Kyle Hurt can clearly take the heat.
Turns out, he can deliver more than his share, as well.
Two weeks removed from a call-up to the big leagues in which he retired all six batters he faced, the Oklahoma City Dodgers pitcher was tabbed to start Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series.
“Early on, just getting ahead of the hitters and throwing the fastball,” Hurt said after he struck out eight batters in four innings as OKC defeated Round Rock, 8-3, before 6,123 fans Tuesday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. “Finishing them off with the changeup. Just doing what I have been doing all year.”
Hurt allowed just two hits and one run with three walks as the Dodgers claimed the first game in the best-of-three series. OKC can win its first league championship with a win on Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 in Bricktown.
“Hurt was great,” fifth-year OKC manager Travis Barbary said. “I thought he got ahead early on, like his fastball usage was really good. I felt like he was kind of overpowering the hitters and set the tone early. I felt like the guys in the ‘pen followed his lead and got it done.”
Oklahoma City starting pitcher Kyle Hurt has struck out seven batters in three hitless innings.
The Dodgers lead Round Rock, 4-0, in the middle of the third inning in Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series. #Dodgers #MiLB #OKC pic.twitter.com/o0BDT7izPF
— Douglas Miles (@douglasmilesCRG) September 27, 2023
How Kyle Hurt landed with Dodgers
Hurt, 25, was a fifth-round pick by Miami in the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft out of the University of Southern California. Seven months later, he was included in a trade that sent left-handed pitcher Alex Vesia to Los Angeles for pitcher Dylan Floro.
Hurt began this season at Double-A Tulsa, where he registered a whopping 110 strikeouts in 65 innings. He was promoted to OKC Aug. 2, made six appearances with the Triple-A Dodgers and struck out 35 more batters in 23 ⅓ innings pitched.
“Being able to repeat my delivery is a big cue for me,” Hurt said. “And just not trying to do too much and just compete every single pitch and let the defense do their work.”
On Sep. 12, Hurt was unexpectedly called up to the big-league Dodgers and saw two innings of action in Los Angeles’ 11-3 home rout of San Diego. In an outing that undoubtedly produced the nerves of his life, Hurt thrived. He retired all six batters he faced, including a star-studded trio of Fernando Tatis, Jr., Juan Soto and Manny Machado in his first inning on a major-league mound.
“That experience was very cool,” said Hurt, the 12th-ranked prospect overall in the Dodgers’ farm system. “It was something that I have dreamed of for a very long time. I’m happy that I got to do it and hopefully I get to get back up there and help the team win and do whatever I can. It was a very cool experience being able to face some guys like that and it’s something I will never forget.”
Hunter Feduccia goes yard to give the Dodgers a bit more breathing room in the 6th inning! pic.twitter.com/mZXnehpJdr
— Oklahoma City Dodgers (@okc_dodgers) September 27, 2023
OKC Dodgers will turn to Gavin Stone in bid to win PCL championship
Hurt staked his team to a 4-1 lead after four innings before giving way to reliever Tyson Miller, who worked two innings and was credited with the victory. Round Rock got as close as 4-3 in the middle of the sixth inning before a solo home run by OKC’s Hunter Feduccia gave the Dodgers some valuable breathing room at 5-3.
“It was 2-0, I was dead-red fastball,” Feduccia said. “I knew he was coming with it. Just trying to put a barrel on it. Nothing special.”
OKC tacked on three more runs in the seventh inning. Feduccia reached base three times and drove in two runs, while Drew Avans singled three times, doubled, walked and posted three RBIs.
OKC pitcher Gavin Stone (7-4, 4.74 earned run average in 21 games during the regular season) will pitch Wednesday night as the Dodgers try to clinch the PCL title.
“He’s attacking the strike zone,” Barbary said. “Obviously, he has got a plus-changeup and when he gets ahead with his fastball down in the zone, we feel like it gets the hitters to be more aggressive with the changeup down in the zone. If he works ahead, I expect him to have a good night.”
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OKC Dodgers beat Round Rock in Game 1 of Pacific Coast League finals