There's ending the season on a high note and then there's what Cory Abbott has done.The Cubs' No. 16 prospect struck out 10 and allowed two hits and three walks over six scoreless innings as Double-A Tennessee coasted to a 10-3 triumph over Mobile on Saturday at Hank Aaron Stadium.
There's ending the season on a high note and then there's what Cory Abbott has done.
The Cubs' No. 16 prospect struck out 10 and allowed two hits and three walks over six scoreless innings as Double-A Tennessee coasted to a 10-3 triumph over Mobile on Saturday at Hank Aaron Stadium. He extended his shutout streak to 22 2/3 frames.
Abbott (8-8) began the game with four consecutive strikeouts, three of them swinging, and retired the first seven hitters he faced before Roberto Baldoquin drew a one-out walk in the third.
"They were kind of looking dead red pretty much all day, so I set them up with a lot of first-pitch sliders," he said.
The right-hander fanned Angels No. 2 prospectBrandon Marsh for the second time leading off the fourth but walked Gareth Morgan on four pitches with two outs before Jhoan Urena lined a double to right field for the BayBears' first hit. Jordan Zimmerman flied to right to end the threat.
"Eventually, they made the adjustment of not swinging at it down in the zone and then I started punishing them by throwing fastballs down and away," Abbott said. "So they were taking those for strikes and kind of flip-flopping and mixing in the curveball for strikes."
Abbott retired the side in order in the fifth with two punchouts, but sixth-ranked Angels prospect Jahmai Jones led off the sixth with a single and Marsh walked. The 23-year-old was able to get Jack Kruger to bounce into a double play before striking out Morgan to end the frame, his start and -- likely -- his season. He threw 55 of 91 pitches for strikes.
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"The guy's got command of two breaking balls and a fastball that has some late rise," Tennessee pitching coach Ron Villone said. "When you can command three pitches, you have a pretty good chance to win. That's what he's been doing the second half of the year."
The San Diego native did not give up an earned run in his last four starts, tossing seven shutout framesi on Aug. 25 against Birmingham to earn Southern League Pitcher of the Week honors. He last allowed an earned run on Aug. 9 against Biloxi and went 3-1 with a 0.98 ERA and 50 strikeouts over 36 2/3 innings in August.
"He was good in the first half," Villone said. "Now he's pretty much lights-out."
Since he was named a midseason All-Star, the 2017 second-round pick has a 2.53 ERA in 74 2/3 frames. But when Abbott posted a 6.04 ERA in June, he and Villone knew something was amiss.
"At the beginning of the season, I wasn't walking anyone, and we get closer to midseason and I'm walking five guys in five innings, which is uncharacteristic of me," Abbott said. "I was like, 'What the heck's going on?'"
After reviewing a lot of video, it was determined that he was way over rotation on his top half as he was driving toward the plate with his pitching motion.
"So we worked on staying within myself and driving towards home plate," Abbott said.
The right-hander finished with a 3.01 ERA that puts him sixth on the circuit with a league-leading 166 strikeouts over 146 2/3 innings. In 115 innings last season between Class A South Bend and Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, the Loyola Marymount product went 8-6 with a 2.50 ERA and 131 punchouts.
"Hopefully, next year and the years coming forward, he understands that you've gotta grow," Villone said. "You've gotta understand that the game evolves with the better hitters, the guys with the better eyes who see the ball across the plate. You've gotta recognize what's in front of you, and I think he started doing that so well lately. It was just a pleasure to watch."
Jhonny Pereda, Abbott's batterymate, collected three hits and three RBIs, while Jared Young went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, a walk and an RBI for the Smokies.
Shlomo Sprung is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @sprungonsports.