Lakewood lefty Ethan Stewart wasn't hyperventilating Sunday afternoon in the dugout. That was just Stewart resting his hands on his thighs and breathing deeply five or six times.
"I'm in a euphoria-zone kind of thing," Stewart said. "It's great."
And so are the results from his new inhale-exhale routine. The Phillies' No. 17 prospect bested Hagerstown's Alex Meyer, who struck out a career-high 11, with six one-hit innings in the Class A BlueClaws' 5-3 win over the host Suns.
Stewart (4-6), a 47th-round draftee in 2010 in his first full season in 2012, only encountered trouble in the second inning when Justin Miller reached on a fielding error, advanced to second on Brett Newsome's single, made his way to third on a wild pitch and scored on Hendry Jimenez's groundout. Working with improved fastball command and a complementary changeup -- but without an effective breaking pitch until the sixth -- the 21-year-old hurler struck out two batters, walked one and retired his final 11 in order.
"You can't really let anything affect you," he said.
And that's been the key for Stewart over his current four-start winning streak. After poor outings May 30 in West Virginia (seven runs on five hits over 1 1/3 innings) and June 2 in Kannapolis (one run on three walks in two-thirds of an inning), he consulted with the Phillies' roving sports psychologist. Before he's emerged from the bench for each inning (beginning with the first frame of his June 5 start opposite Lexington), Stewart has sat still, filled and emptied his lungs and told himself to relax.
It worked wonders while matching up with Meyer (6-4). The Nationals' -- and baseball's overall No. 71 prospect -- allowed four runs on three hits in the first inning, but nothing else over the remaining 5 2/3 frames.
"It's tough. I don't really focus on who is out there, but I knew he was a really good pitcher," Stewart said of Meyer. "I pitched against the Red Sox's first-round Draft pick [Matt Barnes] my first start of the year. I got the loss in that one. They're both really hard-throwers. Alex is probably around 95, 96 [mph] and that curveball he has is unbelievable. Seeing those type of guys and competing against them is a lot of fun."
No. 11 Phils prospect Aaron Altherr enjoyed the matchup too. Altherr smacked a three-run homer off of Meyer in the opening inning, but Meyer struck him with a pitch and promptly picked him off first base to start the fourth.
"He's been struggling a little bit," Stewart said of Altherr, who is 7-for-12 with five RBIs over his past three games. "His confidence is sky high after that."
The same could be said of Stewart. Through 15 appearances, he's lowered his ERA to 3.46, the lowest it's been in exactly one month.
His relievers didn't fare so well, giving up home runs to Steven Souza Jr. (10th homer) and Matthew Skole (17th) over the game's final three frames.