Facing the top-hitting offense in the Texas League, Luis Cruz felt like he could do anything.
He recorded 12 straight outs, including a stretch of seven consecutive strikeouts, to help the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks shut out the RockHounds, 7-0, in Midland on Monday.
"I had [my] best game this year," the southpaw said. "I just pound the zone, throw the fastball down in the zone -- throw inside, outside -- and my curveball. I [was] concentrating all night."
Cruz (4-4) worked around a walk to Jefry Marte in the first inning and Dusty Coleman's leadoff single in the third before his perfect stretch. The 23-year-old walked Hiroyuki Nakajima before inducing Marte to pop out in the seventh and then exited with season-high nine strikeouts on the night.
The 5-foot-9 hurler shut down a Midland lineup that leads every offensive category -- aside from triples and stolen bases -- in the league.
"He had a great day. It was a pretty good hitting team with a lot of right-handed hitters. He had good command of his fastball," said Hooks pitching coach Gary Ruby. "All his pitches were great. He can't get much greater than that."
The dominant outing reminded the coach of Cruz's final start last season for the Hooks. He had hurled a two-hit shutout while fanning 14 San Antonio batters on Aug. 26.
Prior to his best start of 2014, the Astros prospect had his worst -- also against the Missions. Facing San Antonio on May 13, the southpaw recorded just one out after allowing five runs on two hits and three walks.
"In his last start, he struggled. If you lose a little bit of confidence, you start to pitch away from the bat, pitch away from contact -- that's when you get into trouble … [but] he handled it pretty well," Ruby said. "Sometimes he gets backwards and throws too much off-speed stuff. He doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but he has great location. I try to get him to use it."
The coach attributes his ability to bounce back and toughness to his two years in Winter Ball, adding that it gave him swagger and confidence.
Anthony Aliotti notched the other Midland hit of the game off reliever Jordan Jankowski.
Houston's No. 7 prospect Delino DeSields and No. 18 Nolan Fontana collected three hits apiece, with the latter plating three runs.
After yielding seven runs on nine hits in six innings, RockHounds starter Chris Jensen (2-3) was charged with his third loss in as many decisions.