T.J. House showed his unflappable ability to bear down in leading the hot Buffalo Bisons to their fourth straight win Saturday.
The 27-year-old worked out of three jams as the Bisons improved to 10-4 by beating the Columbus Clippers, 5-0.
With runners in scoring position against House this season, batters are just 1 of 16 with six strikeouts.
“You just have to treat it like there’s nobody on,” House said. “You panic and bad things happen. You’ve got to trust that you’re going to be able to get guys out with the stuff you have. If you execute, then good things are going to happen.”
House is executing. He struck out eight batters over 5 1-3 innings to improve to 3-0 with a 0.53 earned-run average.
The strong start is not a shock. House, signed by the Blue Jays in December, has spent parts of the past three years with the Cleveland Indians. In 117 major-league innings, he has a 4.44 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 34 walks.
His No. 1 pitch is a sinking fastball with good movement that he throws 91 mph. He has a quality career ground-ball rate of 59.7 percent at the big-league level.
“I don’t have an overpowering fastball, but it moves a lot and it gets a lot of ground balls,” he said.
House has complemented it well with a slider and changeup this season. Six of his eight strikeouts Saturday were on off-speed pitches.
House escaped a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the first inning, a two-on, two-out situation in the third and a two-on, one-out jam in the fifth.
“That first inning made me a little nervous with him running the pitch count up,” said Bisons manager Bobby Meacham. “But he told me don’t panic. I’ll get it right. And he did.”
House threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of the first 22 batters he faced.
“When you get ahead in the count, a lot of times you can expand at the end,” Meacham said. “So when you get two strikes on a guy you have the advantage, obviously. It’s hard to hit with two strikes. You can finish with pitches that start in the zone and break out of it. That’s exactly what happened today.”
House was good for the Indians in 2014. He went 5-3 with a 3.35 ERA in 102 innings. He battled a shoulder injury the next year and played in only nine games. Last season he had a brief stint with the Indians but spent most of the year with Columbus, going 5-3 with a 3.98 ERA.
“I think I’m becoming more of my old self, like I was in 2014,” he said. “I got hurt in ’15, and ‘16 was a struggle for me. My balls didn’t play the same. Nothing was coming out like it is now. Now that I’ve got a little bit of an offseason under my belt, I’m in a new place and it’s like a fresh start and. You get the confidence and you kind of roll with it.”