Wells (4-2) held Birmingham to three hits and a walk, striking out four. The Diamond Jaxx jumped out to an 8-0 lead and held on for a 9-6 victory to keep pace with first-place Chattanooga in the Southern League North. At 38-26, the Jaxx are two games back of the Lookouts in their division.
Wells has now gone 23 1/3 innings since last being charged with an earned run. It was the fourth time in his 10 starts that the 23-year-old did not allow an earned run, and the third start in a row.
“You set the bar high in the first couple of innings and when you get them on the ropes, no matter the score, you keep putting them down and don’t let up at all,” Wells told Inside The Ivy after the game.
He was, however, quick to point out that it wasn’t his best outing by any means.
“I got a little lackadaisical out there,” Wells admitted. “I walked a batter, which I hate more than anything. I also hit a guy and gave up a couple of 0-2 hits. If you look at it on paper, I had a pretty good day. But if you look at it from my standpoint, I had a pretty bad day. I lost focus a little bit and my team really picked me up.”
And just to make sure we completely caught his drift about walking batters (which he has done just nine times in 54 1/3 innings this year), a colorful Wells re-affirmed his point.
“I got [ticked] today because I walked a guy,” he said. “Granted, I threw a strike for a ball that should have made it a 2-2 count, but was ruled ball three. I had about five three-ball counts in the game. Each one, besides the one I walked, I laid a fastball in their on ball three and said [screw] it, I’m up 8-0. I hate walking people. For me, it’s the worst feeling on the mound.”
Despite the self-criticism, Jaxx manager Pat Listach has remained impressed by Wells’ emergence this year as one of the most dominant starters in the Cubs’ farm system. His sub-1.00 ERA is the best mark for any starter in the organization.
“He pitches with a lot of intensity, and he’s got a lot of heart,” Listach said. “He’s done an outstanding job. He knows how to win, and he’s going to pitch to win every game. That’s something you can’t really teach.”
Jaxx center fielder and leadoff hitter Chris Walker had two hits and four RBIs, including a bases-clearing three-run triple. Walker has a hit in all but one of his last eight games and is batting just under .300 through 61 games.
A .280 hitter during his past two seasons on the Class-A circuit, the speedy 25-year-old has remained consistent in his first year at Double-A.
“The first time we played Birmingham, they had a lot of lefties with a tendency to pitch me hard inside,” Walker explained. “Coming into this series, I figured out a pattern on how they were going to pitch me. The guy I got the triple off of [Fraser Dizard] struck me out a few nights ago trying to get me on a fastball on the inside. This time, he tried to sneak in a changeup inside and I hit it off the wall in left-center.”
Walker is the first to admit he’s never been considered a “front line” prospect, but adds that that’s just how he likes it.
“When you talk about future Cub leadoff guys, you never hear my name mentioned. I guess I’m just chopped liver,” he says with a laugh. “But I think I would almost prefer not to be a front line guy because of all the pressure. I like being back in the shadow. The difference in me between this year and last is that I don’t get worried about certain things. I’m going to take care of what I need to do and people will see the stuff they like.”
Despite his season-high for RBIs, Walker needed some help from elsewhere in the lineup to secure the victory. Recently acquired outfielder Miguel Negron chipped in with a 4-for-4 day at the plate that included three doubles. First baseman/DH Brian Dopirak, meanwhile, picked up the first extra base hit of his injury shortened season.
Negron is batting .400 with six doubles, a triple, and a home run since joining the Jaxx from the Toronto Blue Jays farm system. Dopirak has eight hits in 30 at-bats.
In relief, right-hander Rocky Cherry threw one inning to close things out. He gave up a run and three hits in his second appearance since coming off the DL. After missing most all of last year following Tommy John Surgery, Cherry is 2-1 in relief with a 1.74 ERA after three-plus seasons with the organization as a starter.
The Jaxx have Monday off before opening up a six-game series in Huntsville (Ala.). Prior to the game, RHP Jon Mueller was promoted to Triple-A Iowa.
Mueller, a right-hander, was drafted in the 16th round from Minnesota last year and had appeared in one game for the Jaxx since being called up from Extended Spring Training.
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