By his own admission, Steven Brault would love to have a stress-free and easy first inning for a change. That wasn't the case Monday night, but he still found a pretty big silver lining.
Pittsburgh's No. 7 prospect scattered three hits and two walks over seven innings as Triple-A Indianapolis blanked Buffalo, 4-0, at Victory Field. He struck out two.
Video: Indianapolis' Brault notches the strikeout
The two strikeouts matched a season low in a start for Brault (9-5), who induced 13 ground-ball outs to win for the ninth time in his last 11 decisions. The southpaw entered his 19th start of the season with 102 punchouts in 106 1/3 innings, but favored contact over swings-and-misses with the help of a strong sinker.
"It's one of those things where we talk about wanting to get weak contact for early outs," Brault said. "The big thing was [catcher Elias Diaz] and I wanted to make sure we were getting ahead of guys. We went mostly with a fastball-sinker combo and mixed in a few sliders and curves. The sinker was working well, so we kept going to it.
"When you look at the final line, it may not look as sexy, but I was able to go seven and get lots of weak contact. It's nice to [be able to go deep into games], which is something I haven't been able to do as much as I'd like this year. I'm figuring things out and using my sinker more, so it was nice to have those results."
Gameday box score
Making his second start with the Indians after a two-game stint in the Majors, the La Mesa, California native found trouble early. Gregorio Petit's one-out double, a throwing error by Brault and a walk to fifth-ranked Blue Jays prospect Teoscar Hernandez loaded the bases. Having retired one batter while throwing 18 pitches, the 25-year-old escaped unscathed after Jake Elmore bounced into a double play.
"I guess I really like having those first innings where I throw a lot of pitches," Brault said. "It would be nice to go out there and have a quick and easy one, but when you can get out of a jam, it's a nice momentum swing. Sometimes things don't work out the way you want them to, but my teammates turned a great double play to help me out."
The Regis University product cruised from there, limiting Buffalo to two singles and a walk over the next six frames. He completed his outing by striking out Jason Leblebijian on his 86th pitch. All four of Brault's scoreless starts this season have been seven innings or longer, including a season-high eight frames on July 29 against Durham. The 6-foot, 200-pound southpaw worked at least six innings for the ninth straight start and 14th time this season while lowering his International League-best ERA to 2.06.
Brault made his big league debut last September with the Pirates. He appeared twice in relief in late July during a five-day stay in "The Show." Even in his short time as a Major Leaguer, the 2013 11th-round pick has gained some valuable knowledge of what it takes to succeed at the game's highest level.
"A big part of what I've learned is that the Majors are not much different," Brault said. "Sure, everybody is better, but if you're consistent and play your game, you'll be fine. As a pitcher, the first time you get up there, you feel like you need to make the perfect pitch every single time or they'll hit it a mile. If you just execute your pitches and attack the zone, good things will happen. It's the same game."
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Angel Sanchez and Montana DuRapau combined for two walks and one strikeout over the final two frames to complete the Indians' eighth shutout of the season.
Phil Gosselin and Diaz hit consecutive two-run doubles in the fourth, while Pirates No. 21 prospect Jordan Luplow went 3-for-3 with a double and a run scored.