By Andrew Johnson
Soto started Monday night’s game and pitched six innings of no-run ball in West Michigan’s 4-2 victory over Fort Wayne. That extended his scoreless streak to 17 innings through three starts, to begin the 2017 season.
He scattered three hits and struck out eight, while only walking two.
“The big difference this year is I’m attacking the zone,” said Soto, a second-year pro in the Detroit Tigers system who pitched for the short-season Connecticut Tigers in 2016. “My breaking ball is getting a lot better and I have a lot of confidence in it.
“I’ve never had this before in my life. It’s great and I just want to keep it going.”
According to West Michigan manager Mike Rabelo, Soto’s been superb all season, and his curveball was untouchable on Monday.
“Soto was great, he’s been great all year,” said Rabelo. “Jorge Cordova (Whitecaps pitching coach) told me that every strike curveball he threw, they didn’t touch it. He was awfully good tonight.”
The Whitecaps have now won four straight games and improved to 10-8 on the season. They are currently in a three-way tie for second place in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division, a half-game behind first place Dayton.
“We’re starting to settle in,” said Rabelo. “I know everyone wants to start 18-0, but the reality is that probably isn’t going to happen. I think everyone is starting to settle in and get comfortable.”
Whitecaps second baseman Will Savage hit an RBI double to left field in the third inning, driving in Danny Pinero from first base. Danny Woodrow followed with a double to left field, scoring Savage and giving West Michigan a 2-0 lead.
Savage added an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth, scoring Blaise Salter, to extend the Whitecaps’ lead to 3-0.
That lead held until the top of the seventh when Fort Wayne scratched a run across. The visitors scored another run in the eighth inning on a wild pitch, cutting the Whitecaps’ lead to 3-2.
West Michigan added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when pinch runner Anthony Pereira scored on a throwing error to make the score 4-2.
Whitecaps closer Bryan Garcia shut the Fort Wayne offense down in the ninth inning, picking up his fourth save of the season.
The Whitecaps will complete their three-game series with Fort Wayne at home on Tuesday at noon. Kyle Funkhouser will be the starting pitcher for West Michigan.