Brad Mills dominated at the Single-A and Double-A levels last year, going a combined 13-5 with a 1.96 ERA in his first full professional season.
Having failed to earn a victory this year in his first 11 Triple-A starts, the Las Vegas left-hander finally flashed his dominant form Sunday in the 51s’ 4-0 win over the Tacoma Rainiers at Cashman Field.
Mills, the No. 7 prospect for the Toronto Blue Jays, scattered four hits in seven innings and had a season-high 11 strikeouts, with no walks, to earn his first Triple-A win and improve to 1-7 with a 4.22 ERA.
"It’s definitely a good thing to finally get off my back," Mills said. "Now I feel like I can go work and enjoy the rest of the season.
"To be honest, it does wear on you a little bit, just because you do want to help the team out … but I probably let it even get too far, as far as getting in my head a little bit. In reality, I could’ve been 4-3 if a couple of breaks go my way."
Bryan Bullington allowed one hit and had three strikeouts in two scoreless innings to preserve the 51s’ first shutout of the season.
Buck Coats singled, stole second and eventually scored on a wild pitch to give Las Vegas (22-35) a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Aaron Mathews lined a two-run single in the eighth inning to make it 3-0, and Randy Ruiz followed with an RBI single for the final margin.
But this game was about Mills, who struck out the side in the seventh inning and has 61 strikeouts and 30 walks this season.
"It was really nice for Millsy to get his first win," Mathews said. "The whole team was happy about that."
A former walk-on at the University of Arizona, Mills allowed three earned runs or less in his first nine starts this year, but he gave up six earned runs in each of his last two outings.
Toronto’s fourth-round draft pick in 2007 said a key to his success Sunday was throwing more fastballs for strikes, instead of relying on his offspeed pitches.
"We used a different approach today," he said. "We said, ‘Let’s throw more fastballs early when we’re cruising, and later, if they get runners on, my changeup and curveball will be a lot more fresh.’
"I still have to throw changeups and stuff to get guys out, because that’s the type of pitcher I am, but I definitely saw that my fastball was good enough to get guys out."
51s manager Mike Basso, who said Mills is "very cerebral with what he wants to do," agreed their game plan worked well.
"Millsy pitched very well, as far as using all his stuff," Basso said. "He didn’t show a whole bunch of it early. He mainly used his fastball and kept them off his breaking stuff, and when he threw his breaking stuff, it was over the plate."
Mills, who attended Arizona on an academic scholarship and earned a degree in civil engineering, said his control will be the key to his future success.
"If I’m walking guys or going to ball two on guys, I’m going to have problems," he said. "But If I throw strikes like I did today, my stuff’s good to play at this level or the next."
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354LAS VEGAS 4
KEY: Brad Mills scattered four hits in seven innings and had a season-high 11 strikeouts for the 51s, who fanned 14 batters overall.
NEXT: Rainiers (RHP Doug Fister) at 51s (LHP David Purcey), 7:05 p.m. today