Matt Esparza’s big week in the center of the diamond for the Captains was recognized on Monday, as the Class-A Lake County starting pitcher was awarded the Pitcher of the Week Award by the Midwest League.
Esparza was the second member of the Cleveland Indians minor league system to be honored with a weekly award on Monday, as he joined High-A Lynchburg Hillcats shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, who was named the Carolina League Player of the Week for his play from May 30 to June 5.
Esparza is the fifth player on an Indians farm club to take home such an honor this season and the second pitcher, adding his name alongside Lynchburg pitcher Julian Merryweather in receiving such an award. Former Hillcats outfielder Mike Papi won the award for Lynchburg in the first week of the season and Triple-A Columbus third baseman Giovanny Urshela won the award on May 2.
The 21-year-old right-hander Esparza made a pair of starts for the Captains last week and came away the victor each time.
On Monday, he earned a Memorial Day win after allowing just one run on two hits in five and two-thirds innings. He walked two and struck out three in the ball game, a contest that the Captains held on in the ninth for a 5-4 win.
He followed the strong start with an even better one, flirting with a no-hitter early on the way to six scoreless innings on the mound. The first hit of the game came in the fifth inning, when he gave up a one-out single to Omar Estevez of Great Lakes. Estevez would later be erased on a caught stealing.
Esparza ended his day in impressive fashion, striking out the Loons in order on 13 pitches in the sixth. The trifecta pushed his tally to a career-best ten K’s for the ball game. The Captains would go on to win the game, 4-1.
“I kind of found my breaking ball later on in my last start,” shared Esparza after his start on Saturday. “I’ve been working on it with my pitching coach, Steve McCatty, and it got better tonight and worked well off my fastball.
“I felt good from the beginning, even though I walked the first hitter I saw. It was just about settling in and getting a feel for the mound and what I was working with. I wasn’t super-alarmed because I still felt OK with what I was doing. Even in that at-bat, I made some good pitches that could have gone either way.”
For the week, Esparza was 2-0 in two starts, logging eleven and two-thirds innings of work. He allowed one earned run on three hits with four walks and 13 strikeouts. He is now 6-2 on the season with a 3.63 ERA.
Esparza was a 14th round selection by the Indians in the 2015 draft out of the University of California, Irvine.
Photo: Tim Phillis/TCP Photography
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