It was an unconventional start, but that didn’t stop Jack Leiter from setting a career high.
"It didn't really feel that much different," Leiter said of coming into the game in the second. "I was just trusting [catcher Matt Whatley] and trusting the guys behind me to make some good plays. Whatley called a really good game and I was kind of just going off him. We were on the same page the whole time, which makes it a lot easier."
The Rangers’ top prospect was still working through some of the command issues that have hampered him in his last few starts, but he was able to pitch around four hits and three walks to keep runs off the board for the first time since May 7.
After allowing three of the first five batters to reach base via two walks and a single, Leiter induced a pivotal double-play ball off the bat of Austin Martin (MIN 2) in the bottom of the third. From there, he settled in and set down 12 of the next 14 batters he faced, striking out seven of them.
"They played great defense behind me. It never hurts to trust them," Leiter said. "A double play is a pitcher's best friend, so that was very helpful."
Leiter fanned two to open up the seventh before he exited the game after allowing back-to-back singles. Reliever Grant Anderson retired the final batter of the inning, keeping the shutout intact.
The 22-year-old fired 55 of his 93 pitches for strikes while generating 10 swings-and-misses. With six swinging strikeouts and two caught looking, 33 of Leiter’s 44 whiffs this season have come on the swing-and-miss.
"Command and control of all pitches, commanding it in the zone and out of the zone for chases," Leiter said of what he's been trying to improve this season. "Each individual pitch has its own kind of quirk that you're working on."
After seeing his ERA balloon to 6.38 two starts ago, the Vanderbilt product lowered it to 4.93 with his third outing this season without an earned run. He’s holding opposing batters to a .231 average and has surrendered just one home run in the first 34 2/3 innings of his pro career.
"I'm just trying to take it one day at a time," Leiter said. "Looking at the bigger picture is kind of tough sometimes because it's such a long season. You can't look at the past, and you can't look too far ahead. Really, all you have is to focus on the day-to-day process, one day at a time."