Jacob Faria got back to what worked with explosive results on Friday.
The Rays' No. 9 prospect struck out a season-high 11 while allowing three hits with one walk over six innings as Triple-A Durham defeated Buffalo, 3-0, at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Faria (3-0) struck out the side in the first despite a one-out single by Christian Lopes. The right-hander faced one over the minimum through the first four frames.
"From the beginning of the game, it just felt good," he said. "My command of everything was good. My bullpen session was really good, so I felt like I was able to command the ball and ran with it from the beginning."
Faria worked around singles in the fifth and sixth as he rang up his highest strikeout total since punching out 11 last May 21 with Double-A Montgomery. The 23-year-old worked around a baserunner in four of six innings Friday, but did not allow any of them past second base.
"That was a big problem last year, shutting down innings with runners on base," Faria said. "It's been more comfortable this entire year as a whole."
Video: Bulls' Faria notches 11th K
The California native took over the International League lead for strikeouts with 39 in 25 2/3 frames, but he remains tied with three other pitchers for the most walks on the circuit with 13.
Command has been part of Faria's focus in his second Triple-A stint. After issuing five walks over five innings in a win over Louisville on April 22, he worked on his mechanics.
"The main thing me and Kyle Snyder, the pitching coach, have been working on is using my lower half, and that's helped everything become more consistent," the 2011 10th-round pick said. "Being able to throw strikes with that has helped everything.
"My last game, I kind of fell out of that and reverted back to what I had been doing in the past and it made my command go astray again. This whole last week leading up to today, I was really focused on getting back to using the lower half."
Bulls third baseman Patrick Leonard continued his hot opening month. A night after smacking a career-high five hits, the 24-year-old went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk. Before an eighth-inning strikeout, Leonard had reached base in 11 straight plate appearances.
He leads the league with a .423 batting averge.
"I've had the pleasure of playing with Pat the last three seasons, and he's just a good hitter," Faria said. "Even last year, he struggled in the beginning of the season with Durham, but when he came down to Montgomery he raked.
"He's always been a pleasure to watch. I think everyone in the clubhouse is really happy to see how much success he has been having."
Diego Moreno tossed a perfect ninth to pick up his third save.
Despite a season high-tying eight strikeouts, Bisons starter TJ House (3-1) took the loss after surrendering three runs on eight hits with a pair of walks over five innings.