Zastryzny leads way for Mesa on mound

Cubs lefty posts first scoreless outing since 2014 to earn first AFL win

Rob Zastryzny lowered his ERA from 6.43 to 4.74 with five shutout innings Thursday. (Buck Davidson/Pro Sports Media, Inc.)

By Tyler Maun / | November 6, 2015 1:23 AM

SALT RIVER, Arizona -- It certainly wasn't by choice, but Rob Zastryzny worked with two catchers in his fifth start of the Arizona Fall League season. What came out of it was his best outing of the year.

One start after taking his first loss, the Mesa left-hander got his inaugural win and posted a scoreless start for the first time since July 23, 2014, allowing just one hit and one walk while fanning three over five innings as Solar Sox edged the Salt River Rafters, 4-2.

Zastryzny was in a groove through two innings when his fellow Chicago prospect Willson Contreras was injured trying to beat out a double play in the top of the third inning. The catcher, the Cubs' No. 10 prospect, reached to grab his hamstring and fell after crossing first base, later walking off the field under his own power with members of the Mesa staff.

Contreras gave way to Stephen McGee (Angels) in the bottom of the third, but Zastryzny didn't struggle with the swap.

"They did well together," Zastryzny said. "I talked to McGee before he came in and told him what we were doing, and he kind of worked off that. I've been working with Willson pretty exclusively, and he's done a great job. He's a fantastic ballplayer."

Contreras remained in the dugout with the Solar Sox after the injury.

"He walked back on the field and looked fine," Zastryzny said. "He was walking around talking to the guys, so it was really good to see that."

The only hit the Cubs' No. 25 prospect allowed was a two-out single by No. 21 Nationals prospect Spencer Kieboom in the first. L.J. Mazzilli, the Mets' No. 23 prospect, walked to lead off the third before Zastryzny retired the final nine batters he faced.

The southpaw had not posted a scoreless start since going six shutout innings in a win for Class A Advanced Daytona over 15 months ago. This year, he reached Double-A for the first time, but struggled to a 2-5 record and 6.23 ERA in 14 starts for Tennessee. Despite the numbers, the Southern League exposure prepared Zastryzny for the competitive level of the AFL.

"I couldn't imagine coming straight from high-A," he said. "The jump from high-A to Double-A was huge for me. I feel like the jump from high-A to here is unbelievable. The zones are smaller. The guys hit better. You're facing guys who could easily be in the big leagues tomorrow. Those guys who went straight from high-A are doing a great job. I think going from Double-A to here is a little bit of an adjustment, but it's a lot easier."

Mesa rolled up 12 hits in the victory, but went just 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Miami's No. 6 prospect Austin Dean led the way with a triple and a run scored.

Salt River starter Jeremy Gabryszwski (Toronto) fell to 1-1, charged with two runs on five hits over five innings.

For Zastryzny, the outing provided a blueprint for a strong finish to 2016.

"If you watch a big league game, they do that," he said of being able to mix locations. "They work in, work away, back in. That's just the consistency. Minor Leaguers, some days they don't have their curveball or some days their changeup isn't there. That doesn't happen much in the big leagues, so they can do that. If you're able to control all your pitches, you might as well use it, right? That's definitely something I can work on in the future. It was kind of enlightening for it to happen to me tonight."

In other AFL action:

Surprise 1, Glendale 0

Brewers' No. 27 prospect Adrian Houser allowed just three hits and a walk over five innings to improve to 2-1 for the Saguaros. He rebounded after his worst start of the fall, in which he allowed four runs on five hits over four innings on Oct. 31 against Salt River. Damien Magnifico (Brewers) fanned one in a perfect ninth for his second save. Tyler Austin (Yankees) singled home the game's lone run, driving in New York's No. 18 prospect Dustin Fowler. No. 17 White Sox prospect Adam Engel had a pair of hits, including a double, for the Desert Dogs. Gameday box score

Scottsdale 5, Peoria 2

Mac Williamson, the Giants' No. 13 prospect, doubled and plated a pair of runs to help the Scorpions win for the eighth time in 10 games. Danny Rosenbaum (Red Sox) improved to 2-0 after giving up a run on two hits in an inning of relief and Twins' No. 17 prospect Jake Reed fanned two in the ninth to notch his second save as Scottsdale pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts. Dario Pizzano slugged a solo homer for the Javelinas. Gameday box score

Tyler Maun is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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