SAL Championship Game 2 Preview: Asheville at Hickory

Game 2: Asheville Tourists (72-67, Southern Division Champions) at Hickory Crawdads (81-57, Northern Division Champions) Hickory leads the best-of-five series 1-0.

Site/ Time: L.P. Frans Stadium, Hickory, N.C..  7 p.m.

Affiliations: Asheville (Colorado Rockies)/ Hickory (Texas Rangers)

Game 1 Recap: The Hickory Crawdads took the lead in the second inning and coasted to a 7-2 win Monday night at home. The Crawdads went up 1-0 when Edwin Garcia and Jairo Beras steered back-to-back doubles into the left-field corner. Luke Tendler’s first playoff homer put Hickory up 2-0 in the fourth. Poor outfield play opened the game up for Hickory leading to the final five runs. In the sixth, Tendler scored from second when Wes Rogers was slow in getting the ball back to the infield after catching Jairo Beras’ fly to center. Eduardo Pinto doubled in a run to make it 4-0. In the eighth, Dylan Moore reached third on a dropped fly ball in left. Trevino drove him in with a single and scored himself on Tendler’s double. Beras’ RBI triple completed the score. Pedro Payano pitched a six-hitter over six shutout innings and struck out eight. Joe Filomeno added two more scoreless innings of relief and fanned two. The Tourists scored their only run on a two-run homer in the ninth by Shane Hoelscher against Dillon Tate.

Probables: ASH: Ryan Castellani (RH, 2-7, 4.48) vs. HKY: Brett Martin (LH, 5-6, 3.49)

Lineup: ASH: Wes Rogers-8, Forrest Wall-4, Shane Hoelscher-D, Dom Nunez-2, Roberto Ramos-3, Josh Fuentes-5, Omar Carrizales -7 Cesar Galvez-6, Yonathan Daza-9.

HKY: Jose Cardona-8, Dylan Moore-4, Jose Trevino-2, Luke Tendler-D, Edwin Garcia-6, Jairo Beras-9, Eduard Pinto-7, Juremi Profar-5, Carlos Arroyo-3.

Castellani vs. Hickory: In his lone start of the season against the Crawdads, Castellani allowed two runs on six hits and struck out five over five innings at McCormick Field on July 24. Hickory took a 1-0 against him in the first when Cardona, Josh Morgan and Pinto all singled. Trevino added a fourth hit in that inning, but Morgan was thrown out on the bases to limit the rally to one run. They made it 2-0 as Pinto was hit by a pitch, Trevino singled and Tendler brought in Pinto with a sac fly. Profar had the other hit against Castellani with a double in the second.

The No. 17 prospect (mlb.com) in the Rockies organization was the second-round choice of Colorado out of Brophy Prep School in Phoenix. The 6-foot-4, 19-year-old brings a low 90s fastball with a change and a looping curve according to mlb.com. He tries to keep the ball down as his 1.30 GO/AO ratio suggests and he has allowed only five homers this season – just two at McCormick. However, he relies on contact to get outs (94Ks, 113.1 innings). The lack of missed bats has hurt him at times as the SAL is hitting .291 against him this season. The OBA has jumped in the second half to .308 (.268 in the first half) and the ERA jumped to 5.32 (3.23). In his 16 road starts, he has a 3.52 ERA and hitters are batting .293. Castellani has gone past five innings just three times this season and has given up seven or more hits seven times. He has shown good control (29 walks), walking more than two hitters just three times.

Martin vs. Asheville: The native of Morristown, Tenn. faced the Tourists in two road games this season, taking the win in a strong start back on April 20 and a no-decision on July 23.

In the April start, Martin needed only 60 pitches (41 strikes) to easily handle the Tourists to the tune of one run on three hits over six innings. He retired the first ten of the game before Emerson Jimenez singled in the fourth. Henry Garcia homered against Martin to lead off the sixth with Wes Rogers getting the other single. Ten of the 18 outs he recorded came on groundouts (7) or strikeouts.

The July start was a bit more harrowing as he allowed four runs on nine hits in four innings. Much of the damage came when the Tourists jumped him for three runs on five hits in the first. Max White tripled in Carrizales, who had singled, and then scored on a sac fly by Hoelscher. Nunez and Jairo Rosario hit back to back doubles with Daza getting the final hit. Fuentes and Carrizales each singled in the second without scoring; White singled and later scored in the third. Martin was off the hook for the loss as they scored seven runs over the first two innings in an 8-6 win.

Martin has not pitched since injuring his hip on August 28, when he allowed three runs on seven hits over 4.2 innings to Delmarva. He’s had two other lengthy layoffs this season with mixed results. After a 15-day layoff from May 22-June 6, Martin gave up four runs on six hits over 4.2 innings. Martin came back from an 11-day layoff in early August and pitched a three-hitter over four shutout innings.

Martin is currently the Rangers No. 16 prospect according to mlb.com. The 20-year-old has a low 90s fastball with some run to go with a curve and change. Martin generally exhibits good control, but can run into spates of wildness at times. He has walked three or more batters in four starts, fewer than two in 14 starts. He leans slightly as a groundball pitcher (1.19 GO/AO) and has induced 13 double play balls in 95 innings. Martin can go deep into games if he finds a groove (pitched into the seventh three times), but the Rangers will likely limit him to five innings coming off the injury.

Tourists hitters vs. Hickory: Shane Hoelscher had three hits – including the ninth-inning homer, which was the lone extra-base hit – and Forrest Wall and Josh Fuentes each had two in the game-one loss.

Despite playing seven of the nine regular-season games at hitter-friendly McCormick Field this season, the Tourists batted only .244 against the Crawdads this season with five homers among 24 extra-base hits.

Yonathan Daza led the team at .346 (9-for-26) vs. Hickory. SAL All-star Omar Carrizales hit .333 (4-for-12) and his all-star teammate Shane Hoelscher was 3-for-10. SAL No. 4 second base prospect Forrest Wall was 5-for-15, which included a grand slam at L.P. Frans. Daza also had four RBI to lead the team.

Crawdads hitters vs. Asheville: In game one, the Crawdads pounded six extra-base hits with Beras ripping a double and triple, with Tendler lining a double to go with his homer.

Jose Trevino has five home runs and 12 RBI in eight games to go with a .313 (10-for-32) average in eight games this season. Eduard Pinto had 17 hits (.532) and eight RBI. Luke Tendler struggled against the Asheville staff with 11Ks in 37 plate appearances.

What to watch for: With neither starting pitcher expected to go deep into the game, middle relief should play a role. For Hickory, Joe Filomeno and Dillon Tate are likely out. Luis Ortiz could be available to eat innings to get to close Scott Williams. Other middle relievers Adam Dian, Shane McCain and Chris Dula have not pitched in the playoffs.

With 246 steals the Tourists run and run often and do so throughout the lineup with six players totally double-digit steal totals. Martin has allowed 14 of 21 runners to steal and catcher Jose Trevino has thrown out 33.7% of the runners trying to steal.

Conversely, though Hickory has run very little – only Jose Cardona has 10+ steals (30) – they may take shots against catcher Dom Nunez, who has caught a league worst 21.2% of runners trying to steal.

The opposites on the defensive sheet could not be more different as Hickory led the league in defense (121 errors) with Asheville committing the most (206). That played out last night with the Crawdads taking advantage of two outfielder miscues. An error on pickoff by Asheville put Moore at second in the first, but he was stranded there.

The Crawdads have done well in tight games, posting a SAL-best 27-16 mark in one-run games. Asheville was last at 14-22. They’ve also done poorly in the middle innings of tight games. When tied after the fifth, the Tourists are 10-14 (Hickory 14-7). Tied after the sixth, they are 9-12 (Hickory 6-7) and after the seventh they are 7-9 (Hickory 8-0).

The Tourists look to SAL all-star close Josh Michalec, who led the league with 30 saves.

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