It took him a couple starts, but Nick Tropeano has shaken off the rust. That's bad news for Pacific Coast League hitters.
The Astros' No. 13 prospect continued to rebound from a few rocky starts Monday. The right-hander posted 6 2/3 nearly perfect innings, helping Triple-A Oklahoma City down Sacramento, 7-0.
The 23-year-old allowed just two hits -- both singles -- while striking out eight in the win. Tropeano (8-5) threw a season-high 109 pitches (69 strikes) and slimmed his ERA to 3.12.
Tropeano retired 16 straight batters at one point, a run bookended by Shane Peterson's single in the second and Kyle Blanks' single in the seventh.
"I felt like I had all four pitches going good," he said. "I felt like I had my fastball command, getting ahead of hitters, getting that first-pitch strike."
The West Islip, N.Y. native was stellar in the first half for Oklahoma City, dropping his ERA to 2.09 in mid-June. Later in the month, though, he developed some soreness in his forearm, and Houston kept him on the shelf for about a month as a precaution.
The right-hander struggled in his first three starts back, allowing 16 earned runs over 14 2/3 innings, including a seven-run disaster against Iowa on Aug. 8.
"I think just missing that month or couple weeks, my fastball command was a little off," Tropeano said. "It took a little time to get that back."
The precision returned on Aug. 13 at Fresno. The Stony Brook product turned a corner in that start, allowing an earned run over seven innings with seven strikeouts and just one walk.
"It was just feel and repetition," Tropeano said. "Bullpen work, in between, throwing 'pen sessions, working on that kind of stuff. I improved that and took it into the game."
The righty was strong from the first pitch Monday. He retired the side in order in the first, picking up his first strikeout victim in Nick Buss for the second out. After Peterson's single led off the second, Tropeano sandwiched a lineout between strikeouts of Anthony Aliotti and Alden Carrithers.
Tropeano added two more strikeouts in the third and retired the side in the fourth on three groundouts. He started the fifth with two more grounders, then got Carrithers to fly out to left. He added two more groundouts and a strikeout in the sixth, then started the seventh by striking out Buss again.
After the last strikeout, Blanks singled -- a lined shot that fell in front of right fielder Domingo Santana. Peterson flew out to left, then Tropeano gave way to left-handed reliever Pat Urckfitz, who fanned Aliotti to end the seventh.
Urckfitz worked perfectly through the eighth, then Paul Clemens finished the game with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Santana, the third-ranked prospect in Houston's farm system, went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs. No. 20 prospect Preston Tucker went 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs.