Wentz goes seven in Mississippi shutout

Braves No. 11 prospect retires 20 of last 22 hitters he faced

Joey Wentz has allowed four hits over 14 scoreless innings in two starts against Jacksonville this season. (Danny Parker/MiLB.com)

By Andrew Battifarano / MiLB.com | May 22, 2019 11:35 PM

There were a few hours following his May 12 start when Joey Wentz stewed over a tough performance. But he knew he had to move past it and look for a bounce back if he wanted to get over his low point of the year. He's turned things around in a hurry.

The 11th-ranked Braves prospect allowed three hits and struck out five over seven innings in matching the longest start of his career as Double-A Mississippi blanked Jacksonville, 7-0, at Trustmark Park. He set down 20 of the last 22 hitters he faced to lower his ERA to 4.40.

Video: Wentz's fifth K for Mississippi

"I felt really good tonight. I was just trying to get ahead of hitters," Wentz said. "I had a couple of innings that were longer and had a couple that were short, so that was good. So I was just trying to get ahead of hitters and get them out early."

Wentz (2-3) came into the outing with a 4.74 ERA in four starts this month, including that May 12 outing in which he surrendered six runs without recording an out against Montgomery. But in his last time out against Birmingham, he recovered to go six innings and yielded three runs -- two earned -- on four hits and two walks. 

Having the rocky start against Montgomery wasn't exactly the type of outing Wentz would have drawn up, but his goal was to move on and keep improving. Over his last 13 innings, he's made good on that promise.

Gameday box score

The 21-year-old was even better against the Jumbo Shrimp as he threw 65 of 95 pitches for strikes while facing two batters over the minimum. He started 16 batters with strikes.

"It was obviously a horrific outing that no one wants to have, but after that it was that I still believe in what I do," Wentz said. "I didn't really want to freak out, it was an outing to me, in my mind, that you don't want to pretend didn't happen because it did, but really not too much stock into it. In the past two outings, not concentrating on that and really attacking hitters, and they've obviously been a lot better than that one."

Marlins No. 14 prospect Brian Miller opened Wednesday's game with a single, but he was quickly caught stealing second by catcher Carlos Martinez. Wentz kept cool and induced back-to-back flyouts to end the first inning. 

Ninth-ranked Jorge Guzman doubled in the third and Anfernee Seymour singled in the fifth, but they were the last to reach against Wentz. The 2016 first-round pick recorded four perfect innings overall and allowed only Guzman to reach scoring position.

Though Wentz and Martinez have only worked together three times this season, the starter said the tandem had a nice rhythm going Wednesday night. 

"Yeah, it's been great this season. Both of our catchers take a lot of pride in handling the staff," Wentz said. "They do a really good job and it makes our job as starting pitchers easier when they throw the right fingers down and know what we're thinking. [Martinez] did a great job tonight."

Back out for the seventh, Wentz needed only five pitches to cap his second scoreless outing of seven innings against Jacksonville this month. It was the fifth time in his career that the Kansas native has gone at least seven frames.

"I had an idea that it was going to be my last inning, but I still wanted to go out there," Wentz said. "But I didn't want to try to do too much or I didn't want to feel like I was emptying the tank or get into some deeper counts. I just wanted to keep pounding the zone, which I did and I was able to have a good result. So I was happy about that."

The left-hander is coming off a season in which he had a 2.28 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with 53 strikeouts over 67 innings for Class A Advanced Florida. At the Double-A level for the first time, Wentz is looking to maintain the consistency he's established his last two times on the hill.

2019 MiLB include

"Baseball's a really hard game and we see really good lineups every day," Wentz said. "It's been great so far, the season's going pretty fast -- you look down and the halfway point is not far away. There's a lot of good players in the league, a lot of good players on this team. So it's a good challenge, every start you're facing guys that can swing it. If you don't make pitches they can make you pay for it, but it's been a lot of fun.

Jason Hursh and Jordan Harrison each pitched a scoreless inning to finish off the M-Braves' sixth shutout of the year.

Luis Valenzuela drove in two runs, while Martinez and Daniel Lockhart each had two hits and an RBI to round out the Mississippi offense.

Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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