Justin Marks may not be the most high-profile pitcher on an Arizona Fall League roster this year, but with only a few games left on the schedule, he has been the circuit's most consistent.
The left-handed Royals prospect gave up one run on four hits over four innings as the Surprise starter helped the team defeat Salt River, 6-5, on Thursday.
With the victory -- his fifth in as many starts -- Marks improved to 5-0 on the season, becoming the first AFL pitcher to reach the five-win mark. His closest competition in the category is Twins farmhand Kyle Gibson, who is 3-1 for Peoria.
The key to that success has been consistency, but when it comes to the 24-year-old, the stability has bordered on the eerie. In three straight starts, he has allowed one run on four hits in four innings. What's more, his pitching line in his last two starts has been exactly the same, right down to three strikeouts and lack of walks. Because of that, his 2.25 ERA ranks fourth among AFL pitchers with at least four starts and his 1.18 WHIP seventh.
Marks -- a third-round selection by the A's in 2009 -- spent most of his 2012 season with Double-A Northwest Arkansas, where he went 3-5 with a 3.80 ERA in 17 starts. He was named to the Texas League midseason All-Star team but did not participate because he had been hit in the head by a comebacker and was held out for precautionary reasons.
After returning in mid-August, he was moved to Triple-A Omaha for a playoff push in the latter half of the month. He finished with a 3-6 record and a 4.50 ERA over just 92 innings in the Minors.
Marks' victory Thursday almost became a no-decision. After taking a 3-1 lead into the ninth, fellow Royals prospect Brian Fletcher tacked on two more insurance runs in the top of the final frame to give the Saguaros a four-run cushion.
It was just what the team needed evidently as Matt Davidson (D-backs) and Jake Marisnick (Blue Jays) hit homered off Red Sox hurler Ryan Pressly in the bottom of the ninth to close the gap to one. But Pressly got Chris Owings (D-backs) swinging to end the contest.
Nationals' top prospect Anthony Rendon finished 2-for-4 with an RBI for the losing Rafters, improving his AFL average to .328 in the process.
Darrell Ceciliani (Mets) went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and Mike O'Neill (Cardinals) was 3-for-4 with a walk and a run of his own from the top spot in the lineup for Surprise.
Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.