A.J. Alexy looked to be headed to another rocky start in his roller-coaster second professional season Saturday.
But the Rangers No. 17 prospect, facing Carlos Rodon, ended up going toe-to-toe with the rehabbing Major Leaguer.
Gameday box score
Alexy produced his second scoreless outing in three starts, striking out nine and allowing two hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings, before Class A Hickory dropped a 3-2, 10-inning decision to Kannapolis.
May has been relatively good to Alexy. He posted a career-high 12 strikeouts over six one-hit innings on May 4, then lasted four innings and gave up four hits and three runs in his next outing. In April, however, the right-hander surrendered 15 earned runs over 14 innings and closed the month with a 9.64 ERA.
"Since then, I've really taken a step back and looked at both the bad and the good. I've put in work on my mentality and how I start games," Alexy said. "It's all about how I take my pregame 'pen to the mound. Some days, the lights are on, but I just have a rough outing, and some days are completely the opposite. But I'm getting stronger there."
Alexy put that work to the test against the Intimidators. The 2016 11th-round pick struggled out of the gate, giving up a leadoff double to Luis Gonzalez and plunking Laz Rivera on an 0-2 pitch. He knew he couldn't continue trying to fight through the jam and needed to start from scratch, at least mentally.
"So I took a step off the mound and I recollected myself," Alexy said. "I know I can completely trust my catcher, Sam Huff. He's been calling great pitches and I knew we could keep going with this mentality to attack."
Alexy rebounded with two strikeouts and retired Evan Skoug on an inning-ending fly ball to center.
He walked the leadoff batter in each of the next two innings but set down 11 straight batters before bookending his outing as Craig Dedelow knocked a two-out double to right field in the sixth. Having finished six innings just once in seven start this season, Alexy was disappointed at being pulled, especially with his team holding a 1-0 lead.
"With Sam calling great pitches and our guys battling in such a high-intensity game in the dugout, I think I could have finished that and gone more," he said.
Saturday's start dropped his ERA to 5.46, the lowest it's been since his season debut on April 8.
In his first professional start since undergoing shoulder surgery in September, Rodon gave up a run on three hits with six strikeouts over five frames. Alexy said going up against a pitcher with big league experience gave him an in-game model to work off, especially when things got tough.
"That was awesome. Every time I came back from an inning, I'd sit down and try to figure out what we do similarly," Alexy said. "His motion is so nice and easygoing toward the plate. He's a great pitcher and fun to watch and duel against.
"He's super-calm and collected, even through the bad calls, and doesn't let that affect his game. Watching him in the first, it was the calmest I've ever felt on the mound after getting over that."
Hickory's Tyler Ratliff knocked in Ryan Dorow with the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th, but Gonzalez tied it with an RBI double in the bottom half and scored the winning run on a wild pitch by reliever Joe Barlow.