Kyle Muller did something no pitcher on his team had done this year. It had nothing to do with his work on the mound.Atlanta's No. 12 prospect allowed three hits while striking out a season-high nine in seven frames to lead Double-A Mississippi past Jacksonville, 4-0, at Trustmark Park. Muller
Kyle Muller did something no pitcher on his team had done this year. It had nothing to do with his work on the mound.
Atlanta's No. 12 prospect allowed three hits while striking out a season-high nine in seven frames to lead Double-A Mississippi past Jacksonville, 4-0, at Trustmark Park. Muller also singled in each of his at-bats and scored the Braves' first run, earning some good-natured teasing from his rotation mates in the process.
"We've got a little thing going between us starters for whoever would get the first hit," Muller said. "No one had one yet until I [reached on an infield single] in the fourth inning. They got on my case a little for that, but I think I earned the win in our contest with my second base hit."
Gameday box score
Back on the mound, it was more of the same for the 21-year-old, who delivered his second scoreless effort in five starts. He's allowed three runs in 33 1/3 innings over that span.
Muller (3-1) recorded five of his nine strikeouts over three perfect frames until Marlins No. 14 prospectBrian Miller led off the fourth with a single. A popout and a double play enabled him to face the minimum through four before he ran into minor trouble in the fifth. Miami's 23rd-ranked prospect Joe Dunand led off the frame with a double and advanced to third on a groundout. Muller issued a two-out walk -- one of two free passes in the game -- to John Silviano, but the southpaw escaped by striking out Santiago Chávez looking.
After being handed a 2-0 lead, Muller found himself in trouble again the next inning. With two outs, he plunked Corey Bird, gave up a single to Justin Twine and walked Dunand, but Muller danced out of trouble again by whiffing Marlins No. 24 prospect Bryson Brigman for his ninth and final strikeout. He set down the Jumbo Shrimp in order in the seventh to complete a 98-pitch effort.
"A lot of how I find my way out of trouble depends on how I got there to begin with," Muller said. "In that sixth inning, it was almost a lack of focus on my part. I just wasn't throwing competitive pitches there. I took a step back and focused on each individual pitch instead of going through the motions. It helped me get out of trouble and carried me through the seventh as well."
His 1.89 ERA is tied for the fifth-lowest mark in the Southern League. After racking up a 3.79 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP through his first five starts, Muller since has lowered those numbers to an 0.81 ERA and a 0.63 WHIP.
"I would say a lot of my recent success is mind-set," Muller explained. "Having the confidence in my off-speed stuff and being able to throw it at any point in the count has been big. As has pitching to contact instead of actively trying for swings-and-misses. Obviously, it keeps my pitch count at a more reasonable level and I find that by pitching to contact I actually generate more strikeouts anyway."
Atlanta's second-round pick in the 2016 Draft began his professional career with two solid seasons in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast and Rookie Advanced Appalachian Leagues. Muller took a giant step forward last year, going 11-3 with a 3.03 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 25 starts across three levels. He ended 2018 by going 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in five outings after his promotion to Double-A.
"Coming up last year was great," he said. "Getting comfortable and having some success here and then pitching in the Arizona Fall League was big for me. [Comparing] yourself to guys from other leagues and levels lets you see that you do have the ability to pitch and do pitch well."
Ryan Casteel tied a season high with three hits and drove in two runs for Mississippi, which received multi-hit efforts from Daniel Lockhart and Riley Unroe, in addition to the starting pitcher.
"I've been wanting to hit forever," Muller said. "I was a pretty decent hitter in high school, but I didn't get any hits last year. My first one today was a bit cheap, but the second one was good. It was nice to be able to find the ball with the barrel of the bat."
Jacksonville's Jordan Yamamoto (3-5) was charged with two runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings. The No. 17 Marlins prospect walked two, struck out six and hit a batter.
Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB.