Unbe-Stiev-able: Jonathan Stiever is the real deal as the Dash shut out the Keys for the sweep

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — After getting swept by the Fayetteville Woodpeckers to open this homestand, the Winston-Salem Dash turned around and swept the Frederick Keys to close it, shutting them out 2-0 in the final game of the set.

Jonathan Stiever seems to steal the show whenever he’s on the mound, and Tuesday night was no different. The 22-year-old righty made his fourth start for the Dash, with all three previous starts reflecting just how difficult he’s been for opposing teams to hit. Tonight, he reached some kind of next level. Throwing generally between 93 and 96 with a good mix of offspeed stuff, he went seven innings, giving up just three hits and one walk while striking out six. Of the four baserunners he allowed, two were immediately erased by double play balls.

Stiever ended the night at 88 pitches, with 66 of those going for strikes, but the early part of the game was even more impressive. He didn’t throw his first called ball until there were two outs in the second inning, a streak of 16 straight strikes to open the game. This ratio equalized out a little bit as the game went on, of course, but his command was absolutely on point and never really wavered.

It’s a little bewildering, because in his 14 starts with Kannapolis to start the year, Stiever didn’t put up the dominant numbers he’s been showing with Winston. Over his 74 innings with the Intimidators, Stiever had a 4.74 ERA, giving up 10 home runs and striking out 77 while walking 14 over that span. That’s only a 1.70 BB/9, so the command has always been there, but his 1.22 HR/9 has fallen to 0.95 coming into this game in 19 High-A innings. We’re still in small sample size territory here, and his walk percentage has actually ticked up a little since arriving in the league, but the big difference is that he is just not giving up runs. He’s given up six total over his four Winston starts, and hasn’t even looked lucky.

In any event, Stiever seems to be growing well into the potential that saw him drafted in the fifth round in 2018. His fastball is good, his breaking stuff is nasty good, he is good.

His dominance was highlighted in the eighth inning, when Tyler Johnson came on in relief. Johnson has never actually pitched above this level, so it’s hard to say whether or not he’s technically still rehabbing his injury. He’s now thrown six innings for the Dash, and his most recent tonight might have been his roughest. The Keys, who managed just four baserunners against Stiever, singled and drew two walks against Johnson to load the bases with one out. Johnson came back strong, though, striking out both of the next batters to end the inning and hitting 97 mph as he did so.

Bennett Sousa came in for the ninth, allowing just a hit-by-pitch that barely grazed the opposing batter’s jersey but nothing else. His ERA with the Dash has fallen to 0.93, and 2.20 between two levels and 41 innings.

It was another quiet day for the offense, who gathered just six hits, but the nice thing about having an ace on the mound is that you typically don’t need much more than two runs. Both of today’s runs came in the third inning, the first when Jameson Fisher hit a sacrifice fly to score Mitch Roman, who reached via error. The second came with two outs in the same inning, a Jordan George single that scored Steele Walker after his own single. 

And that was pretty much it! Roman and George both reached base safely twice with a walk and a single apiece. Zach Remillard, Tate Blackman, and Yeyson Yrizarri also all drew walks, and Tyler Frost and Carlos Perez picked up singles, in addition to the others already mentioned. There was one extra-base hit in this game, a double off Stiever, against all odds.

The Dash will return to BB&T Ballpark next Wednesday, the 17th. Stiever will likely start on the road at least once, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

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