Thursday's best: Keller spins playoff shutout for Altoona

Thursday's best: Keller spins playoff shutout for Altoona

Mitch Keller has made plenty of dominant starts in his young career, though none quite compared to his performance on Thursday in Game 1 of the Eastern League semifinals on Thursday.

Making his third career postseason start and first with Double-A Altoona, Keller, Pittsburgh's No. 2 prospect (No. 20 overall), went the distance, allowing one hit over nine innings as the Curve shut out Bowie, 2-0. He issued one walk, struck out four and induced 12 ground-ball outs.

"We were mixing pretty well. Not throwing the same thing, not the same sequences all night," Keller told MiLB.com. "I can't really pick one, they're all working. That too is a big confidence booster."

The complete game and shutout were both firsts for Keller, and he needed just 90 pitches (59 strikes) to accomplish the feat. He did not allow a runner to reach second base in the outing, ultimately facing the minimum 27 batters in the performance courtesy of three double plays and one caught stealing.

Box score

"That's the way you write it up. It's just as few pitches as possible," Keller said. "When they're turning two like that, you get someone on and you have no worries. It's a great feeling out there on the mound when everything is rolling like that.

"I can't say enough about the defense behind me. It was unbelievable, they were making plays for me all night out there," he added.

Keller's postseason gem was a continuation of what was an outstanding 2017 campaign for the 21-year-old right-hander. Making 23 starts between Altoona and Class A Advanced Bradenton, the Iowa native pitched to a 3.03 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP while holding hitters to a paltry .202 batting average against. In 116 innings, he compiled 116 strikeouts against 32 walks.

At the plate, shortstop and leadoff hitter Cole Tucker (Pirates' No. 5) went 3-for-5 with one run scored and a pair of doubles to pace Altoona's offense. It was the 21-year-old switch-hitter's seventh multi-hit effort in his last 10 games dating back to the regular season.

The rest of the best performances from top prospects Thursday

No. 46 overall prospect Kyle Lewis (Mariners' No. 1) homered and drove in three runs in a 3-for-5 night at the plate that powered Class A Advanced Modesto to a 2-0 series lead in the California League semifinals. It was a much-needed multi-hit performance from the 22-year-old outfielder after he had collected just two hits in his previous 20 at-bats before breaking out on Thursday.

No. 70 overall prospect Pavin Smith (D-backs' No. 1) blasted his first professional homer in his final game of the season for Class A Short Season Hillsboro. The homer, a three-run shot in the third inning, was the 21-year-old first baseman's lone hit in Northwest League best-of-three semifinals, which saw the Hops eliminated after dropping back-to-back games against Eugene.

No. 80 overall prospect Jake Bauers (Rays' No. 5) accounted for both runs in Triple-A Durham's 2-0 win over Indianapolis in Game 2 of the best-of-five International League semifinals, going 2-for-3 with a solo home run and a run-scoring single. It was the second straight multihit game for the 21-year-old outfielder, whose hot bat has the Bulls within one game of moving on to the IL Finals. On the mound, Bulls starter Yonny Chirinos (No. 19) tossed seven scoreless innings, scattering seven hits and one walk while striking out four to record the win.

Angels No. 1 prospect Jo Adell went 3-for-4 and scored two runs in his fourth consecutive multi-hit game for Rookie-level Orem. He's batting .555 (10-for-18) during that stretch and .409 (18-for-44) over his past 10 games. Overall, the 2017 first-rounder (No. 10 overall pick) has produced a .376/.411/.518 line with eight extra-base hits and 25 runs scored over 18 games in the Pioneer League.

Dodgers No. 7 prospect Keibert Ruiz and DJ Peters (No. 17) combined to go 8-for-11 with six runs scored and four RBIs as Class A Rancho Cucamonga knotted the best-of-three California League semifinals at 1-1 with a 17-6 rout of Lancaster. Ruiz, a 19-year-old catcher, paced the Quakes' offense by going 5-for-6 with a double and three runs scored out of the two-hole, while Peters, who batted cleanup on Thursday, connected on a three-run homer and doubled to finish 3-for-5 with four RBIs and three runs scored.

• Making his first relief appearance, Orioles No. 13 prospect Zac Lowther came out of the bullpen to strike out nine of the 13 batters he faced in four hitless innings for Class A Short Season Aberdeen. He also issued one walk in the outing. Lowther, a 21-year-old lefty, has been lights-out in his pro debut, pitching to a 1.66 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP with 75 strikeouts and 11 walks over 54 1/3 innings in the New York-Penn League.

Dodgers No. 18 prospect Drew Jackson's go-ahead grand slam in the top of the seventh inning proved the difference as Double-A Tulsa defeated NW Arkansas, 11-7, evening the best-of-five Texas League semifinals series at 1-1. The 24-year-old shortstop finished the game 1-for-3 with two runs scored, also picking up a stolen base and reaching twice via walks.

Yankees No. 18 prospect Thairo Estrada collected four of Double-A Trenton's 18 hits on Thursday while hitting for the cycle in Game 2 of the Eastern League semifinals. Going 4-for-5 in the contest, the 21-year-old shortstop hit a single and a triple in his first two trips to the plate, respectively, before connecting on a solo homer in the sixth inning and then doubling in the ninth to complete the feat. He finished the game with three RBIs and two runs scored as Trenton defeated Binghamton, 9-6, to even the best-of-five series at one game apiece.

D-backs No. 24 prospect Andy Yerzy drove in three runs with a pair of home runs, though it wasn't enough to keep Rookie-level Missoula from falling to Great Falls, 10-8. The 19-year-old backstop has hit six homers over his last 10 games to push his season total to 13 home runs. He's hitting .301 on the season with 45 RBIs in 53 games.

• Starting a must-win game for Class A Dayton, Reds No. 29 prospect Scott Moss did just that, allowing three hits and one walk with five strikeouts in six scoreless innings to lead the Dragons past West Michigan, 2-1, and force a decisive Game 3. Spending his entire season in the Midwest League, Moss, a 22-year-old lefty, posted a 3.45 ERA with 156 strikeouts in 135 2/3 innings (26 starts).

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.