lehigh Valley -- his second start on the circuit in 2018. He debuted on the level last August, but opened this season with the Lookouts, lasting only four starts before his 1.77 ERA in 20 1/3 innings forced him back to the International League.
Twins No. 12 prospect LaMonte Wade had two hits, including an RBI triple in the eighth, and scored once.
Beeks lasted 5 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits while striking out eight to reclaim the league strikeout lead from second-ranked White Sox prospect Michael Kopech. Beeks has 110 punchouts to Kopech's 105, with a 3.05 ERA that ranks fifth-best on the circuit.
"To see him have this great year, it helped knowing that I'm going to have to bear down," Gonsalves said of his former Arizona Fall League teammate.
Mike Miller cracked a two-run homer in the eighth and Rusney Castillo delivered a two-RBI single in the ninth before Tzu-Wei Lin, down to his final strike, put the Red Sox in front with a two-run single.