The Eastern League has managed only two hits against Matt Manning this season.The Tigers' No. 2 prospect turned in another strong start Wednesday afternoon, allowing one hit and tying career highs with 10 strikeouts over seven innings in Double-A Erie's 5-1 win over Altoona at UPMC Park.Manning threw 63 of 84
The Eastern League has managed only two hits against Matt Manning this season.
The Tigers' No. 2 prospect turned in another strong start Wednesday afternoon, allowing one hit and tying career highs with 10 strikeouts over seven innings in Double-A Erie's 5-1 win over Altoona at UPMC Park.
Manning threw 63 of 84 pitches for strikes and was perfect into the fifth, when Hunter Owen lined a single to left field for the first of Altoona's two hits on the day. Nolan Blackwood worked the final two frames, striking out three, to seal Erie's fourth win of the season.
"I felt great," Manning said. "I think if I had pitched like this later in the season, I would have gone out in the eighth. I've only gone five so far, so I'm happy with the seven and that we came out with the win."
It was business as usual for Manning, who led all Tigers Minor Leaguers with 154 strikeouts last year. He fanned two in the first inning, got Owen swinging to end the second, added two punchouts in the third and two more to begin the fourth. He struck out two in the fifth around Owen's single, worked a 1-2-3 sixth and got Jerrick Suiter swinging to end the seventh -- and his afternoon.
"My fastball command was my main thing," he said. "I was throwing a lot of strikes, getting into deep counts, changing speed with my curve and showing changeups. Changing speeds was my biggest thing."
It was the first time Manning struck out 10 in a game at the Double-A level and the first time he's reached that total since Aug. 23 with Class A Advanced Lakeland. He also whiffed 10 last April 20 for Class A West Michigan, reaching double digits in only 3 2/3 innings.
The start also matched his longest -- he also went seven innings for West Michigan last June 26.
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Manning, a 21-year-old from Elk Grove, California, improved to 2-0 in two starts for Erie after allowing one hit in his season debut on April 5. He struck out five and held Trenton a run and three walks over five innings.
He said returning to Erie this month helped his transition to a new year.
"It helped a lot with the nerves and knowing what to expect," he said. "I know what I need to do to have each outing to be successful, and it's been nice to get off a good start with these two outings and not worry about the outside factors."
Manning faced 22 batters, inducing eight ground-ball outs in the win. The Curve managed two fly balls against the 2016 first-round pick day in which the game-time temperature was 39.
"It was a little bit chilly," he said. "Probably one of the coldest days we've had since I've been here, but I was locked in since the first inning, the first pitch. I just tried to keep the hitters off-balance, get some quick outs and get deep into the game."
Erie's bats didn't mind the cold. The SeaWolves gave their starter a lead in the bottom of the third when Derek Hill hit an RBI single and scored on a base hit by Kody Eaves. Josh Lester and Tigers No. 13 prospect Jake Rogers added RBI singles in the sixth and Chace Numata scored on a wild pitch in the seventh.
Arden Pabst provided Altoona's offense with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Manning said he knew he'd held Altoona hitless into the fifth.
"I was aware of it, I was in the windup a lot, not in the stretch, and in the fifth I just had to use a few changeups and I let one hang," he said. "It wasn't anything too big. I just tried to get the next guy out and change my focus."
The 6-foot-6 right-hander made a pair of starts for Erie late last season, fanning 13 over 10 2/3 innings. He went 3-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 11 Midwest League starts before going 4-4 with a 2.98 ERA in nine outings for Lakeland in the Florida State League.
Manning, a 2018 Futures Game All-Star, is one of three top right-handers in the Tigers system -- Casey Mize is the organization's top prospect while Franklin Perez is No. 3. All three could reach the Majors as early as 2020, according to MLB.com.
"Mainly, I just want to cut down on my walks and keep my fastball command," Manning said, "throw the ball where I want and keep command of all three pitches and have a long, healthy season."
Dario Agrazal (1-1), a 24-year-old righty from Panama, started for the Curve and was charged with four runs on 11 hits with a pair of strikeouts over six innings.