Series Preview: Greenville Drive at Hickory Crawdads
The Greenville (S.C.) Drive (41-34 overall, 3-2 second half) comes to L.P. Frans Stadium for the only series against the Crawdads (46-27, 2-3) in 2015. The teams are approximately 1:45 apart in distance.
The Crawdads dominated the Drive in 2014 as they went 7-1, including a four-game sweep at home. Since the Rangers affiliation with Hickory began in 2009, the Crawdads are 32-27 against Greenville, 17-13 at Frans. The Drive holds the overall edge at 47-50 since the Greenville franchise began in 2005.
Tuesday: Jeffry Fernandez (RH, 2-5, 5.08 ERA) and Austin Pettibone (RH, 0-1, 4.50)
Wednesday: Reed Reilly (RH, 4-3, 3.63) and Nick Gardewine (RH, 4-5, 4.20)
Thursday: Michael Kopech (RH, 3-5, 3.06) and Cody Buckel (RH, 0-2, 3.52)
Friday: Jalen Beeks (LH, 6-4, 4.25) and Brett Martin (LH, 3-2, 2.91)
Entering the series:
Hickory (26-13 at home) dropped three of five to Lakewood (N.J.) to open the second half. The pitching took it on the chin as the BlueClaws scored 32 runs on 51 hits in the five games. Yet despite the recent woes, the Crawdads still have the South Atlantic League’s best ERA at 2.90, have allowed the fewest hits, runs, and lead in WHIP (1.19). Hickory has the best fielding in the league (.977) and have turned the most double plays.
Greenville (20-14 away) split a doubleheader at home with in-state rival Charleston to take three of five in its series. The Drive leads the South Atlantic League with a .268 batting average, as well as runs, hits, doubles and RBI. They are second in slugging (.392) and OPS (.722). A free-swinging team, Greenville is also second in strikeouts.
Players to watch – Hickory:
IF Josh Morgan: Snapped a 10-game hitting streak in Monday’s game against Lakewood when he entered midway through the game and went 0-for-1. Holds a .329/.437/.370 slash in June. Committed errors in back-to-back games over the weekend after going without one since May 17.
SS Michael De Leon: Is 4-for-19 to start the second half, but has hit the ball hard the past several days. Teams continue to try and run fastballs by him and he is hitting them hard. Unfortunately, it’s been right at people.
OF Luke Tendler: Went 5-for-14 to open the second half with six RBI. Like De Leon, Tendler has been adjusting to fastballs and punishing them of late. Ended a two-month HR drought with a blast in Monday’s game vs. Lakewood. Also homered in the SAL all-star game last week.
OF Eduard Pinto: Went 5-for-15 in the five games against Lakewood with a couple of walks. Has nine walks in his last 15 games after posting only six in the first 39.
SP Austin Pettibone: With Luis Ortiz going to the DL, Pettibone will be a member of the rotation for now. As a reliever, he has allowed five earned runs on 17 hits and struck out 13 to three walks in 16.1 innings. In his two starts (one an abbreviated start die to a rain delay), Pettibone has allowed five runs on seven hits in 3.2 innings.
SP Cody Buckel: Struggled mightily with control in his last start against Lakewood on Friday (2 BBs, 3 HBs, 4 H, 5 R in 2.2 innings). Walked five in 5.1 innings during his previous start at Rome, though he gave up just one run.
Players to watch – Greenville:
2B Yoan Moncada: Signed for a $31.5 million bonus (a record for an international player) this past winter, the 20-year-old native of Cuba is rated by MLB.com as the top second-base prospect and ninth-best prospect overall. He is going through growing pains thus far as he has 34 Ks in 122 plate appearances and a .229/.311/.321 slash. Moncada has committed ten errors in 22 games at second.
3B Rafael Devers: At 18, the Dominican Republic native is rated the seventh-best third base prospect and No. 97 overall by MLB.com. Named to the SAL all-star game, Devers has a .306/.336/.452 slash. He has struggled in June (.238), but is 11-for-34 with two homers, five runs and six RBI in his last ten games.
SS Javier Guerra: Named to the SAL all-star game, Guerra is hitting just .222 in June but has slugged four homers in the month.
RP Mario Alcantara: Named to the SAL all-star game after posting a 1.93 ERA in 19 relief outings in the first half. In his second-half debut on Sunday, was touched for a grand slam against Charleston.
SP Michael Kopech: First-round pick (33rd overall) in 2014 out of Mount Pleasant High in Texas is saddled with a limited pitch count with a high of 77 thrown this season. He has completed five innings just four times in 11 starts. The fireballer has struck out 58 and walked 17 in 50 innings.
RP Jamie Callahan: Second-round selection in 2013 out of Dillon (SC) High. Was pummeled early (.340 OBA in May), but has given up just three baserunners in 4.2 innings over his last two outings.