Tuesday afternoon’s game was a reversal of the script that occurred much of the home stand.
The Hickory Crawdads opened up a big league early in support of strong starting pitching by Kyle Cody and cruised to a 6-1 win over the Grasshoppers in front of 3,025 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win gave the Crawdads (15-23) the final two contests and forged a split of the four-game series and closed out a 3-4 home stand. While teams generally are unhappy with that kind of homestand, given the angst of the club after a woeful stretch of pitching, 3-4 gives the Crawdads a sense of “whew” as they head out for an eight-game trip to Kannapolis and Lexington, KY.
For Greensboro (21-17), losses the last two days dropped it from second to fourth place in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division chase. The Grasshoppers now sit two games back of first-place Hagerstown (Md.)
Hickory scored two in the first and four in the second off starter Jordan Holloway, who started his morning by hitting Franklin Rollin on the calf. A hit-and-run brought fruit as Miguel Aparicio bounced a single through the right side that moved Rollin to third. Leody Taveras’s grounder to first scored Rollin and later Alex Kowalczyk singled in Aparicio to make it 2-0.
The Crawdads batted around in the second to build a 6-0 cushion. Jose Almonte steered a single to left and one out later went to third when Anderson Tejeda doubled into the RF corner. Rollin and Aparicio both walked, which scored Almonte. The assault continued against reliever Marcus Crescentini as Yanio Perez singled in two and Kowalczyk added his second RBI hit of the game.
That was more than enough for Crawdads starter Kyle Cody, who pitched brilliantly Tuesday afternoon. The 6-7, 245 lbs. right-hander from the University of Kentucky pitched four-hit ball over seven shutout innings and struck out a pro-career high ten. After Greensboro singled in each of the first and second innings, Cody held the Grasshoppers hitless until they put up two in loading the bases with two outs in the seventh. Cody kept the fledgling shutout in tact by getting Corey Byrd to tap back to the mound.
Crawdads reliever Tyler Ferguson struck out the side around a walk in the eighth but ran into trouble in the ninth. With one out, Boo Vazquez doubled off the fence in left and advanced to third on Jarett Rindfleisch’s single. A fielder’s choice by Mason Davis got the runner from third home, but Rindfleisch reached second on a throwing error by 1B Perez. Corey Bird singled to load the bases, but then Ferguson struck out Aaron Knapp and got Justin Twine to fly to center to end the game.
Put-Away-Pitches Put Holloway Away:
Greensboro pitcher Jordan Holloway has had control issues much of his pro career (20 BB, 3 HBPs in 36.1 innings for this season after today), but his stuff (MLB.com has his fastball and curve at a 60 grade on the 20-80 scale) has been enough to put in the mid-teens range as a Marlins prospect. His control did indeed waiver as se walked three today and hit a batter during his 1.2-inning stint, but his inability to put away hitters ultimately did him in.
I didn’t see “every” pitch, but I don’t recall seeing many curveballs by Holloway, and the ones I did see didn’t have much bite. Otherwise, he stayed fastball/ change, but nothing that was commanded well.
To Hickory’s credit, the lineup did a good of spoiling his pitches and making him work. In the first, Taveras fell behind 1-2 before working the count full and rolling over the seventh pitch for a grounder to the right side that scored a run.
During the Tejeda at bat in the second, Holloway got ahead 0-2 and then left a fastball up that Tejeda smoked into right. Rollin fell behind 1-2 and then walked. Aparicio fell behind 0-2 and he, too, walked.
Perez victimized the reliever Crescetini, but taking a low breaking ball up the middle for a two-run single.
With the count 0-2 or 1-2 in the second inning, the Crawdads went 2-for-3 with two walks and four RBI.
A 6-7 player from Kentucky rebounds, and it’s not basketball:
After his last outing (2.2 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K), Kyle Cody was in charge from the start. Many of his Ks came on the slider to right-handed hitters and he was able to paint the arm-side corner with his fastball for punch outs. I talked with pitching coach Jose Jaimes about Cody’s start and to the differences from last week to today.
“I’m pretty excited about Kyle. Last time was not him. Today, he came out and had the right attitude. The main thing today was that he was able to throw that slider for a strike early in the count and put guys away with it, and then also locating his fastball, for the most part.”
Cody’s work in the seventh was especially impressive given the odd circumstances the bases were loaded. Colby Lusignan struck out to start the inning, but reached on a wild pitch. The second hit of the inning happened with first base wasn’t covered on a bouncer to second. Jaimes said the ability for Cody to keep his composure was a big step.
“The last inning, he had the strikeout, but we couldn’t make the out at first. I do know that the main thing is that he stayed focused. Even with two outs when something behind him happened, he didn’t lose command of his pitches.”
I’m starting to get asked about Yanio Perez and if he is going to be promoted soon. At .354/.430/.600 over 37 games, he is certainly making a loud statement that he is ready for a challenge. However, as with his Cuban countryman last year Andy Ibanez, there are other parts of his game to work on, namely defense.
I made that response to a tweet question this afternoon and soon after a couple of plays showed up that made me look like a prophet. With two outs in the seventh, Mason Davis bounced a ball to the right side of the infield. Perez made two quick steps to the ball, then let it go to Blaine Prescott at second. Looked like a routine play, except Perez didn’t retreat to the bag at first. Davis reached without a throw.
In the ninth, a throw by Perez to start a routine 3-6 force play (I don’t think it would’ve been a double play) sailed into left center.
However, like Ibanez last year, and possibly even more so with Perez, who is two years younger than Ibanez, the Rangers could be content to just let him get used to the country and the American way of playing the game and just letting him be for a bit and having him dominate.
Another game during the homestand, another blowout loss.
The Greensboro Grasshoppers scored the first five runs and went on to an 8-2 win over the Hickory Crawdads Sunday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win for Greensboro (21-15) was an important win as the Grasshoppers are tied with Lakewood (NJ) for second place in the South Atlantic League Northern Division, with both teams a game behind Hagerstown (Md.). The Grasshoppers have won 9 of 10 – including the first two games of the current four-game series – and 12 of 15 to get into the division chase.
Meanwhile, Hickory (13-23) has dropped four of five and 8 of 11. Only Augusta (11-24) has a worst record in the Sally League.
Poor command and untimely defensive play was again the downfall for the Crawdads. Today, it was starter Tyler Phillips that took the brunt of things early.
Greensboro scored two in the first, which started when Eric Gutierrez was hit by a pitch – the first of five on the day. Boo Vazquez followed with a bouncer to SS Yeyson Yrizarri. His feed to start a potential double play was a slow, underhanded toss to 2B Blaine Prescott covering the bag. With the runner sliding in, Prescott’s turn and subsequent and relay to first was off the mark, which allowed Vazquez to reach. The misplay proved to be a key part of the inning as Jarett Rindfleisch doubled in Vazquez. One out later, Corey Bird singled in Rindfleisch.
Greensboro added three unearned runs in the fourth. With one out Vazquez lined a single to right and went to second when Rindfleisch was hit by a pitch. The inning began to unravel when a grounder by Luis Pintor was fielded in the hole by Yrizarri, who then attempted a force play at third. However, Ti’Quan Forbes dropped the throw, which allowed the runner to reach and loaded the bases. From there, Bird’s sacrifice fly scored Vazquez and Austin Knapp singled in two more. Phillips’s (1-2) day was done after he walked Justin Twine.
As has been the case lately, that was more than enough for starter Braxton Garrett. The Miami Marlins top prospect pitched five innings of two-hit ball to pick up his first pro win (1-0). One of the few mistakes Garrett made was a high changeup that Yanio Perez hit high off the billboards in right for his eighth homer of the season.
Matt Ball entered the game in relief of Phillips and after he got the Crawdads out of further damage in the fourth and stranded two more in the fifth, Greensboro tagged him for a run in the sixth when Colby Lusignan singled in Justin Twine.
Tyler Ferguson entered the game in the eighth on the heels of five scoreless outings (7.1 IP), but he too was not immune to the week of wildness. Bird and Knapp both singled and advanced to second and third on a fly to right. James Nelson walked and then Bird scored on a wild pitch. Lusignan was walked and Gutierrez was hit by a pitch to score Knapp and end Ferguson’s day. Kaleb Fontenot retired the final two batters of the inning pitched a perfect ninth to prevent further scoring.
Leody Taveras accounted for the final run in the ninth with a towering homer off the batter’s eye.
The beat goes on:
This afternoon’s game was the 16th time in 36 games the Crawdads have allowed seven or more runs, the tenth in the last 16 games.
In the four games during the homestand that went nine innings, Hickory has combined to throw 750 pitches with just 440 going for strikes. Today’s total: 189 pitches with 116 for strikes.
What next?: With the short outings by the starters this week – only Edgar Arredondo reached five innings – the bullpen has been taxed. Only Jake Lemoine has not seen since Thursday, and that outing was the second straight poor one for him (2.1 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 3 BB). I would not be surprised to see the Rangers make some roster moves to help with a stretched-out bullpen, but then perhaps a rotation spot or two come open for grabs. Argenis Rodriguez (13.80 ERA in 5 appearances, 4 starts) has already been sent to Arizona. Phillips (6.39 ERA in seven outings, four starts) and Demarcus Evans (7.88 ERA in seven outings, 3 starts) could be the next to at least come out of the rotation.
One-quarter of the season is gone and adjustments have not been made. Those adjustments may need to come in Arizona and/ or Spokane.
#1 vs. #1
The matchup I wanted to see was a pair of top-100 prospects squaring off: Garrett vs. the Rangers top prospect, Taveras.
In the first, Taveras ambushed a first-pitch fastball by Garrett that was down, but served hard into right. The southpaw then caught Taveras leaning the wrong way, but Taveras was able to beat the throw to second for the steal.
In the fourth, Garrett used a fastball and change to get ahead 0-2. Taveras ignored a curve and fastball that both went low, fouled off another pitch (Don’t remember what it was) before Garrett froze him with a curveball on the 1B corner of the plate.
Impressions of Garrett:
The No. 7 overall pick made his second pro start and from what I could pay attention to – we had computer issues in getting the game info to New York – he impressed. Fastball ran 90-94 mph with some life and he mixed in a changeup liberally that stayed armside, as well as a curveball from the first inning on.
I mentioned to the stringer working the game with me in the third that the curveball seemed very loopy. He must have heard me from the press box because right after that, Garrett tied up the right-handed hitting Franklin Rollin up with back-to-back 11-5 curves that bore in on the hands as he swung through both.
As stated above, the only real mistake was the high change that Perez punished.
Had the Crawdads lineup not put together 12 hits, Saturday night’s 14-2 loss to the Greensboro Grasshoppers might be one of the uglier losses in my own memory here.
Eleven walks, three hit batters, a wild pitch, an error on a throw to first following a strikeout, two passed balls all added up to every bit of that 14-2 defeat.
To the Grasshoppers credit, the lineup was patient and took advantage of the opportunities given them. Greensboro went 10-for-28 RISP and still stranded 14 for the game.
It started so innocently. Crawdads starter Demarcus Evans needed just ten pitches to get through the first. Good, lively fastball and three F-8’s later we’re thinking, here we go. Then it happened…
Hit batter, walk, walk, K, then a walk to .134 hitter Luis Pintor sent manager Spike Owen to the mound with a matter-of-fact walk to remove Evans. Reid Anderson entered and gave up a two-run single to Corey Bird (4-for-5) and a run-scoring double to Aaron Knapp (3-for-5, 5 RBI).
In the third, with one out, Colby Lusignan and Eric Gutierrez singled. Anderson K’d Boo Vazquez, but a passed ball on strike three scored Lusignan from third. Then, hit batter, Pintor’s RBI single, Bird RBI single and Knapp’s three-run homer made it 10-0 after three.
Grasshoppers starter Dylan Lee then just had to throw strikes and he did. Through seven scoreless innings, he scattered seven hits and struck out two.
Ismel Lopez was next up for Hickory and Greensboro got him for single runs in the fifth and sixth. Pintor walked and scored on a bases-loaded walk to Lusignan. In the sixth, Knapp’s sacrifice fly brought in Jarett Rindfleisch.
An unearned run made it 13-0 in the seventh. James Nelson earned the golden sombrero, but got all the way to second when catcher Alex Kowalczyk’s throw to first to complete a strikeout went into right. Vazquez eventually singled him in.
Finally in the ninth against CD Pelham, Vazquez and Rindfleisch hit back-to-back doubles.
The Crawdads got their runs in the ninth as Ti’Quan Forbes and Yeyson Yrizarri each had RBI singles.
Our internet combined with Gameday’s brain fart late in the game skewed pitch counts from the sixth inning on. By my count, I had the Crawdads combining for 234 pitches with 125 going for strikes. Just 28 first-pitch strikes to 55 hitters.
Evans threw just 19 strikes out of 42 pitches to get five outs.
What may be:
Getting the feeling that there will be some changes made and it could be a wakeup call for some guys. Tonight was the quarter-mark of the season and we now see what the reality is. Guys are not throwing strikes or commanding pitches in the strike zone. With manager Spike Owen having to go to the pen in the first through third innings too often, guys in the bullpen are shouldering a ton of work. The rotation and pitching roster may look different when the Crawdads go to Kannapolis on Thursday.
Tough night for Kowalczyk:
Whether it was the strain of trying to will pitchers into, or catching nearly every day for a week after sitting out until last week, Kowalczyk had a tough night. Two passed balls in the third, several other pitches that were simply dropped and then the error in the seventh on a routine throw to first. He had a ground single in the fourth, but otherwise K’d twice and bounced to second.
Leody busts it:
After a tough night Friday (2 Ks and a GIDP), Taveras was his young self again Saturday. After a Willie Mays, cap-fall-of-the head running catch in the first, he lined an 0-1 pitch hard off the mound, which bounced high into centerfield. He grounded to short and third in his next two ABs, but both times he sprinted hard to first and made both routine plays close. Taveras got rewarded for that hustle in the ninth when he beat out an infield hit to third.
Yay for Yay-Yay:
Yeyson Yrizarri had the best AB I can recall seeing in the third. (This was with the team down 10-0). A 9-pitch adventure, during which he spoiled five different 1-2 pitches, turned into a hard-hit single to left on a hanging curve. An infield hit in the fifth, a double into the LF corner in the eighth and an RBI single in the ninth and he winds up with a four-hit night. Add in a leaping catch of a liner to save two runs in the fifth and that’s a pretty good night for a guy during a game when he, and others, could’ve mailed it in.
Anderson at second:
Anderson Tejeda looks pretty comfortable at second and I think I could get used to seeing him there. Made two difficult plays look easy as he charged in on both and made the quick, across the body throw to first on the run.
Yanio is Yanio:
Three hits, two of them smoked, and I think he’s getting ready to go to Columbia, S.C. with Taveras for the SAL all-star game.
Rollin is rollin’
Franklin Rollin went 1-for-5, but could’ve easily had three more hits. Lined hard to first twice and to short to end the game. Just one of those nights.
As a matter of fact:
Several hitters torched the ball but found gloves. Along with Rollin’s smashes, Ti’Quan Forbes smoked a liner to third in the seventh that nearly doubled off Perez at third. Rollin’s smash to first did double off Yrizarri in the third. Almonte had a hard hit liner to center in the fifth. Hickory had 12 hits, but could’ve had more.
The Charleston RiverDogs entered Thursday night’s game with a South Atlantic League high .319 batting avg. in May. The Hickory Crawdads have the league’s worst pitching statistically. That’s proved to be a bad combination over the last two nights and on Thursday, the result was a 14-4 thrashing by Charleston in front of 2,525 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.
For the second straight night, Charleston (17-17) scored the first nine runs of the game and cruised to victory. The Crawdads (12-21) have been outscored 25-6 over the first two games of the three-game series.
Charleston put the first five runners aboard and eventually sent ten to the plate in the first inning to open a 6-0 lead. Poor defense and poor pitch execution by starter Michael Matuella went hand-in-hand. (More on the defense later.)
Matuella had little command of the fastball in his lone inning, which started with a four-pitch walk to Estevan Florial. After a dubious bloop single to center by Isaiah Gilliam, Hoy Jun Park tripled in both runners. Blake Rutherford singled in Park. Oswaldo Cabrera’s sac fly got a run and Diego Castillo’s two-run single capped the scoring and ended Matuella’s night.
The RiverDogs treated lefty Sal Mendez no better in the second as they sent eight more to the plate and scored three. Gilliam reached on an error and after Park replaced him on a fielder’s choice, Donny Sands singled him in. Cabrera added two more with a single.
Brian Keller kept the Crawdads without a baserunner until the fourth before Miguel Aparicio’s grounder went through the infield. Hickory finally got on the board one inning later as Isaiah Quiroz singled in two.
Alex Kowalczyk (2-for-4) hit a two-run homer in the sixth to cut the Crawdads deficit to 9-4.
However, RiverDogs tacked on three in the eighth and two in the ninth, all against Jake Lemoine, to account for the final margin.
“They have a good hitting ballclub, no doubt,” said Crawdads manager Spike Owen. “We just have to find a way pitching wise to limit the damage and make better pitches. That’s the bottom line. We’re not doing it. We’re not getting it done. The last two nights, we’ve not given our offense a chance to do anything.”
Crawdads pitching beginning to look historic… and not in a good way.
As a team, the Crawdads 5.72 ERA and 1.59 WHIP are the worst in the Sally League. They also have allowed the most hits, runs, and earned runs. With the quarter of the season two games away, one begins to look at how they stack up to Crawdads club records. They’re chasing a few.
Hickory has had just two seasons with an ERA over five, which came in back-to-back seasons in 2007 (5.13) and 2008 (5.02). The club record for the worst WHIP in a season is 1.54 in 2007. The Crawdads are also on pace to set club records for the most hits, runs and earned runs allowed.
Defense was offensive:
While Matuella didn’t have his best stuff, some of the first inning struggles could be laid at the feet of the defense.
After Florial walked, Gilliam hit a short fly to center that appeared to be an easy can of corn for Leody Taveras. Meanwhile, shortstop Anderson Tejeda and second baseman Yeyson Yrizarri were pulling a double-play decoy on Florial running hard to second. The decoy worked beautifully except… Taveras couldn’t pick up the ball and with no fielders pointing out the ball, eventually it fell harmless to the turf. So what could’ve been a double play with Florial totally fooled at second turned into a 1st & 2nd situation with no outs.
Later in the inning, a routine double play turned into one out when Tejeda’s throw to first went wide of Yanio Perez’s stretch at first.
And still later in the inning, 3B Ti’Quan Forbes took his time on a grounder by Ben Ruta. Forbes circled around to make the play, but as he appeared in no particular hurry to complete the play, Forbes throw to first was beaten by the hustling Ruta.
A frustrated Owen spread the blame around equally between hurlers and defenders.
“It accumulates and everything when you don’t make plays,” said Owen. “But, we talk to (the pitchers) all the time that sometimes you’re going to have to get four outs and sometimes five outs in an inning. You’re even going to do that in the big leagues. Obviously, not nearly as much, because they are big league infielders, but they have to overcome those things. They sooner they learn that and figure it out rather than say, ‘I should’ve been out of the inning’ or whatever. It is what it is out there….”
Owen later added, “We’ve got to clean it up all the way around, especially the pitching and defense. We’ve been working really hard during the last four defensively and cutting b.p. time saying ‘Let’s have a clean game.’ We haven’t been able to do that.”
Better Call Sal:
Once Mendez got settled, he went on to retire the last 14 batters he faced and fanned 6 over 5.1 innings. His work allowed the Crawdads offense to chip away at the lead and take some momentum into the late innings.
The two parts of his outing show just how careful he has to be with his stuff. His changeup is a formidable pitch, at least at this level, and had 7 or 8 missed bats. That with his fastball at 90-91, if he keeps his pitches down, he’s tough.
“I thought Mendez did a really nice job,” Owen said. “His first inning of work he left some balls up and he paid for it. Then he comes out and puts up zeroes from that point on. That’s a good adjustment by him.”
The way that Charleston starter Brian Keller mowed through the first three innings, it looked like history was in the making. He fanned six of the first ten hitters, which included a 10-pitch, three-strikeout third inning. The second time through the order, Keller started missing his location and the Crawdads hitters adjusted to the breaking ball.
Owen: “The guy that started was impressive and did exactly what you’d want to see with a guy that’s got a nine-run lead in popping and pounding the zone. We made some adjustments. It’s good to see that you’re down nine runs and still have competitive at bats from our side.”
Smoral on the Fire:
Lefty Matt Smoral made his Crawdads and Rangers affiliate debut on Thursday. A tall presence at 6-8, a SLOW delivery seemed to make his fastball even faster as it whipped from his left hand to the plate. However, the delivery never seemed in control as he flailed about the mound. There’s a lot of moving parts to the motion.
Smoral walked two and threw quite the wild pitch to the back stop. Control has been the issue for the former Toronto Blue Jays first-round pick as he has walked or hit 122 batters in 107.2 innings as a pro
Who was that Lemoine’s jersey?
There seemed to be a body language on the mound that said, “here ya go, hit it if you can.” And Charleston did: Five runs on six hits – all hit hard – over two innings of relief. Fastball straight as an arrow and it went to the wall harder. Throw in a walk and two wild pitches and you have a RiverDogs lineup fattening their stats.
Meanwhile, It’s the second poor outing in a row for the right-hander, who allowed two in a walkoff loss at Hagerstown (Md.) last Saturday.
The Hickory Crawdads played just nine innings, but picked up two wins over the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies on Friday. The first was awarded Friday morning when the South Atlantic League office declared Hickory the winner of a suspended game Thursday night. The umpires suspended the game in the bottom of the eighth due to fog with the Crawdads leading 8-7.
The second win came when Hickory picked up six runs in the first and used that to again defeat the Fireflies 11-7.
Hickory (8-14) improved to 2-3 during the current homestand, which continues Saturday night at L.P. Frans Stadium. Columbia (12-11) has lost three of four and five of its last seven games.
What happened on Thursday?:
Two expected stories converged at L.P. Frans Stadium on Thursday, but Mother Nature decided to make her presence felt and she played the ultimate role in the game’s outcome.
Former University of Florida and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow came to L.P. Frans Stadium and many of the 4,225 in attendance were there to see the football-turned-baseball player.
The Crawdads had their own story in the form of Duke University product and Rangers third-round pick Michael Matuella. A potential first-overall pick in the 2015 draft before suffering problems and then undergoing Tommy John surgery, the 6-6 right-hander made only his second pro appearance on Thursday. And he didn’t disappoint.
A persistent rainstorm delayed the start 97 minutes before the teams finally took the field.
After play resumed, Matuella used a fastball staying in the 94-96 mph range to work around a one-out double and fan the side. He struck out two more in the second – including a 94 mph pitch on the outside corner to catch Tebow looking – but Columbia touched him for a run. Reed Gamache led off the inning with a double to the wall. Two outs later, Desmond Lindsay’s broken-bat blooper went far enough to clear the infield and bring in Gamache.
Matuella threw 46 pitches, thirty for strikes before he was pulled after two innings.
The Crawdads took the lead for good in the third with six runs. Kevin Scott double to left and advanced to third on Yeyson Yrizarri’s single to left. Anderson Tejeda lofted a fly ball to center that Gene Cone tracked down and then lost. Scott scored and Tejeda reached on the error. Eric Jenkins walked to load the bases and they remained loaded after Franklin Rollin bounced to third, which turned into a force play at home. Ti’Quan Forbes saved the rally when he steered a bouncer past the bag at first for a two-run double. One out later, Yanio Perez lined a two-run single to center to complete the scoring.
Two Fireflies errors allowed Hickory to add two runs in the fifth. Rollin reached on an error and Forbes doubled him to third. With two outs in the inning, Perez bounced a single to short. Taveras scored on the play and Forbes rumbled home after Michael Paez’s throw got away at first.
Down 8-1, Columbia took a chunk out of its deficit in the sixth. Dash Winningham and Milton Ramos singled to lead off the inning. After Tebow popped to third, Jose Medina topped a bouncer to Anderson Tejeda at short. Tejeda fielded the ball and threw to third, but Forbes dropped the ball, allowing the runners to advance.
Sal Mendez walked Lindsay before Ali Sanchez singled in two more.
Mendez, who replaced Matuella in the third, pitched into the eighth before running out of gas. With fog drifted onto the field, Mendez hit Tebow with a pitch and Medina lined a single to center. After Matt Ball replaced Mendez, Lindsay clubbed a three-run homer to center that Leody Taveras never saw, nor responded to.
At that point, Crawdads manager Spike Owen got the umpires to stop play until the fog cleared 21 minutes later. When play again resumed, Jake Lemoine replaced Ball and Sanchez greeted him with a single. Sanchez moved to second on a wild pitch, but Lemoine stemmed the rally, the final out on a strikeout of Michael Paez.
Preston Scott reached on an infield hit before the umpires again halted play. After 20 more minutes, the umpires suspended play.
The next morning, the South Atlantic League office awarded the Crawdads the win. In an email sent to the teams, league president Eric Krupa stated:
“Last night’s game in Hickory was suspended in the bottom of the 8th inning due to fog with Hickory leading 8-7.
“Fog is a weather event, not a darkness event.
“Therefore, according to the Official Baseball Rule 7.02 (b)(4)(A), this game is an official/ regulation game with Hickory being declared the winner.”
“That was crazy,” said Crawdads manager Spike Owen. “That fog rolled in and the umpires thought we could suspend it because of darkness, because fog is not in the rule book… It’s a win and obviously we’ll take it.”
What Happened Friday?:
The Crawdads bats picked up where they left off Thursday with a six-run first inning, aided by a key defensive miscue.
With one out, Rollin got a broken-bat single to leftfield, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Leody Taveras’ single to right. The key play of the inning came when a potential inning-ending double play blew up as the throw by Ramos at third short-hopped the bag at second and allowed both runners to advance. Ricky Valencia and Perez each had RBI singles before Yrizarri cleared the bases with a homer to left-center.
Tebow singled ahead of Lindsay’s second homer in two days to cut the Fireflies deficit to 6-2. They got another run back in the third on Winningham’s RBI single.
Perez’s two-run blast in the third pushed Hickory ahead 8-3.
An errant pickoff by Hickory’s Kaleb Fontenot led to Ramos’ RBI single in the fourth. However, Columbia repaid the favor in the bottom of the inning when pitcher Blake Taylor’s throw to third on a sacrifice attempt sailed into left field and allowed two runs to score.
The Crawdads eventually made it 11-4 before Paez’s two run homer in the seventh and Ramos’ RBI triple accounted for the final runs.
Crawdads bats dry out and charge up:
As a group Hickory scored 22 runs over 10 home games entering the season. The Crawdads have scored 19 the last two nights.
“It’s good to see the bats come alive and scoring some runs.” said Owen after Friday’s game. “We needed every one of them last night and tonight. It got a little closer than we wanted it to.”
In talking around the cage with hitting coach Kenny Hook, he mentioned the long layoff, due to the past week’s rainstorms, set some of the hitters back because of the inability to get onto the field. Owen agreed with that assessment.
“We went five consecutive days without doing anything on the field,” said Owen. “We did get some ground balls a couple of days ago, but with all the rain and the weather, it’s been tough at home. That’s really where you get your extra work in, not only hitting wise, but on the field, as well, with fundamental stuff. We just haven’t been able to do it because of the weather.”
One of the frustrations of the team has been the inability of hitters to take advantage of counts and situations when the hitters have the advantage. That has improved in recent days.
“We’ve had a lot better at bats the last couple of nights,” said Owen. “That’s all we’re looking for is quality at bats. They’re young and they’re chasing hits, which you can’t do in this game. You’ve just got to put a good at bat together and hit a ball hard somewhere. It’s young and they’re looking at averages and things, which is human nature and part of the game. But, they’ll get it.”
Another day, same story. The Rome (Ga.) Braves took advantage of sloppy defensive early and never trailed during a 3-1 defeat of the Hickory Crawdads Wednesday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win completed a 6-1 road trip for the defending South Atlantic League champion Braves (14-6), who now return home to open a weekend series against West Virginia. Rome is now 11-2 away from home this season and has won 9 of the last 11 played at Hickory over the last two seasons.
Hickory (6-14) has lost four in a row and is now 2-8 at home, scoring a total of 22 runs.
The game turned out to be decided by the fifth batter of the game when the Braves scored two runs with the help of sloppy Crawdads defense. Anfernee Seymour singled to right to start the game. Derian Cruz then laid down a bunt in front of home plate. Catcher Ricky Valencia pounced to the ball, then overthrew first baseman Preston Scott, which allowed the runners to advance to second and third.
Kyle Cody (0-2) then got Tanner Murphy to fly out to shallow centerfield before inducing Juan Yepez to hit a dribbler up the first base line. Scott fielded the play, but misconnected on a soft toss to Cody covering first on the play, as Seymour scored the first run. Anthony Concepcion’s sacrifice fly to center made it 2-0.
Hickory got its only run of the game in the second inning. With one out, Valencia was hit by a pitch and Yanio Perez dropped a bloop single into short left. Scott’s fielder’s choice moved to Valencia to third, from where he scored when Yeyson Yrizarri chopped a grounder to shallow third. However, the Crawdads ran themselves out of the innings when Scott overran the bag at second and was caught in a rundown between second and third.
Ian Anderson (2-1) kept the Crawdads in check for the most part over his five innings on the mound. The right-hander allowed the lone run on three hits, two walks and struck out six.
Cody pitched into the sixth for Hickory and allowed just the two unearned runs on five hits, two walks and fanned two.
Rome added an insurance run against reliever Reid Anderson in the seventh when Randy Ventura doubled and scored one out later on Cruz’s single through a drawn-in infield.
A trio of Ian Anderson, Tucker Davidson and Brandon White combined for 13 strikeouts of Crawdads hitters, who put together just three runs on 16 hits over the three-game series.
Cody deserved better:
Firing at 95-96 early and dropping to 93 by the end of the outing, Cody kept the Braves shut down for the most part. The Seymour hit was a roller that found a hole and a Brett Cumberland dribbler was unable to be scooped up by Yanio Perez at third. He finished the game with 2 outs in the sixth (He should’ve finished the sixth but for a poor call by the umps on a checked-swing that turned into a single and then a four-pitch walk. Threw mostly changeups (it appeared, no speed gun) for secondaries, as well as a few sliders that missed bats. Finished with 88 pitches, of which 60 were strikes).
Doing too much:
Hickory ran out of a couple of innings early. In the first, Eric Jenkins walked then tried to advance to second when Franklin Rollin sliced a pop fly that Ventura caught just on the foul side of the line in right. Ventura made the catch and recorded the out when Jenkins slid past the bag at second.
On the Yrizarri dribbler in the second, Scott saw that third base was uncovered on the play. However, 20 feet from his trek at second, he realized a defender was nearer than believed and was eventually run down. It turned out to be the last time Hickory had two runners reach in an inning.
Prospect vs. Prospect
Ian Anderson (81) and Leody Taveras offered a top-100 prospect (MLB.com) matchup, of which Anderson won both. In the first, Anderson broke off a 1-2 curveball down that Taveras swung through. In the third, Anderson missed with a fastball low and away to the left-handed hitter. Then he proceeded to get Tavares to swing through a change and a fastball, before missing with a fastball in that Taveras grounded sharply to first.
The Rome (Ga.) Braves took the lead early in both games went on to sweep the Hickory Crawdads 2-1 and 4-1 Tuesday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The wins pushed the Braves (13-6) to a 5-1 record during their current road trip and improved the road record to 10-2 for the season. Rome has won 8 of their last 10 games at L.P. Frans over the last two seasons. The Crawdads (6-13) have lost three straight and are now 2-7 at home, where they’ve scored 21 total runs.
The teams conclude the series on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.
Rome took advantage of a rough start by Crawdads starter Jonathan Hernandez to get on the board in the first. Randy Ventura lined a single to center, moved to second on Derian Cruz’s sacrifice and then to third by Cristian Pasche’s single. Juan Yepez’s fly ball to left was deep enough to score Ventura, but Pasche was out on the play as he failed to retouch second on his way back to first.
The Braves added a run in the third. Lucas Herbert and Kurt Hoekstra singled back-to-back to start the inning. Ventura bunted into a strikeout (I still don’t get that one) and then one out later, Pache squeezed a grounder past the dive of Ti’Quan Forbes at third to score Herbert.
The Crawdads put five runners on over the first three innings, but Rome’s starter Jeremy Wilson (Gardner Webb Univ. product) faced only two over the minimum in that stretch. Eric Jenkins led off the first with a double, but was doubled off second on a sharp liner by Leody Taveras to short. Hickory loaded the bases with one out in the second, but Jose Almonte hit into a double play. Anderson Tejeda opened the third with a single, but was then caught stealing.
Hernandez (0-3) settled down and had his longest start of the season, going into the sixth. The Crawdads right-hander allowed just the two runs on eight hits – five of those in the first three innings – over 5.2 innings with six Ks and – more importantly – no walks.
Hickory finally scratched a run across in the seventh against Rome reliever Jon Kennedy. Ricky Valencia doubled and went to third on Yanio Perez’s single. Preston Scott whistled a sharp grounder up the middle through Kennedy’s legs, but the Braves were able to get an out at second while Valencia scored. Scott eventually stole second and third, but Almonte and Tejeda both struck out to end the game.
Hickory took its only lead of the doubleheader in the second inning when Yanio Perez hit his second homer of the season, a high fly ball to right after it appeared he was jammed.
However, Rome quickly and swiftly took the lead back in the third. Kevin Josephina lined a Tyler Phillips (1-1) 0-2 pitch to center and stole second. Ventura singled Josephina to third and then himself stole second. Anfernee Seymour singled in Josephina and advanced moved up to second. Ventura and Seymour scored on back-to-back grounders to make it 3-0.
The Braves added an unearned run in the sixth as a botched pickoff at first set up Seymour’s second RBI single of the game.
Hickory managed only three hits against starter Oriel Caicedo (4-0) over his five innings of work. Matt Custred gave up two hits and fanned two over his two-shutout innings for his first save of the season.
Last year’s starting centerfielder Eric Jenkins played in his first game of the season with Hickory. In his first AB, he fell behind 0-2, the proceeded to spoil a couple of fastballs and spit on breaking balls off the plate to get the count full. The 8-pitch plate appearance ended when he turned on a fastball and shot it into the rightfield corner.
The second time up, he waved through a low breaking ball, but then recovered to work the count full before again turning on a fastball. Only this time, it was a liner to first. After 157 Ks last year, job one is to make contact to take advantage of his speed.
One thing of note to me was not that Jenkins played left in game one, but when Leody Taveras went into the DH role in game two, Jenkins did not play in center. It’s probably nothing, but it grabbed my curiosity.
Taking advantage of the advantage:
I’ll admit it. It’s frustrating to watch the lineup miss opportunities to cash in runs. It’s a young lineup, I know, but it feels like this team never feels like it has the advantage. When it has the opposing team against the wall, it feels like Hickory is standing by the wall with them.
In game one, Hickory had the starter Walker on the ropes in the second inning. Struggling with control, Walker loaded the bases after back-to-back, five-pitch walks with one out. A mound visit ensued after which Jose Almonte tried to pull a fastball away, which turned into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
From there, Hickory had just three more baserunners until the seventh. In that inning, Valencia doubled and Scott worked a walk out of an 0-2 count. Almonte fanned and then with Anderson Tejeda at the plate, Scott – the tying run – stole second and third. However, Tejeda went fence chasing and turned a 2-0 count into a full-count K and ended the ballgame.
It was more of the same in game two. Hickory was gifted an error and a hit batter in the fourth. However, a 2-0 count with runners at second and third turned into an Almonte K. Hickory had just one other baserunner the remainder of the night.
Hernandez has struggled with fastball command so far this season and it was more of the same at the onset on Tuesday.
An 0-2 fastball was lined to center by Ventura to start the night. One out later, Hernandez went 3-1 to Pache before losing the battle on a fastball. He also struggled to get his change over the plate. But suddenly in the fourth, he found a groove with both pitches and with a slider mixed in, Hernandez began to take command. The most impressive AB was the fourth-inning sequence to Brett Cumberland. Facing last year’s Pac-12 home run champ, Hernandez got the left-handed hitter to chase a pair of changeups off the plate, then ran a fastball (93-96 mph on the night) in on the hands for the Ks.
His fate though was sealed in the third when .140 hitter Lucas Herbert lined a 2-0 fastball for a single and .182 Kurt Hoekstra fought back from 0-2 to also single. Later, Hernandez made a good pitch (low-and-in fastball) to Pache that needed 75 hops to find a hole through the left side of the infield.
That was… different:
Hickory got out of further damage in the first when on Yepez’s sacrifice fly to left, Pache went well past second and then on the return trip, cut through the inside cut of the grass near the second base bag. This wasn’t an attempt to cut a corner. He took the most direct route back to first.
After Herbert and Hoekstra singled in the third, Ventura (.368) was asked to bunt… not once… not twice… but on every pitch, including for strike three.
Phillips looking for the out-pitch:
Tyler Phillips used sinker/ change to get the Braves hitters to beat the ball into the ground. Four straight outs and a ground single stretched from the first through all the second inning. But in the third, Phillips couldn’t find a put-away pitch and eventually that put Phillips away. Josephine’s single was on 0-2. Ventura’s single was on 1-2. Seymour’s on 0-2… All on what looked to be off-speed pitches away to the left-handed hitters… All of whom used shortened swings to politely serve them into center and left. Phillips threw 39 pitches in the third before manager Spike Owen took him out.
Evans hurls the spheroid:
Listed at 6-4, 270, Demarcus Evans gassing it at 95 can be intimidating. He fanned five of the 14 hitters he faced Tuesday and for the season K’d 16 of 48. But, with two walks this evening he now has walked 11 to go with 2 HBPs.
His offspeed I thought was a slider, but the Rangers pitch trackers say it’s more of a curve at 80. Whatever it is, it stays up and was quite hittable. Also, to my untrained eye, Evans seems to slow everything down when he throws anything offspeed. I could tell it was coming.
Game Story April 18: West Virginia 8 Hickory 3
The Hickory Crawdads continue to sputter on offense and for the second straight night had little answer for a hot West Virginia Power offense in an 8-3 defeat Tuesday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win by the Power (6-7) is the fifth in a row and the sixth out of seven games following an 0-6 start. West Virginia has scored 40 runs in the last three games and has posted five or more runs six of the last seven outings. (5-1 in those games).
Meanwhile, Hickory (5-8) has dropped three of the last four during the homestand. The lineup has scored eight runs over those four games and just 14 over the six games of the homestand, which closes Wednesday night at 6 p.m. against the Power.
Despite wildness by both pitchers, neither team had a hit until the fourth when Stephen Alemais tripled to right-center with one out in the fourth. One out later, Alemais scored when a fastball by Demarcus Evans went to the backstop.
The Power then broke the game open against reliever Tyler Phillips with three in the fifth and four in the sixth. With one out, Logan Ratledge singled, stole second and then moved to third on a fly to right. Hunter Owen singled him in and scored on Carlos Munoz’s lined homer to right.
West Virginia batted around in the sixth for the third time in two games. Sandy Santos doubled in a run before Ratledge’s sac fly scored Clark Eagan. Ty Moore’s double scored Santos and Munoz capped the inning with an RBI single.
Hickory got on the board without the benefit of a hit in the fifth. Jose Almonte walked and advanced to second when 3B Owen’s throw went wide of the bag. A Blake Cederlind wild pitched moved Almonte to third from where he scored on Travis Bolin’s grounder.
The Crawdads went hitless until the sixth When Yanio Perez lined a single into the right field corner, moving Franklin Rollin to third after he reached on an error. 2B Trae Arbet dropped the relay throw back to the infield and allowed Rollin to score.
The final run by Hickory came in the seventh when Valencia double and scored on Rollin’s sac fly.
Much was made about the wildness of the pitching staff. For the most part that has settled in as the guys have begun to get into a routine. What has gotten my attention in this homestand are plate appearances in which Crawdads hitters are ahead in the count.
I first noticed it on Friday with a couple of at-bats by Yanio Perez during which he had checked swings on fastballs ahead 2-0 or 2-1. Then, I noticed times when guys would be ahead 2-0, 3-0, 3-1 and then make weak outs.
This evening, Power pitchers through eight innings and thrown 128 pitches with only 73 strikes (55 balls). Despite the wildness, Hickory managed just three hits and four walks. Combined with four errors – three of those allowed hitters to reach – there was opportunity for the Crawdads to do damage. However, Hickory was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
In hitter’s counts, the Crawdads and 12 different counts of 2-1, 3-0 or 3-1 and went 1-8 with 4 walks. A key at-bat early in the game for me was the bottom of the third. After Valencia reached on a five-pitch walk against a struggling Oddy Nunez – who threw 19 balls to 25 strikes – Travis Bolin went hacking at the first pitch and hit into a force play, which should’ve been a double play ball. Simply, it seems as if guys are trying to put the team on their backs, rather than at a solid plate appearance.
Evans evens out:
At 6-4, 270, righthander Demarcus Evans can hurl the spheroid hard. But in the early going, there was not much a clue as to where it was going. After a strikeout of Ratledge to open the game. Evans preceded to post a walk, hit batter and another walk, with many of the pitches missing wildly to the third base corner of home. After a 28-pitch first (12 strikes), he settled down to a nice outing, allowing just two other baserunners However, the damage was done and Evans needed 77 pitches to get through the fourth.
Forbes cools off:
Ti’Quan Forbes went 0-for-4, but it was anything but quiet. A long liner in the 6th hooked just to the foul side of the LF foul pole. That on top of a sharply hit 4-3 grounder was the highlight of his night.
Other than Forbes, one of the few Crawdads making solid contact right now. Went 1-for-3. The hit, a lined gapper to the wall in LCF. Had another liner that was a scorcher to the 2B for the out. Seeing the ball quite well for now.
Kannapolis 3 Hickory 1 (Game 1). Hickory 1 Kannapolis 0 (Game 2)
Despite mustering two runs on ten hits over 14 innings the Hickory Crawdads rode the back of strong pitching and the bat of Ti’Quan Forbes in game two to earn a doubleheader split with the Kannapolis Intimidators Saturday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The split left the teams in a series split for the four games. The Crawdads are off for Easter Sunday and then will resume South Atlantic League play Monday night at 6 p.m. as they start a three-game series against visiting West Virginia.
What happened in game one:
Polk County native Joel Booker continued to harass Hickory pitching with a three-hit performance in game one and had a hand in all three runs.
He led off the doubleheader with a broken-bat single and moved to second as Mitch Roman’s sneaked an infield hit to the right side, as Booker beat a throw to second from second baseman Brallan Perez. One out later, Brandon Dulin hit a ball to Preston Scott, who fielded the ball on the run, but his throw to second went into leftfield and allowed Booker to score from first.
Kannapolis (3-8) made it 2-0 in the second. With one out, Antonio and Wilfredo Rodriguez (no relation) both singled. After Max Dutto whiffed, Booker oozed a grounder through the infield for an RBI single.
The Crawdads (5-6) got a run back in the bottom of the inning. Ti’Quan Forbes singled and was then erased on Scott’s fielder’s choice. One out later, Ricky Valencia got enough wood on an inside fastball for a bloop RBI single.
However, the Intimidators added an insurance run in the fourth as Booker singled in MIcker Adolfo to account for the final margin.
Jimmy Lambert (1-0) pitched a complete-game six-hitter with one walk and five strikeouts.
Edgar Arredondo (0-2) gave up all three runs on ten hits and a walk, and struck out three. Reid Anderson pitched two scoreless innings with one hit allowed and two Ks.
What happened in game 2:
Both team had just four hits each, but Forbes’s homer in the fourth was the difference.
Sal Mendez (1-0) made the spot start for Hickory and gave up a walk and two outs over five innings with four strikeouts. The Intimidators threatened just once against him and that came in the third. Grant Massey singled and moved to second when Tyler Sullivan was hit by a pitch. Mendez then got Booker looking and induced Roman to tap into an double play.
Jake Lemoine worked around a double in the sixth. In the seventh, Seby Zavala singled and Adolfo was hit by a pitch. Zach Remillard botched a sacrifice and bunted a third-strike foul for a strikeout. Lemoine then struck out Massey before Christian Torres was brought in to face Tyler Sullivan.
Torres needed just three pitches to fan Sullivan and get his first pro save.
Yosmer Solorzano pitched a complete game in the loss (1-1).
Forbes had four pro homers in 227 games entering this season. He has four in 11 games this season. For the season Forbes has hits in 10 of 11 games and his at .436/.500/.769. He’s in a good place right now.
I had a twitter conversation about Forbes and I pondered if Forbes gets a bump up when Charles Leblanc is ready at extended spring. Or… after Forbes struggled so much over his first two seasons as a pro, will the Rangers let him dominate for now and amp up his already burgeoning confidence.
An intriguing arm:
The Texas Rangers have had success with late-round pitching selections and I wonder if they perhaps have a nugget with 40th-round selection Sal Mendez.
In talking with Crawdads pitching coach Jose Jaimes, I asked him to give me a pitcher that is under the radar. Sal Mendez was his answer. When I asked for who had the best secondary pitch, Jaimes said it was Mendez’s changeup.
Mendez needed 68 pitches (44 strikes) to get through five innings. He relied on a two-pitch mix of fastball (89-91) and change (81-83) and did so effectively with very little squared up. Three of his five Ks came consecutively in the first and second. He got Dula to swing through a change off the 1B side of the plate in the first. Then fired a fastball that Zavala took for a called third strike. Then, it was back to the change off the plate to get Adolfo.
Very simply, he attacked the strike zone and got mostly weak contact. Mendez threw 11 of 18 first-pitch strikes to hitters, much of that total coming early (6 of the first 7). He’ll have to continue to throw strikes and hit spots, but he’s not afraid to attack.
I’m interested and want to see more.
Yey-yey is ney:
Yeyson Yrizarri is not in a happy zone right now. One-for-14 in the series, 3-for-39 for the season, it’s been a tough one. The one hit in the series was on a ninth-inning, get-me-over fastball with a five-run lead on Friday night. Otherwise, he is seeing a lot of breaking stuff in front of the plate and in the dirt and hacking away.
He did hit into a bit of tough luck in game one. In the second inning, Remillard took a roller behind the bag and then with a Manny Machado-esque throw from behind the back, got Yrizarri by a quarter step.
In his first AB in game two, he was unable to hold back on a fastball at the thumbs and then later whiffed at a curveball in the dirt. After the AB, the body language had the look of one who was beaten for now.
Defense wins games:
While Booker played a big part in the game-one win, so did the Kannapolis defense – especially from shortstop Max Dutto.
In the third, Brallan Perez lined a pitch to right. Adolfo ran the ball down and made a strong throw to second that was to the centerfield side of the bag. Dutto made the catch on the one-hop throw, then made the lunging tag on Perez. Later in the inning, Dutto made a diving stop of a grounder and made the quick throw to first to barely get Leody Taveras at first.
With a runner on first in the fifth, Yrizarri hit a comeback to Lambert, whose throw to second on the pivot was to the third-base side. Dutto made a back-handed catch while his momentum carried him across the bag and then completed the double play at first.
In the sixth, Dutto made a grab of a grounder deep in the hole and made a strong throw to complete the out at first.
Missing hitting counts:
Scuffling as a team, the Crawdads collectively seem to be unable to take advantage of hitter’s counts. In game two, Solozano threw first-pitch strikes to just eight of 22 hitters. However, Hickory managed just four hits and a walk.
Toothless at the plate much of the early season, the Kannapolis Intimidators muscled up three homers in support of three pitchers in an 8-4 win over the Hickory Crawdads in front of 2,525 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium Friday night.
The win snapped the Intimidators three-game losing streak, as well as the Crawdads three-game winning streak.
Hickory took a 1-0 lead in the first as Leody Taveras hit the first pitch from Bernardo Flores into the right field corner for a triple. A wild pitch later scored him.
Kannapolis used an error to get even in the third. After Joel Booker walked, Mitch Roman singled him to third and then Booker scored with LF Yanio Perez’s throw to third clanked off Booker’s helmet.
Brandon Dulin’s second homer of the season put the Intimidators in the lead 2-1 in the fourth. One inning later, Booker singled with two outs, stole second and scored on Jameson Fisher’s single to right.
The Crawdads got a run back in the sixth. Perez led off with a single and worked his way to third on successive grounders to third. Travis Bolin singled in Perez and the Crawdads eventually loaded the bases with two outs. Alex Katz entered the game and struck out Brallan Perez to end the threat.
Fisher unloaded a two-run blast off the scoreboard in right-center in the eighth and Seby Zavala added a solo shot to make it 6-3.
Hickory eased back into the game briefly in the bottom of the inning. Jose Almonte and Isaias Quiroz each walked. A wild pitch moved both runners up a base and Perez’s single scored Almonte. Taveras came to the plate as the tying run, but Lane Hobbs struck him out to end the threat.
Kannapolis pushed two more runs across in the ninth before Preston Scott’s sacrifice fly scored Yeyson Yrizarri in the bottom of the inning to account for the final margin.
Roman went 4-for-4 with a walk, Fisher, Dulin and Zavala homered, but Joel Booker had the key at-bats of the game.
Booker saw 34 pitches during his five plate appearances and it was his persistent patience that played into a big night. With two outs and the bases empty in the third, Booker worked a walk. He made an aggressive play to go first to third and it paid off when Perez’s throw hit him in the helmet and led to a run.
In the fifth, Hickory starter Emerson Martinez needed just eight pitches to get the first two outs. Martinez got ahead 0-2 but was unable to put Booker away, who worked the count full before steering a single to left. Martinez went on to throw 28 pitches in the inning and inflated his pitch count to 76 and cost him a chance to go deeper into the game.
With two outs in the ninth, Booker again fell behind 0-2 before working the count even and eventually made contact on a swinging bunt up the first base line to score Max Dutto.
Hickory reliever made his first appearance of the season in the sixth. His debut was delayed after he got ill upon his arrival in Hickory. Flowers threw 93-94 mph and mixed in the slider with ease missing three bats. He struck out two during a perfect inning.
My memory of Emerson Martinez was a guy that threw low 90s, mixed in a change and slider and a bit of guile to get hitters out. According to the Rangers pitch trackers, Martinez was hitting 95 mph. His change at time had the Intimidators off balance, but as seen above, he was unable to finish off innings with a put-away pitch. After getting 12 of 15 outs via the whiff and groundball in his first start at Greensboro, had just 9 of 15 on Friday.
The Kannapolis staff has taken the step of throwing breaking balls to Yeyson Yrizarri and it made him look silly. He fanned in his first two at-bats – five swing-and-misses for the game, all on breaking balls – then was out on his front foot during back-to-back grounders. Up five runs in the ninth, the Intimidators threw a first-pitch fastball the Yrizarri rifled to the wall in left-center.
Both sides had some curious baserunning plays that potentially cost the team runs. In the no-harm-no-foul category. In the second, Brallan Perez appeared to take a couple of steps in reverse during a pop-up to second with two outs.
Ti’Quan Forbes delayed the turn at second, which proved costly during Preston Scott’s down double the line in left. Forbes then tried to make up for lost time during a scamper to the plate, but was thrown out.
Kannapolis had a curious baserunning decision of its own in the fifth. Fisher’s double scored Booker from second. Roman trailed behind at third and held up with two outs while the throw went to second.
3B Ti’Quan Forbes continues to shine defensively and he in the eighth contributed two more plays to his portfolio of artistic plays. He made a backhanded stab of a liner to the right of his knees as he spun backwards to keep his balance. But there was a better one to come. The inning concluded when Forbes stumbled left to corral a Zach Remillard ground, then from his knees, fired a strike to first for the out.
2B Brallan Perez started a double play in the second by snatching a quick short-hop during which he had to avoid the obstruction of the umpire. In the ninth, Perez had his feet slip on the wet track, but he was able to reach back over his right shoulder to take a high hop and complete the out at first.