Just when the Double-A Blue Wahoos needed it, "The Vladimir Gutierrez Show" hit the airwaves.
Cincinnati's No. 9 prospect allowed one run on five hits over 7 1/3 innings and laced a two-run double in the seventh to power Double-A Pensacola to a 4-1 victory over Biloxi on Thursday at MGM Park. The win evened the best-of-5 Southern League semifinals series at one apiece.
Video: Blue Wahoos' Gutierrez drills two-run double
"It was 'The Vladimir Gutierrez Show tonight,'" Pensacola manager Jody Davis said. "On the mound, he was just in control the entire night. I think at the end of the sixth, he had 68 pitches, and at that point, we were thinking he might get nine. ... He was outstanding on the mound and knocked in those two insurance runs with the double."
The 22-year-old fanned three without issuing a walk in his longest start of the season, throwing 66 of his 96 pitches for strikes. After Thomas Jankins' two-out single in the third inning, Gutierrez retired 12 consecutive batters before serving up a two-out single to Brewers No. 15 prospect Troy Stokes Jr. in the seventh. Fourth-ranked Lucas Erceg subsequently drove him in with a double to right to tag Gutierrez with his only run.
Gameday box score
Reds No. 17 prospect Jose Siri doubled to left to lead off the game, advanced to third base on TJ Friedl Jr.'s bunt single and later scored on Mitch Nay's RBI groundout to second. Friedl Jr. scored on Shed Long's sacrifice fly to left. Gutierrez tacked on two insurance runs by drubbing a double to right off Miguel Sanchez in the seventh.
"He does like to hit and he's a free swinger in [batting practice]. Everyone jokes with him," Davis said. "To get the key hit by going the other way -- he was probably just late -- with a shot in the right-center field gap in a situation where we're sitting there thinking, 'We could really use one more run' and he gets a big hit like that."
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The Blue Wahoos' triumph over the Shuckers was a big mental hurdle for the team, as Biloxi entered Thursday riding a six-game winning streak against Pensacola. But it also served to boost the confidence of Gutierrez, who has struggled against a talented and advanced Biloxi lineup containing three of the Brewers' top four prospects with a 6.30 ERA in four starts against the Shuckers this season.
"He just went out there in the biggest game of our year and completely dominated," Davis said.
Gutierrez's second season in professional baseball was a tale of two halves. He struggled in the first half, compiling an 8-3 record and a 5.63 ERA, but picked it up significantly in the second half with a 6-2 mark and a 3.12 ERA.
"He [changed] a few mechanical things," Davis said. "He couldn't get the ball down in the first half of the season and it seemed like when they hit it, we couldn't catch it. Just a combination of things. He was making mistakes and we couldn't catch them all for him. All of the sudden, he got a little bit more downhill. He's always had a good changeup to go along with his curveball and three different combination of speeds has just been outstanding since just before the All-Star break."
Carlos Navas followed Gutierrez with 1 2/3 shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out one, to earn the save.
Shuckers starter Thomas Jankins took the loss after allowing two runs on five hits over six innings.
The series pivots to Blue Wahoos Ballpark for Game 3 with a 7:05 p.m. ET first pitch.
In other Southern League playoff action:
Biscuits 8, Generals 3
Montgomery starter Brock Burke outdueled top D-backs prospect Jon Duplantier by allowing one run over 6 1/3 innings and Michael Brosseau finished a triple away from the cycle as the Biscuits evened the best-of-5 series, 1-1. Duplantier suffered the loss after being tagged with three runs -- one earned -- in 3 2/3 innings. Gameday box score