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Reds' Howard stingy in Fall League victory

Cincy's No. 5 prospect threw four innings, allowed one run in win for Surprise
MLB.com

MESA, Ariz. -- Nick Howard's strong start and a four-run eighth inning led the way as the Surprise Saguaros defeated the Mesa Solar Sox, 5-2, Friday and maintained their half-game lead in the Arizona Fall League's West Division.

Howard, the Reds No. 5 prospect according to MLBpipeline.com, threw four innings and struck out three, allowing just one run on three hits.

MESA, Ariz. -- Nick Howard's strong start and a four-run eighth inning led the way as the Surprise Saguaros defeated the Mesa Solar Sox, 5-2, Friday and maintained their half-game lead in the Arizona Fall League's West Division.

Howard, the Reds No. 5 prospect according to MLBpipeline.com, threw four innings and struck out three, allowing just one run on three hits.

Box score

"I just wanted to go out there, attack the zone, keep the defense on their toes," Howard said.

The outing was arguably Howard's best start of the AFL, but his command was shaky at times.

Howard, the 19th overall selection in the 2014 Draft, struggled in the second inning, walking two -- one of which came with the bases loaded.

Walks have hampered Howard a bit in the AFL as he issued nine free passes in 16 1/3 innings. However, after walking in a run, Howard settled down and retired seven of the last eight batters he faced.

"Mentally, I just need to gain some confidence when I'm behind in the count," Howard said. "I think that's a big reason why the other innings went well, I was getting ahead in the count. When I fall behind, not-so-good things happen."

Just as Howard settled down and finished his start strong, he's settling down and finishing the AFL strong as well.

After allowing nine earned runs in 10 1/3 innings over his first three appearances, Howard has given up just one run over six innings in his last two trips to the mound.

The 21-year old spent the bulk of the 2014 season finishing up his collegiate career at Virginia and then began his professional career promptly after the Draft. In 11 games with Class A Dayton, five starts, Howard went 2-1 with a 3.74 ERA.

Howard began his throwing program on January 1, so the 2014 season has been a long one, but the prospect is simply enjoying the ride.

"It's kind of been a blur for a while now, just grinding out games," Howard said. "It's been a fun and crazy year."

While Howard kept the Mesa bats in check, the Solar Sox used a couple of Cubs prospects to control the Saguaros offense.

Ivan Pineyro and Gerardo Concepcion each breezed through three scoreless innings.

However, the Saguaros, who have won three straight, eventually broke through with a run in the seventh and four in the eighth.

In the decisive eighth, Surprise strung together five hits and Reds prospect Seth Mejias-Brean, who finished 2-for-4, delivered the decisive blow with his two-run single.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cincinnati Reds