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10/20/11 8:38 PM ET

Gardner strong as Rafters defeat Saguaros

Rockies right-hander strikes out four over three scoreless innings

After a forgettable start his last time out, Joe Gardner recorded a much better one Thursday.

The Rockies' No. 10 prospect bounced back from a three-run two-inning outing by striking out four in three shutout frames as the Salt River Rafters defeated the Surprise Saguaros, 7-2.

Gardner allowed just two hits and two walks, throwing 30 of 48 pitches for strikes. The game marked the first time in three AFL outings that he went beyond the second inning.

Selected in the third round of the 2009 Draft by the Indians, Gardner posted a 4.99 ERA in 19 starts for Double-A Akron before being traded along with Drew Pomeranz, Alex White and Matt McBride in exchange for Ubaldo Jimenez on July 30. The 23-year-old right-hander's numbers improved greatly upon his arrival in Double-A Tulsa, as he compiled a 2.48 ERA in six starts for the Drillers.

The Rafters were led offensively by David Nick (D-backs), who smacked a two-run double in the first, and Jake Goebbert (Astros), who launched a solo homer in the seventh.

No. 4 Rockies prospect Nolan Arenado went 1-for-4 but failed to drive in a run for the first time in his past seven games. He had knocked in 15 in his previous six contests.

Wil Myers, the Royals' top prospect, enjoyed the only multi-hit game for Surprise, going 3-for-4 with a double and a run.

Fellow Kansas City player Nathan Adcock (1-1) allowed five runs on five hits in 3 1/3 frames.

With the win, Salt River (11-4) moved within a half-game of Surprise (11-3) for the best record in the AFL. The Rafters lead the East Division by five games, while the Saguaros are ahead in the West by 4 1/2.

David Heck is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.