Mark Appel's first full professional season began disappointingly with Class A Advanced Lancaster, as he struggled to find his bearings in the hitter-friendly parks of the California League. But as the year draws to a close, he has turned his season around with Double-A Corpus Christi.
Tuesday, the right-hander punctuated that revival with the best start of his professional career. Appel, the Astros' No. 2 prospect struck out 10 batters in eight-plus scoreless innings to lead Corpus Christi to a 1-0 victory against Frisco.
Appel, ranked No. 44 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, pitched into the ninth inning for the first time in his professional career. Having thrown just 87 pitches, manager Keith Bodie gave Appel a chance to finish his gem. But after he gave up a double on the first pitch of the ninth, Bodie made the call to the bullpen. Appel exited the game having held the RoughRiders to two hits and one walk.
Third baseman Colin Moran, the Astros' No. 5 prospect and No. 67 on the Top 100, drove in the lone run of the game with a two-out single in the eighth inning. He extended his hitting streak to six games and is hitting .307/.357/.432 in 22 games since the Astros acquired him from the Marlins at the Trade Deadline in the Jarred Cosart deal.
With Appel pitching like the ace the Astros expected him to be when they selected him with the first overall pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, one run was all Corpus Christi needed. Appel twice retired 10 batters in a row and set a career high for strikeouts.
Appel earned his first victory since being promoted to Corpus Christi last month. In six starts for the Hooks, he is 1-2 with a 3.15 ERA. He has struck out 34 hitters and walked 10 in 34 1/3 innings.
Appel will hope to carry his momentum from the Texas League into the Arizona Fall League this October, as it was announced Tuesday he is among the players the Astros are sending to the offseason league. Appel and the rest of the Astros contingent will play for Salt River along with players from the D-backs, Marlins, Rockies and Twins.
Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill.