While Andrew Painter is off to a spotless start to his professional career, his effort was only part of the story for Single-A Clearwater on Saturday night.
The Phillies' No. 3 prospect struck out 14 while allowing one hit and no walks in five innings, and relievers Malik Binns and Tommy McCollum fanned four apiece in the final four innings for a combined 22-strikeout effort in the Threshers' 3-0 win over Tampa. The performance is tied for the most strikeouts by a Minor League team since at least 2005 (the Major League record is 20).
“It was one hell of a job,” Painter told Clearwater's Lindsey Settlemire postgame. “It was a group effort. We just kind of piggyback off each other and feed off each other’s energy. Tonight, everyone on the field -- the hitters and the pitchers -- we all brought it out.”
Painter's outing started out normal enough; the 2021 13th overall Draft pick struck out MLB No. 60 prospect Jasson Dominguez to open things up, allowed a double, induced a flyout and struck out the last batter of the inning on three pitches. What transpired from there, though, was a sight to behold. The 19-year-old struck out the side in the second… then struck out the side again… and again… and again.
Utilizing only his fastball and slider, the righty capped off his outing by fanning 13 in a row, touching 99.8 mph on his heater and 86.3 mph on his slider. Of the 70 pitches he threw, 50 went for strikes, and he generated 15 swings-and-misses on his fastball and five on his slider.
“Really, you just have to get ahead and stay ahead and really finish guys,” Painter said of his performance. “Don’t play around. Once you get ahead [in the count], you have to go at them and keep it going. You have the momentum, and it just keeps going once you stay ahead.”
Painter took that mentality to heart -- he ran only one three-ball count all night. His 14 total strikeouts are tied with Guardians No. 2 prospect Daniel Espino and Braves prospect Tanner Gordon for the most in a game this season.
Binns picked things up right where Painter left it off when he entered the game in the sixth. The righty struck out the first batter he faced and got Dominguez looking to end the inning before getting two more swinging strikeouts in his second inning of work.
Entering in the eighth, McCollum too fanned the first batter he faced and closed out the game in fitting fashion by striking out the side in the ninth to secure the Threshers’ victory.
In eighteen total innings across four starts in 2021 and three in 2022, Painter has yet to allow an earned run. The 6-foot-7 hurler has given up eight hits, three walks and struck out a whopping 42 batters in that span – that’s a career 0.61 WHIP and .131 batting average against.