You don't get a second chance to make a first impression, but Riley O'Brien doesn't need one after his performance Monday.After posting his worst outing of the season in his Double-A debut last week, the Rays prospect turned in the best start of his professional career, working around a hit
You don't get a second chance to make a first impression, but Riley O'Brien doesn't need one after his performance Monday.
After posting his worst outing of the season in his Double-A debut last week, the Rays prospect turned in the best start of his professional career, working around a hit and a pair of walks to whiff a career-high 10 over six frames as Double-A Montgomery blanked Mississippi, 5-0, at Montgomery Riverwalk Stadium.
"I didn't even think about it. After an outing like that, you just flush it and focus on the next one," O'Brien said. "So I just wanted to go out there and do what I've been doing and I had a lot better results today."
The 24-year-old opened the year at Class A Advanced Charlotte where he posted a 1.59 ERA and 1.03 WHIP over six starts. O'Brien fanned 35 and walked 15 over 34 innings with the Stone Crabs while holding opponents to a .172 average. He was assigned to Montgomery on May 7 and made his first Southern League start that day against Biloxi, yielding four runs on seven hits and a walk with five punchouts over 4 1/3 frames. He exited with 92 pitches, 58 for strikes.
The right-hander bounced back in a major way against the Braves on Monday, retiring the first four batters he faced and needed just eight pitches to get through the first inning. After an eight-pitch battle with Alejandro Salazar in the second resulted in a double to right, O'Brien locked in to retire the next 10 hitters he faced -- six of them by strikeout.
"I went all fastballs in that at-bat [to Salazar], and the ball he hit was just a mistake," he said. "I probably could have mixed in a breaking ball there, but if I located that fastball better then that's another out."
Gameday box score
Daniel Lockhart battled O'Brien to a full count and eventually worked a seven-pitch walk with two outs in the fifth, but the 2017 eighth-round selection escaped the frame five pitches later by freezing Carlos Martínez on a 2-2 breaking ball low in the zone.
After Braves 29th-ranked prospectRay-Patrick Didder grounded out to short and No. 7 prospect Drew Waters went down swinging to start the sixth, MLB.com's No. 30 overall prospectCristian Pache worked a five-pitch walk to become Mississippi's third baserunner of the game. O'Brien then fanned Tyler Neslony on a 2-2 heater right over the heart of the plate.
The native of Washington state finished with a season-high 94 pitches and threw 60 of them for strikes.
"I just felt great out there. I was able to command all of my pitches and that was really big for me," O'Brien said. "I've been working on my cutter as well as throwing my changeup earlier in counts and I was able to do both of those things today. I just felt like I was locked in and able to throw any pitch in any count and that really helped me keep batters off balance."
O'Brien split last season between Class A Bowling Green and Charlotte. He appeared in a combined 25 games and posted a 2.75 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 88 1/3 innings. He finished 2018 with 103 punchouts, 42 walks and held opponents to a .190 average.
Benton Moss finished the game for the Biscuits and notched his second save of the year after allowing a pair of hits and two walks while punching out four. The right-hander lowered his ERA to 1.13 and worked out of a jam with two on and nobody out in the ninth by retiring the next three batters he faced on 10 pitches, including a pair of strikeouts.
Third-ranked Rays prospectBrendan McKay was hit by a pitch in the fourth and came around to score after a pair of fielding errors by the Braves. No. 28 prospect Tristan Gray lined a triple to right that plated 15th-ranked Josh Lowe in the fifth. Lucius Fox -- the Rays' No. 10 prospect -- laced his sixth double of the season down the left-field line in the fourth, and Kevin Padlo accounted for three of Montgomery's runs with a pair of dingers.
Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RobTnova24.