The former first-round Draft pick Brad Holt tossed three more scoreless innings Saturday as the Mesa Solar Sox snapped the Surprise Rafters' three-game winning streak with a 7-2 victory.
Selected 33rd overall by the Mets in 2008, Holt (2-0) allowed one hit while striking out five to maintain a perfect ERA through three AFL starts.
"I had pretty much everything working tonight," he said. "The only thing I didn't throw was my changeup. Everything has continued to improve since I got here and the biggest thing is that the fastball command has come around."
The 24-year-old right-hander struck out the side in the first inning, then worked around a two-out double by Pete Kozma (Cardinals) in the second. Staked to a 5-0 lead, Holt retired the Rafters in order in the third.
"I'm keeping it down in the zone, low and at the knees, and throwing everything else for strike," he said. "The curveball is still coming along and it looked good tonight, and the cutter has helped me out and it made my breaking ball work that much better."
The North Carolina native has allowed just an unearned run on four hits over nine innings for the Solar Sox (7-4).
Holt tossed three one-hit innings in his AFL debut on Oct. 12 and followed that up with three more solid frames against Peoria on Monday, when an errant pickoff attempt allowed a run to score.
He was coming off a difficult regular season in which he went 3-14 with an 8.34 ERA in 24 appearances between Class A Advanced St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton. The biggest difference, Holt said, is feeling more comfortable on the mound.
"The biggest thing coming off of last season was not having any type of command, so all the wildness was making all my thoughts jumbled," he explained. "I cleared my thoughts and I started to do what felt comfortable out there, and I think that has played a big part in me getting back in the zone and throwing strikes."
Holt pounded the strike zone early and often Saturday, challenging the Rafters while mixing in his curveball to keep them off-balance. The aggressive approach paid off as he threw 32 of 46 pitches for strikes.
"The key was staying in the zone. It was all about the command," he said. "When you can command more than two pitches, it makes it that much easier. I wanted to get ahead of hitters, throw first-pitch strikes and get ahead in the count. That was a big key to everything going smoothly."
Holt has been working with Triple-A Buffalo pitching coach -- and former Major Leaguer -- Ricky Bones in Arizona and said everything has fallen into place.
"I finally started throwing [the cutter] in games at the end of last year, but now it is getting more consistent and more tight and it's starting to look like a true cutter," Holt said. "It's staying hard and has a sharp bite to it.
"I don't have any real goals here, but I want to stay consistent and cut down on the walks. My goals are plain and simple, and that's to command my pitches. I just need to keep working and focus on keeping everything down in the zone."
The Solar Sox jumped on Royals prospect Mike Montgomery (1-1) for three runs in the first as former first-rounder Brett Jackson (Cubs) hit an RBI double and Pirates farmhand Andrew Lambo slugged a two-run homer. Angels infielder Brandon Wood delivered a two-run double in the second to make it 2-0.
Montgomery was charged with five runs on seven hits in 1 2/3 innings.
Surprise (6-5), which had won three in a row, was held to one hit until Zack Cox (Cardinals) and Francisco Martinez (Tigers) smacked back-to-back RBI doubles in the seventh.
Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.