Results tagged ‘ Asheville Tourists ’

Pitching and Defense the Difference in Tourists Win

Asheville has a lineup with plenty of firepower, but on Tuesday it was the Tourists pitching backed by key defensive plays that was the difference in a 2-0 win over Hickory at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The Tourists (6-7) have now earned a split over the first two of the three-game series after the teams have now traded 2-0 wins. Hickory (9-3) will host the finale Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m. before embarking on a three-game trip to Columbia, S.C.

The series was to have featured the top two South Atlantic League lineups. However, the teams have combined for four runs and 19 hits combined over the 18 innings played. In fact, the Crawdads have struggled at the plate during the current homestand. They entered Tuesday’s game at a .203/.254/.451 line during the first four games played at Frans this year. Tourists left-hander Ryan Rolison added to that misery with a stellar performance.

Rolison, the Colorado Rockies’ first-round pick in last June’s first-year player draft, held the Crawdads without a baserunner through the first five innings. With only one three-ball count in the game, Rolison (2-1) constantly had the Crawdads guessing at which of the four pitches at his disposal that he would use. Pounding the strike zone, he struck out seven – five in a row at one stretch – with 46 strikes out of 62 pitches.

The Tourists gave Rolison all he needed with a run in the third against starter Yerry Rodriguez (1-1). The Crawdads hurler retired the first two batters, but Cade Harris extended the inning with a single to right. On successive pitches, Will Golsan singled and Rodriguez hit Hunter Stovall with a pitch to load the bases. The wild streak continued when Rodriguez walked Terrin Vavra to force in a run.

The Crawdads bats finally came to life in the sixth, when with one out Jonathan Ornelas grounded a single up the middle just past the dive of Vavra at short. Frainyer Chavez reached when he was able to line a bunt past Rolison on the first base side of the mound and outrace him to the bag. However, the Tourists escaped damage when a sharp line drive hit by J.P. Martinez was caught by first baseman Grant Lavigne, who then easily doubled up Chavez at first to end the inning.

Harris walked and later scored on a double-play ball to add an insurance run in the eighth.

However, the Crawdads appeared to be on the verge of at least cutting the deficit in half in the bottom of the inning. With two outs and nobody on, Miguel Aparicio doubled. A fielding blunder then kept the rally alive, as Ornelas hit a high chopper up the third-base line. The ball appeared to be curling foul, but pitcher Frederis Parra picked the ball up just inside the line to give Ornelas a single and put Aparicio at third. Chavez followed with a bouncer up the middle that tipped off the pitcher’s glove. The second baseman Stovall made a lunging stop of the ball.  While remaining stretched out, he fired a strike to first to retire Chavez and end the inning.

Alexander Martin closed out the game by striking out the side in the ninth for his second save of the season.

Series Preview: Asheville Tourists at Hickory Crawdads

Asheville Tourists (Colorado Rockies) (5-6, tied for second, Southern Division)

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (8-2, 2nd Northern Division)

The Hickory Crawdads continue their season-opening homestand with a three-game series against Asheville.

 

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:

WHERE IS IT?: Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

GAME TIMES/ PROMOTIONS:

Monday: Asheville at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. (Make-A Difference Monday (Bring canned goods $5 or more in value and receive a free ticket), Remember the Titanic)

Tuesday: Asheville at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. (Dollar Dog Tuesday ($1 hot dogs, dogs admitted for $1))

Wednesday: Asheville at Hickory, 10:30 p.m.

 

TICKETS: $9 tickets in advance, $10 at the gate. Children (12 and under) and seniors $8, $15 for VIP section.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

 

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:

Despite being only an hour apart, the Crawdads and Tourists played just one series in 2018. The Crawdads took 2 of 3 in that series played at McCormick Park in Asheville.

The last series between the two clubs at L.P. Frans came in July 2017 when Asheville swept all three games. That year, the Tourists won 8 of 10 from the Crawdads, which included a 6-1 record at Hickory. It was the first season-series win by Asheville since 2010. Since 2009 and the start of the Crawdads-Rangers affiliation, Hickory is 49-47 vs. Asheville, but the Tourists hold a 26-22 margin at L.P. Frans.

 

PROBABLES (Asheville/ Hickory)

Monday: RHP Ryan Feltner vs. RHP Tim Brennan

Tuesday: LHP Ryan Rolison vs. RHP Yerry Rodriguez

Wednesday: RHP Shelby Lackey vs. RHP Hans Crouse

 

ABOUT HICKORY

Coming off a 6-1 road trip to open the season, the Crawdads continued the early-season success at home with a 2-1 series win over Kannapolis.

Manager: Matt Hagen (2nd season)

Prospects – (team rankings are by MLB.com):

RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 83 in top-100)

OF JP Martinez No. 2 (No. 86 in top-100)

SS Chris Seise No. 12

IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18

C Sam Huff No. 21

3B Sherten Apostel No. 22

Possible lineups: C: Matt Whatley or Sam Huff; 1B Curtis Terry; 2B Frainyer Chavez or Jonathan Ornelas; 3B Sherten Apostel; SS Chris Seise; OF LF: Pedro Gonzalez or Miguel Aparicio; CF: JP Martinez, RF: Jose Almonte.

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Jose Almonte – Tied for 8th doubles (4)

Pedro Gonzalez – Tied for 2nd homers (3)

Sam Huff – Tied for 2nd homers (3), 4th total bases, tied for 4th strikeouts, tied for 8th runs scored, 10th slugging pct. (.605)

JP Martinez – Tied for 5th steals (4)

Jonathan Ornelas – Tied for 4th runs scored

Chris Seise – Tied for 3rd hits, tied for 4th runs scored, tied for 5th steals (4), tied for 8th doubles (4)

Curtis Terry – 1st RBI (14), 2nd slugging pct. (.703), 2nd total bases, tied for 2nd homers (3), 4th OPS (1.078), tied for 4th doubles (5), tied for 7th hits

Individual pitching:

John King – Tied for 4th hits allowed

Jake Latz – Tied for 8th strikeouts, tied for 10th ERA (0.90)

Abdiel Mendoza – Tied for 1st saves (2)

Team Batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.249 (3rd)/ .318 (6th)/ .441 (2nd)/ .760 (2nd).

Other key rankings: 1st home runs, 2nd runs, 2nd home runs, 3rd hits, 3rd stolen bases, tied for 3rd doubles, 10th walks

Team Pitching: 1st ERA (1.90), 1st WHIP (0.91), fewest hits allowed, fewest runs allowed, fewest earned runs allowed, tied for fewest home runs allowed (1), fewest walks allowed, 4th strikeouts.

 

ABOUT ASHEVILLE:

The Tourists come to Hickory with losses in four of the last five games. This is the second half of their road trip after losing 3 of 4 at Hagerstown, Md. Five of the Rockies top six draft picks from last June’s draft are currently with the Tourists. They include Ryan Rolison (1st), Grant Lavigne (Competitive Balance), Terrin Vavra (3rd), Ryan Feltner (4th)

Manager: Robinson Cancel (1st year)

Prospects – Asheville (rankings by MLB.com):

1B Grant Lavigne No. 5

LHP Ryan Rolison No. 6

RHP Riley Pint No. 8

SS Terrin Vavra No. 14

OF Daniel Montano No. 19

RHP Ryan Feltner No. 24

C Willie MacIver No. 28

RHP Mike Nikorak No. 29

Possible Lineups: C: Javier Guevara or Willie MacIver; 1B Grant Lavigne; 2B Coco Montes or Terrin Vavra; 3B: John Cresto or Hunter Stovall; SS: Coco Montes or Terrin Vavra; LF: Will Golsan; CF: Daniel Montano; RF: Cade Harris.

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

John Cresto – Tied for 4th doubles (5), 7th slugging pct. (.621), 10th OPS (.987)

Will Golsan – Tied for 2nd runs scored, 4th RBI (10), tied for 7th total bases

Cade Harris – Tied for 8th walks

Daniel Lavigne – Tied for 4th strikeouts

Willie MacIver – 1st slugging pct. (.824), 1st OPS (1.229), 1st total bases, tied for 2nd homers (3), 3rd batting avg. (.382), 3rd RBI (11), tied for 3rd hits, tied for 8th doubles (4)

Daniel Montano – Tied for 8th home runs (2), tied for 10th total bases

Hunter Stovall – Tied for 2nd doubles (6), 3rd on-base pct. (.471), 8th batting avg. (.357), 8th OPS (1.042)

Terrin Vavra – Tied for 3rd hits, tied for 4th runs scored, 5th on-base pct. (.455), tied for 5th RBI, (9), 6th total bases, 7th batting avg. (.361), 7th OPS (1.066), tied for 8th doubles (4), tied for 8th walks, 9th slugging pct. (.611), tied for 9th steals (3)

Individual pitching:

Jake Bird – Tied for 5th games pitched (4), 8th ERA (0.82), tied for 9th innings pitched (11)

Nick Bush – Tied for 2nd home runs allowed, tied for 4th runs allowed, 5th earned runs, tied for 6th hits allowed

Alfredo Garcia – Tied for 10th earned runs allowed

Eric Hepple – Tied for 1st games pitched (6)

Boby Johnson – Tied for 2nd home runs allowed, tied for 5th games pitched (4)

Shelby Lackey – 6th earned runs allowed, tied for 9th runs allowed

Nick Kennedy – 4th ERA (0.00), Tied for 5th games pitched (4), 10th WHIP (0.78)

Alex Martinez – Tied for 5th games pitched (4)

Mike Nikorak – Tied for 3rd games pitched (5), tied for 5th walks allowed, tied for 9th runs allowed

Ryan Feltner – Tied for 5th walks allowed

Riley Pint – Tied for 5th walks allowed

PJ Poulin – Tied for 3rd games pitched (5)

 

Team batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.282 (1st)/ .363 (1st)/ .493 (1st)/ .856 (1st).

Other key rankings: 1st runs, 1st hits, 1st doubles, 1st total bases, 1st walks, 2nd home runs, tied for 2nd strikeouts

Team pitching:

2nd runs allowed, 2nd home runs allowed, 2nd most walks allowed, 3rd runs allowed, 12th WHIP (1.45), Last ERA (5.32), tied for last strikeouts

NOTES OF INTEREST: Pedro Gonzalez was a member of the Rockies organization prior to a trade to the Rangers in 2017… Rockies IF Kyle Datres played college ball at North Carolina.

Offensive Tourists Rude to Hosts: Defeat Crawdads 8-6

Hickory reached the 50th game of the season and a familiar theme through the first 49 played out again on Sunday afternoon.

The Asheville Tourists built a big lead early and the held on to an 8-6 win Sunday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The Tourists (21-27) took three out of four in the series and sent the Crawdads (19-31) to their seventh loss in eight games and the eighth out of ten.

 

What Happened?:

Two in the first, one in the third, four in the fourth nearly put the game out of reach for the Tourists, though the Crawdads did make it interesting in the middle innings.

With Jonathan Hernandez – the reigning South Atlantic League’s pitcher of the month – on the mound for the Crawdads, Manny Melendez led off the game with a single to center. One out later, Colton Welker (4-for-5) sliced a liner just on the line in right for a run-scoring double. After Willie Abreu popped out, Max George hit a long fly ball to the warning track in center. Leody Taveras tracked the ball, but was never able to get his body square for the catch and it fell in for a triple.

Alex Kowalczyk (3-for-4) took a dead-fish fastball from Ty Culbreth and sent it in orbit over the fence in left-center to cut the Crawdads deficit in half. However, Abreu slapped a Hernandez changeup off the billboards in right to reclaim the original two-run lead for the Tourists.

What turned out to be the difference in the game was the fourth inning. Carlos Herrera tripled and scored on Eric Toole’s squeeze bunt. The inning fell apart with two outs in the ninth when Campbell Wear, the Tourists’ backup catcher, who entered the game hitting .067, walked. From there, Wear stole second and scored on Melendez’s single. Jose Gomez doubled, Welker lined a single to left and it was now 7-1.

With rain falling beyond centerfield – but not in the ballpark – Hickory got back into the game with three in the fourth. Taveras walked and Kowalczyk singled. A fly ball to right advanced Taveras to third and he scored on Carlos Garay’s sac fly. Jose Almonte made the game interesting with a two-run homer to left-center to make it 7-4.

In need of a shutdown inning, it didn’t happen in the fifth. George doubled, moved to third on a Hernandez wild pitch and scored when SS Anderson Tejeda – playing in to try and keep the runner at third from scoring – fielded a groundball hit by Joel Diaz, then double pumped the throw home, which was enough to allow George to slide around the tag of Kowalczyk and score.

The Crawdads got within 8-6 in the seventh when Tejeda doubled and one out later scored on Leody Taveras’s single up the middle. Ti’Quan Forbes walked to put the tying run on, but Asheville brought in Julian Fernandez to finish the inning. He did so emphatically (up to 100 mph!) with a strikeout of Garay.

That turned out to be the game. Fernandez breezed through the eighth to earn the scorer’s-decision win. J.D. Hammer struck out two in the ninth to work around a one-out single and earn his third save of the series, the fifth overall.

 

Hernandez today:

(The following is my own observation. I could be WAAAAAY off base, but this is what I saw. There are smarter people than me that may say this is all bunk.)

Today was the first time I’d seen Hernandez pitch since he started a stretch of four, strong starts that eventually led to a one-hitter over seven innings vs. Greensboro. The thing I noticed was the windup seemed to be much more deliberate than in the past. He starts out facing the catcher, turns as if to reset himself into the stretch position, then the windup and a pitch. Hernandez has a tendency at times to rush his delivery and then fly open, which, to me, seemed to make his pitches flatten out. I’ve seen him use the towel drill between starts to work on staying in line with the plate upon the delivery – he’s done this at least for two seasons now.

In talking with pitching coach Jose Jaimes during the last homestand, he mentioned that Hernandez has developed the ability to throw his changeup at any count. He has a fastball that sits 95-97 – but it is often straight – and he can mix in a slider that does catch the strike zone. The money pitch for him is when that changeup is on. He misses bats with it, but it’s the groundball outs that is the clue as to whether he will be effective or not. Today, it wasn’t.

Today, out of the stretch, he tended to fall off the first-base side of the mound and his pitches flattened and stayed up. Two groundouts (should’ve had a third on the fielder’s choice in the fifth) and a ton of well-struck pitches for hits or outs.

It looked like in the third he was finding a groove. Hernandez started the third with back-to-back whiffs on a change and a slider for the K, then got a quick grounder from Welker. Abreu followed and Hernandez appeared to get him to swing through a change to get the count to 1-2. The umps ruled Abreu checked the swing and whether it was from frustration or something else, another change followed that stayed up and left the yard.

After he gave up the first run in the fourth on Toole’s squeeze, Hernandez seemed to lose concentration. The five-pitch walk to .067-hitting Wear followed and one could sense that things would fall apart… and they did.

Hernandez understands what he’s to do and is working to fix the mechanics. Some day’s he’ll have it; some day’s… no. This was a no day.

Jonathan Hernandez - Proffitt

Jonathan Hernandez (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

 

Forbes:

Went 0-for-3 with a walk. Two fly balls to right and a strikeout on an 9-pitch AB. The approach is better; he’s seeing pitches better. Hopefully the results will follow as they did on Saturday when he homered to center and singled to right.

 

Taveras:

That fly-ball triple to Taveras in the first, I honestly thought he was going to catch it. He seemed to have no trouble tracking it down and raced it to the warning track. However, it seemed like he couldn’t get his body turned the right way to catch it. Now, admittedly, the play was 450+ feet from me, and so it may have been a harder play than I am describing. But, such as the expectations one has when watching Taveras on a near daily basis.

At the plate today, he looked like his “old” self, working the count or ambushing fastballs. I swear, nearly every plate appearance is over six pitches or 1-2.

 

Kowalczyk:

The dude is strong and right now, he is seeing everything. His third hit in the fifth was a thing of beauty. Down 1-2, he spoiled a Bryan Baker slider (?), then laid off a pair of breaking balls to work the count full. The play-by-play stringer and I both thought there’s no way – given how he attacked the first two ABs – he’d see a fastball, especially with a base to work with. Kowalczyk saw one low and in and he ripped it to left.

Alex Kowalczyk - Proffitt

Alex Kowalczyk homered and knocked in two on Sunday (courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

 

He’s a tall kid, built solid and, at least at this point, the bat is ahead of SAL pitching. The whole adjustment to pro-game breaking balls hasn’t phased him for now. His defensive work, however, has been suspect. Kowalczyk entered Sunday’s game catching just one of 14 baserunners attempting to steal and the throws – at least on this homestand – have not been close. Several have sailed into center, or bounced well to the 3B side of second. Take on three passed balls and four errors thus far on the season – and would’ve added a fifth if not for Taveras backing up the play and throwing out Joel Diaz at third – and it’s been a tough road for him.

 

Falling behind:

Hickory simply falls behind too many times and often it’s big. Here are the numbers:

The Crawdads have scored first in just 19 games this year and when the opponent scores, it comes during the first three innings. Opponents have scored in the first inning in 24 games. The Crawdads have scored just 25 total first-inning runs.

The opposition has scored in the first three innings in 43 of the games and hold a 139-88 over innings 1, 2 and 3 combined. Nine times, Hickory has given up six or more runs over the first three innings 8 times, 5 runs two more times.

The emphasis for the Rangers in their system is to command the fastball. It’s pretty certain that at Hickory, the starters are not commanding that pitch.

Homers Gain Home Team a Win: Crawdads Rally 6-4

A pair of homers, including one that capped a three-run inning in the sixth, helped the Hickory Crawdads to a come-from-behind 6-4 win over the Asheville Tourists Saturday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win for the Crawdads (19-30) snapped a six-game skid and set them up for a chance to split the series after the Tourists (20-27) took the first two of the four-game set Thursday and Friday. First pitch of Sunday’s finale is scheduled for 3 p.m.

 

What Happened?:

For just the 18th time in 49 games, and the first time since their last win on May 20, the Crawdads scored first. With two outs and the bases empty, Leody Taveras singled to left and reached second when 3B Travis Snyder’s throw to second for the force sailed over Max George’s glove as he covered the bag. Facing Brandon Gold, Ti’Quan Forbes then launched a three-run blast, a high-arching shot that kissed the batter’s eye in center. The homer was Forbes’s sixth of the season, but the first since April 17.

However, the Tourists rebounded quickly against Crawdads starter Matt Ball with two runs each in the second and third innings. In the second, Manny Melendez, Carlos Herrera and Joel Diaz all singled, with Diaz’s hit scoring Melendez. Ball then struck out Robbie Perkins, but a run scored when Diaz took off for second on a double-steal attempt. Herrera scored on the play as Diaz got caught in a run down between first and second.

In the third, Vince Fernandez singled and scored when Jose Gomez hit a sinking liner that Taveras closed in on and attempted to make a diving catch. The ball fell in and scooted past Taveras to the track, turning the play into an RBI triple. Gomez then scored easily on Willie Abreu’s double to the RCF track.

The Tourists had a chance to tack on more runs in the fourth when Ball walked the bases loaded after two outs. However, Ball settled down and struck out Gomez to end the inning.

Hickory held the deficit to 4-3 until the sixth when it scored the decisive runs. Anderson Tejeda singled and then scored all the way from first when Gold fielded Franklin Rollin’s swinging bunt and threw it down the right-field line. Rollin went to third on the play and scored when Valencia lofted a deep fly just over the fence in right for his second homer of the season.

Ricky Valencia - Lin 3.jpg

Ricky Valencia’s two-run HR in the sixth was the difference in the game (Crystal Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

After Ball got out of the bases-loaded jam in the fourth, he and C.D. Pelham allowed just one baserunner until Pelham walked Abreu to start the eighth. With the tying run at the plate, Pelham struck out Melendez and Herrera. Jake Lemoine was then summoned to face Diaz, who swung at the first pitch and hit into a force play.

Asheville threatened in the ninth after Perkins reached on an error by Forbes and Lemoine walked Fernandez with two outs. However, Gomez ended the game when his soft liner was snagged in the hole at second by the leaping Blaine Prescott.

 

Forbes getting the money swing back; at least, I think he is:

I sent out a tweet Friday night that it appeared Forbes was getting close.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Feel like Ti’Quan is close: hitting ball middle away. Took drive to warning track in CF, last AB was 11 pitches</p>&mdash; Mark Parker (@CrawdadsBeat) <a href=”https://twitter.com/CrawdadsBeat/status/868275387561857025″>May 27, 2017</a></blockquote>
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

 

The first pitch fastball from Gold was a no-doubter to center. Forbes did try to pull a couple of pitches away and both turned into grounders to short. However in the eighth, he sent the same pitch up the middle for a hard-hit single. He’s still plenty quick enough on the fastball, but secondary pitches away have given him trouble. It appears that he is trying to use his hands more on those pitches – that is when he recognizes them.

 

Taveras pressing?:

It’s only natural during a losing streak to see players try to do something to put the team on their backs. For the most part, he 18-year-old Taveras has been immune from that, but over the first few games of the homestand, it looks like he is trying to do too much.

Though he doubled on Thursday – with the help of a deflection off the 1B’s glove – he seemed impatient on his final three ABs with just three pitches for each one, all strikes with four swing-and-misses – an unusual amount for him.

On Friday, Abreu stole second and moved to third on the overthrow by the catcher. Taveras backed the play up correctly, but even with no real chance for the out at third, he threw it anyway. The ball landed on the protective screen behind the third-base dugout. Add to that a K and a couple of weak grounders – two pitches on each of those ABs – and you have a kid that is trying to do too much. Eight Ks in 7 games (through Friday) was not like him.

Tonight, his dive into center was ill-advised – perhaps he didn’t read it well as it was hit directly to him – and what should’ve been a single to set up first and second with one out turned into a run with another at third.

Taveras is very good at ambushing fastballs, or working long counts to get a pitch he can do something with. The single in the first tonight was classic-Taveras. Hitting left-handed, he served an 0-1 fastball away into left. Later in the eighth, we saw him work the count and earn a walk. That serves him well when he doesn’t get those first-pitch fastballs.

Leody Taveras vs Braxton Garrett - Lin

Leody Taveras (Crystal Lin)

 

The rally that almost wasn’t:

After the Crawdads had four – four! – runners thrown out on the bases Friday night in a one-run loss, including pinch-runner Franklin Rollin, who was inserted as the tying run in the seventh and then proceeded to get picked off, a near disastrous start to the sixth almost occurred. If it had, I think manager Spike Owen would’ve had a coronary on the field.

Anderson Tejeda opened the inning with a lined single to right. As Tejeda rounded the base at first, a throw from Willie Abreu in right was already on the way behind him and nearly picked him off as he scampered back to first.

 

Was this closing day?:

The first few innings had the feel of the final day of the season, as the hitters went hacking. Gold needed just 51 pitches to get through the fifth inning and the Tourists hitters went hacking against Ball. Of the seven hits allowed by Ball over the first three innings, five of those were on the first or second pitch as the hitters saw a flat fastball.

Gold went on to record a complete game, despite the loss, needing just 93 pitches. He did a good job of pounding the strike zone (71 strikes) and getting the Crawdads to swing at his pitches early for weak contact. In fact, just six of the 34 Crawdads saw five or more pitches.

 

A smooth CD:

Like fine music, this C.D. (Pelham) was smooth and kept the Tourists in a relaxed state. As Gold did, the 6-6, 235 lb. lefty got outs quickly (39 pitches, 26 strikes over three innings) then finished them off with either a change or a slider. The slider was especially good to lefties as three of the four Ks came courtesy of that pitch. Given the rough treatment Pelham got at Lexington (KY) on Wednesday (2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 ER), the bounce back was badly needed.

CD Pelham - Lin.jpg

CD Pelham retired 9 of  the 10 he faced and fanned four (Crystal Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

SAL Championship Game 2 Story: Asheville at Hickory

For the second straight game, the Hickory Crawdads took an early lead. They then used five pitchers to shut down the Asheville Tourists 3-1 Tuesday night at L.P. Frans Stadium. The Crawdads now lead the best-of-five series 2-0. After a day off Wednesday. the remaining games shift to Asheville’s McCormick Field starting on Thursday with a game time at 7:05 p.m.

The Crawdads are seeking the club’s third SAL title, the first since 2004. Hickory also claimed the 2002 championship.

What Happened?:

Hickory put together four hits to score two in the second against Tourists starter Ryan Castellani. Edwin Garcia and Eduard Pinto sandwiched singles around a fly out. After Juremi Profar struck out, Carlos Arroyo slapped a soft liner into left to score Garcia. Castellani walked Jose Cardona to load the bases and then took a liner from Dylan Moore off the foot that scored Pinto.

In the fourth, Profar reached when Josh Fuentes’ throw short hopped Roberto Ramos at first. A sac bunt from Arroyo and Cardona’s single pushed Profar to third before he scored on Moore’s grounder to third.

Nineteen days after injuring his hip, Brett Martin returned to the hill and threw a brilliant start. He allowed just two hits and struck out four while pitching to just one over the minimum.

Facing Adam Dian, the Tourists put the first two on before a sac bunt put the runners at second and third. Cesar Galvez ripped a run-scoring single to score Roberto Ramos scoring on the play. After a mound visit by Oscar Marin, Dian got Yonathan Daza to hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

The similar script played out in the sixth for the Tourists against reliever Shane McCain. A walk and hit batter put runners and first and second with one out. Again after a mound visit by Marin, McCain got Dom Nunez to roll into a 6-4-3 double play.

That set up Luis Ortiz to enter the game in the seventh and throw two scoreless innings of relief. He struck out three and allowed one hit to earn the scorer’s decision win.

Scott Williams hurled a perfect ninth to get his third save of the playoffs.

Martinized:

After a 19-day layoff, the unknown of what Brett Martin would provide on the mound was the story line prior to the game. It is fair to say that all is well with the 20-year-old as he retired the first seven hitters of the game and 11 of the 13 he faced.

“After the first throw I had in warmups, I knew I was going to be fine,” Martin said. “Everything felt right and was going well. The hip fell great and then I got up there on the mound and just relaxed and stayed calm and did what I know to do.”

His most dominant inning came in the second when he struck out the side – the last two on six pitches. By my count, Martin finished with 52 pitches, throwing 37 strikes. He missed 11 bats with the changeup especially effective, garnering six of the swing-and-misses (4 on fastballs at 91-93, 1 curve).

“I threw it a lot more playing catch the past three weeks that probably I have all season,” said Martin. “I’m just trying to get comfortable with that pitch again. I knew I was going to need it against them to keep them off balance.”

His dominance didn’t go unnoticed by manager Corey Ragsdale, who had said prior to the game Martin would be limited to four innings.

Said Ragsdale of Martin’s outing, “Wow! Coming back and throwing like that, that’s obviously huge setting the tone.”

Middle Management:

Unused in the playoffs prior to Tuesday night, Adam Dian and Shane McCain were put into a tight ball game following Martin’s brilliant work. Their job was simply to bridge the gap to Luis Ortiz in the seventh. The two relievers shook off the rust and made big pitches to get out of jams in the fifth and sixth innings.

Dian – eight days removed from his last appearance – was shaky at the start and it seemed the Tourists line was glad to see someone other than Martin. Roberto Ramos lined an 0-1 slider to right before Dian walked Josh Fuentes on four pitches.

“It didn’t start out the way that I wanted it to,” said Dian. “But I was pretty happy the way that I was able to work out of it and at least limit the damage. It’s pretty tough to pitch when you haven’t thrown in a while, but it’s not an excuse. I thought I made some good pitches off the bat, but I was up a little bit and they took advantage of that. “

After Galvez’s RBI single, Oscar Marin made a mound visit to help Dian gather himself.

“He just told me to take a deep breath and trust my stuff,” Dian said. “He was thinking that I was kind of letting the game get to me a little bit. It was speeding up; you get two runners on right off the bat and it’s a little tough for you to calm down and stay focused on what you need to do. He just wanted to give me a breather and make sure I had my mind straight before I faced that next hitter.”

Dian served up a 2-1 fastball away to Yonathan Daza to get the 4-6-3 double play and keep the Tourists at bay 3-1.

After 11 days off, lefty Shane McCain came in and also struggled at first with fastball command and then the slider in putting two men on.

“I was a little tight,” McCain said. “It did feel a little weird to be out there. I hadn’t been out there in a week or so, or maybe more. I really just had to trust my stuff. I was having trouble keeping my slider in the zone. That’s been my best pitch. I wasn’t able to start it where I wanted to, where I needed to.”

Another mound visit by Marin brought on an adjustment by McCain with the slider.

“I knew I had to start my slider more behind the lefthanders,” said McCain. “Once I did that, I got the two ground balls that I needed and luckily I got out of it.”

Facing LH hitter Dom Nunez with one out after the mound visit, McCain’s slider away was rolled to Edwin Garcia at short for the easy twin-killing.

“Those two guys right there, they went through the heart of the lineup,” said Ragsdale. “So, those two guys were huge for us tonight.”

Dian said that although he and McCain were both out of sorts after not pitching in a regular routine, they were still expected to do their jobs in the ball game.

Dian said, “That’s what Ragsdale asks of us, to come and to our job. It’s nice when you don’t have to have somebody come bail you out and you’re able to finish your inning. Obviously, it could’ve gone a number of different ways for both of us. I thought we both did a good job. We just gutted it out. We didn’t have our best stuff today, but we were able to minimize the damage. Shane did a hell of a job getting out of that situation.”

Ortiz Breaking Down Wall:

Luis Ortiz didn’t have the sharp command of his fastball, but he didn’t need to either. Omar Carrizales was able to expose that in the seventh when he worked the count full and then drilled a high slider for a single. Ortiz got out of the inning with no further damage.

Ortiz then cranked up the slider in the eighth, using three straight to fan Daza. He got away with a poorly placed fastball that Rogers lined hard to second to bring up Forrest Wall, the number 4 second base prospect in the minors (mlb.com). Ortiz struck out Wall on three pitches, swinging through a changeup, fastball and slider.

Domineering Williams:

After getting Shane Hoelscher to fly to right, Williams worked through a nine-pitch battle with Dom Nunez, finally getting him to undercut a high fastball that went lazily to right. A first-pitch slider to Ramos was rolled easily to second.

Moore and Moore:

Dylan Moore continues a strong playoff run with a couple of hits and an RBI. He stayed on Castellani’s slider in the first for a single, then was able to gear up for the fastball that was lined off Castellani’s foot for the RBI hit. Moore pulled off an away fastball in the fourth, but got enough on it to score the runner from third.

Castellani’s Early Struggles:

The 19-year-old threw a fastball that ranged 93-95 mph that at times had a slider look. However, he is a pitcher that relies on keeping the ball down (1.30 GO/AO) and the inability to do that early cost him. Six of the nine hits against him were hard liners with seven of his outs coming on liners or fly outs. He dodged a bullet in the fifth when Juremi Profar ripped a line drive that went straight to Fuentes at third. The catch likely saved two runs.

Defensive Woes Continue:

A lazy throw by Fuentes to first allowed Profar to reach and score in the fourth to make it a three-run lead. In the fifth with Beras at first, Pinto lifted a bloop single to left center. Beras running on contact made it easily to third, the left fielder Carrizales threw to third anyway, which allowed Pinto to move up to second.

Small Ball, Small Expectations:

Down two runs in the fourth, the Tourists got a base hit from Wes Rogers to start the inning. Rather than taking a chance with leading base stealer (46 steals) to try and get to second on his own, Asheville chose to use Wall – the number one draft pick and No. 4 second base prospect, who had a .288/.355/.438 slash as a 19-year-old – as a bunter. The sacrifice worked, but Rogers advanced no further.

In the fifth after the Tourists put the first two runners on, they chose to use their SAL all-star leftfielder – who as a 20-year-old posted a .286/.333/.410 slash and hit into one double play all year – as a bunter. The sacrifice was successful and a run was scored, but it also proved crucial when a double play ended the inning.

It seems to me those were opportunities for the Tourists to try and siphon some momentum by letting a player make a play. But managers manage to a fault at times and this appeared to be a case of overmanaging.

Shutting down the running game:

Not enough can be said as to how well the Crawdads during the series have shut down the running game of the Tourists, who stole 258 bases this season. The pitchers have been relentless at keeping the runners close and allowing the catcher Trevino to make plays. He’s thrown out both runners trying to steal in the series, including the lone attempt on Wednesday.

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.

SAL Championship Game 1 Story: Asheville at Hickory

Game Story: Asheville Tourists at Hickory Crawdads (Game 1, SAL Championship)

The Hickory Crawdads never trailed in taking the first game of the best-of-five series by a score of 7-2 over the visiting Asheville Tourists Monday night at L.P. Frans Stadium. Game two of the SAL Championship will take place at Frans with the first pitch at 7 p.m. After a day of Wednesday, the series picks back up Thursday at McCormick Field in Asheville.

The Crawdads are two wins away for their third SAL title in club history, the first since 2004.

What Happened?:

The Crawdads took the lead in the second inning against Helmis Rodriguez when Edwin Garcia and Jairo Beras led off the inning with back-to-back doubles to the left field corner.

Luke Tendler made it 2-0 when he cranked his first homer of the playoffs, a towering shot to right over the billboards.

That was more than enough for Crawdads starter Pedro Payano, who threw a six-hitter over six innings and struck out eight. The right-hander struck out six straight at one point.

Hickory added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth with the key play coming on a defensive miscue. With one out and runners on first and second, Jairo Beras lifted a fly ball to Wes Rogers in deep center. As Tendler tagged and moved to third, the throw to the infield from Rogers was a high-arching throw. Seeing the throw, manager Corey Ragsdale coaching at third waved Tendler around and he scored without a throw home. Eduard Pinto then ripped a double to center to score Edwin Garcia from first and put the Crawdads up 4-0.

In the eighth, Dylan Moore reached on a three-base error when Max White dropped a routine fly ball in left. Jose Trevino singled up the middle through the drawn-in infield to score Moore and then scored on Tendler’s double to center. After Garcia struck out, Jairo Beras drove a triple to center to bring in Tendler for the final run.

Asheville broke through in the ninth when Shane Hoelscher homered to left-center against Dillon Tate. The homer broke a 21-inning shutout streak by Crawdads pitching.

Four-Pitch Pedro:

Payano, the 20-year-old from San Francisco de Macoris, D.R., continued a strong end-of-the season run for the Crawdads and is making a bid for a top-30 prospect spot. Along with catcher Trevino’s pitch selection, the two did a masterful job of mixing speeds and keeping the Tourists hitters off stride much of the night. Payano offered a fastball sitting 91-93 mph to go with a change, his most effective secondary pitch. He also threw a 12-to-6 curve and an occasional slider.

Payano needed 79 pitches to get through six innings, tossing 55 strikes. Of the 55 strikes, 17 missed bats on four different pitches, 15 of those on secondaries (8 CHs, 4 curves, 3 sliders). Both looking Ks came in the second with fastballs on the corner.

“He’s been a special kid ever since he got here,” said Ragsdale. “To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about him when he got here.  He’s exceeded my expectations and has been a real pickup. He’s fit right in with the rest of the starters that have been really good helped us out. He was very good tonight.”

Hustling Pays off:

I’m sure the players hear the same manager-speak about busting tail and I’m sure it gets old as routine play after routine play is made. On Monday, it paid off twice and was and the two plays were the turning points of the game.

On Jairo Beras’ fly ball in the sixth, Tendler sprinted from second to third in such a manner that when Ragsdale from the third-base coaches’ box saw Rogers make the lollipop throw back to the infield, he decided to take a chance to send Tendler.

“Very surprised, it kind of shocked me a little bit,” said Tendler when asked of his reaction at the time. “That was a big run to give us a three-run lead. It was game-changer for us.”

Ragsdale said that with two outs, it was worth taking a shot to get a third run against Helmis Rodriguez and give an additional cushion to the pen. It also seemed to increase the momentum for his team.

“It seemed maybe they got down a little bit and it seemed to pick our spirits up a little bit,” Ragsdale said. “We were able to go on from there and put another good inning together.”

In the eighth, Moore sprinted from the start as his fly ball sailed into medium left field. When White dropped the ball, Moore was already well past second base and easily slid into third. Trevino then worked a 3-1 count before bouncing a Jerad McCrummen fastball into center.

 

Heart of the Order at the Heart of Success:

The number 3-6 hitters reached base eight times with six hits – five for extra bases – with five runs scored and six RBI.

Trevino’s leadoff walk started the sixth inning rally and he singled and scored in the eighth.

Tendler homered in the fourth, walked and scored in the sixth, doubled and scored in the eighth.

Garcia doubled and scored in the second, reached on a fielder’s choice and scored in the sixth.

Beras put up an RBI double to left in the second, an RBI triple to center in the eighth and had the key sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Filomeno Performs Well:

Joe Filomeno’s fastball-slider mix overpowered the Tourists during his two innings. He struck out two in the seventh, missing bats for strike three on a slider and a fastball. The lone hit was a leadoff single in the eighth, a grounder up the middle by Josh Fuentes. A double play followed by Yonathan Daza to end the threat.

Tate mixed reviews:

It was a little surprising to see Dillon Tate pitch with a seven-run lead in the ninth. However, because he had warmed up in the eighth, rather than wasting him on Monday – and likely not have him available for Tuesday – the decision was made to use him.

Forrest Wall started the minor rally for the Tourists in the ninth with a broken bat, bloop single to shallow center. From there, Tate seemed to struggle with fastball command. Hoelscher blasted 96 mph middle and slightly up for a homer just to the left of straight-away center.

An error by Juremi Profar at third extended the inning. After striking out Roberto Ramos, LH hitter Max White turned on a fastball in for a single to right.

Tate’s slider ended the night when Josh Fuentes flied out to center.

 

Defense Saves Tourists Early:

While their defense would let them down late, the Tourists kept the Crawdads at bay early with a couple of nice plays in the field.

With a runner at second with two outs in the first, Tendler smoked a sharp grounder up the middle. SS Luis Jean, playing near the bag to hold the runner Dylan Moore, made a quick pick of a short-hop at the cut of the outfield grass before a strong throw to first completed the out.

In the second with runners at the corner and one out, Ramos handled a one-hopper on the grass from Carlos Arroyo to start a 3-6-3 double play and save a run.

Base running Blunders Costly:

Rogers broke up Payano’s strikeout streak with two outs in the third when he fisted a changeup into shallow left for a hit. He then tried to stretch the play into a double, but was out easily as Eduard Pinto threw a bullet to Moore at second for the tag.

One inning later, Wall and Hoelscher each singled to start the fourth inning. With cleanup hitter Dom Nunez at the plate, Wall took off for third and was cut down easily on Trevino’s throw. The bigger blunder happened when Hoelscher stayed at first on the play. After Nunez struck out, the mistake was magnified when Ramos steered a slow bouncing single through the hole at second – a hit that with two outs would’ve likely scored Hoelscher.

SAL Championship Preview: Game 1 Asheville at Hickory

(My apologies for grammatical or spelling errors, I was in a hurry– Mark)

Game 1: Asheville Tourists (72-67, Southern Division Champions) at Hickory Crawdads (81-57, Northern Division Champions)

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

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

How Asheville Got Here: With the Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats winning both half-season titles, the Tourists needed to claim the second overall best record in the Southern Division. They did so on the final day of the season last Monday when the Greenville (S.C.) Drive fell to Savannah. The Tourists defeated the Sand Gnats at home in game one, then after dropping game two at Savannah they rebounded to capture the series with a 2-1 win on Luis Jean’s two-run homer in the eighth.

Asheville playoff history: The Tourists are the defending South Atlantic League (SAL) and are looking for their third title four seasons. Since rejoining the SAL in 1980, Asheville has three league championships altogether (1984, 2012, 2014). The Tourists have made eight trips to the SAL playoffs and have lost in the champion series twice (1986, 1987).

How Hickory Got Here: The Crawdads won the first-half Northern Division title to clinch a playoff spot. In the Northern Division series, Hickory dropped game one on the road to West Virginia, then returned home take two straight from the Power to claim the series.

Hickory playoff history: The Crawdads are making their third appearance in the SAL Championship Series, having claimed titles in 2002 and 2004. This is the 10th playoff run in the team’s 23rd season.

Season series: Hickory went 7-2 this season vs. the Tourists, with a 1-1 mark at L.P. Frans in early April.

Probables: ASH: Helmis Rodriguez (LH, 9-8, 3.36) vs. HKY: Pedro Payano (RH, 3-1, 1.10)

Lineup: ASH: Wes Rogers-8, Forrest Wall-4, Shane Hoelscher-D, Dom Nunez-2, Roberto Ramos-3, Max White-7, Josh Fuentes-5, Yonathan Daza-7, Luis Jean-6.

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.

Rodriguez vs. Hickory: Rodriguez faced the Crawdads just one time in a home start on July 23. In that game, the Crawdads took advantage of Rodriguez’s wildness as they received five walks to go with three hits and a hit batsman in 1.2 innings. Hickory scored six runs against Rodriguez and went onto an 8-6 win. Jose Trevino tagged him for a two-run single in the first inning of that game and Jairo Beras followed with a singled. Eduard Pinto ripped a three-run double in the second to chase Rodriguez.

The No. 27 prospect (mlb.com) in the Rockies has walked as many as five in four of his 27 starts this season, including seven twice. However, he walked just two overall in his last two starts covering 14 innings, though he did hit three batters. Rodriguez has issued 63 walks this season in 147.1 innings, third in the SAL. He relies on getting groundball outs (1.61 GO/AO) and has done a remarkable job keeping the ball in the yard given the hitters-paradise of his home ballpark at McCormick Field. All nine home runs allowed by Rodriguez have occurred at home.

Rodriguez, 21, has posted a 2.42 ERA on the road (4.52 at home), but has given up 32 walks and hit 11 batters in 81.2 innings. He has gotten stronger over the last month of the season, posting a 1.98 ERA since August 4, which included a no-hit bid that lasted into the eighth inning at Rome on August 20. Rodriguez has the ability to go deep into games as he has pitched seven or more innings seven times, six or more 15 times.  He is a pitcher that opponents have to get early as his ERA in the first is 5.67 with19 walks in 27 innings. After the third, his ERA drops under 2.00 with 22 walks in 69 innings.

The native of Coloncito, Venezuela offers a high-80s fastball, but his change is his best pitch according to several scouting reports. Rodriguez also throws a curve and has added a slider.

Payano vs. Asheville: The native of San Francisco de Macoris, D.R. has made only six starts since joining the Crawdads on August 4, none of those against Asheville. His last start came against Rome at home on September 6 when he allowed one run on five hits and struck out a season high of nine. In 32.2 innings, Payano, 20, has struck out 31 and walked ten.

In his two home starts, Payano has allowed two runs on 11 hits and struck out 15.

He’s had some minor trouble facing hitters the second time through the order as his ERA is 3.60 in the third inning.

Payano features a mid-90s fastball that has some run into right-handed hitters. He also throws a change and a sweeping curve that he uses for strikeouts.

Tourists hitters vs. Hickory: Despite playing seven of the nine 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: 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 246 steals the Tourists run and run often and do so throughout the lineup with six players totally double-digit steal totals. The ability of Payano to keep runners off the base as much as possible, and then to maintain composure as an untried pitcher in a big-game atmosphere could be a key. Four of the five baserunners attempting to steal against Payano have done so successfully. 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).

The Crawdads will not likely have Scott Williams available after closing out back-to-back wins on Friday and Saturday. Hickory will probably turn to Adam Dian to close out a late-game situation. Dillon Tate and Luis Ortiz will likely not pitch and so with Payano probably going 5-6 innings, middle relievers Joe Filomeno and Shane McCain will probably get looks to bridge the game to Dian.

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.

Series Preview: Asheville at Hickory July 22-25

The Hickory Crawdads begin a seven-game road trip with a three-game series against the Asheville Tourists at McCormick Park.

Probables (Hickory/ Asheville):

Wednesday: Cody Buckel (RH, 0-4, 3.32) vs. Sam Howard (RH, 4-8, 4.24)

Thursday: Brett Martin (LH, 4-4, 3.31) vs. Helmis Rodriguez (LH, 7-4, 3.49)

Friday: Ariel Jurado (RH, 10-0, 2.10) vs. Ryan Castellani (RH, 0-6, 4.04)

Recent Series History:

The Crawdads are 5-1 against the Tourists in 2015, including a four-game sweep at McCormick back in April. Over the last three seasons, Hickory is 11-1 at Asheville and 20-16 since 2009.

Entering the Series – Hickory:

The Crawdads (56-37 overall, 12-13 second half) dropped the final two games of a series against Augusta to finish a weeklong homestand at 4-3. After scoring 38 runs in the first four games of the homestand, Hickory scratched out just five over the final three. The lineup is batting .254/.319.382 for the season in what has been a down year for offense in the South Atlantic League. Hickory is second in the SAL with 66 homers.

After scuffling on the last road trip, the pitching staff returned to its old self by allowing seven earned runs over the last five games. Overall, the club leads the SAL in ERA (2.90), WHIP (1.17), and has given up the fewest hits, runs and earned runs.

Defensively, the Crawdads have committed a SAL-low of 80 errors.

Entering the series- Asheville:

The Tourists (48-46, 16-8) took the last three games at Greenville to close out a 5-2 road trip. Oddly Asheville is just 22-22 at home this season (5-4 second half), while carrying a winning record on the road.

As usual, the Tourists bashed mound opponents at home (.278/.353/.442), but have only scored 20 more runs at home than on the road. Opponents are hitting .288 at McCormick and 41 of the 55 home runs allowed by Tourists pitching have occurred there. Asheville has 205 stolen bases this season to lead the SAL.

Defensively, Asheville have the worst collective group in the league with 145 errors committed in 94 games (.961 fielding).

Players to watch- Hickory:

OF Luke Tendler: He continues to be among the hottest hitters in the SAL, and certainly on the Crawdads. He is leads the Crawdads in total bases and tied with Carlos Arroyo for the most hits (28) in the second half. His 21 RBI are second in the SAL. For the year, Tendler is fourth in doubles (23) and fifth in total bases.

CF Jose Cardona: Has become a catalyst for the offense since moving to the leadoff spot. Before ending the homestand 0-for-8, Cardona had a nine-game hitting streak during which he went 17-for-34, scored 12 runs, knocked in 10 runs and stole seven bases. A dead-red, fastball hitter, Cardona has a .304/.375/.532 slash leading off an inning.

SS Josh Morgan: Has handled shortstop well since the injury to Michael De Leon, going 25 games without an error at the position. At the plate, he continues to hold up in his first full season. Morgan has shown a good eye with at least one walk in ten of his last 15 games (13 total) and has reached base in 15 of 18 games.

2B Carlos Arroyo: Went three straight games without a hit for the first time in his Crawdads career to close out the homestand.

OF Jairo Beras: Hitting .288 in July and July and has 23 of his 26 RBI the last two months.

SP Cody Buckel: Looking to corral control issues, has walked 15 batters and hit five in his last 23 innings (5 starts). He also has 16 Ks over last 15 innings.

SP Brett Martin: After posting his shortest start of the year (1.2 innings at Lakewood), Martin put up one of his better ones in his last outing against Greensboro when he allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings. Martin threw three-hit ball over six innings at Asheville back in April.

Ps Ariel Jurado/ Yohander Mendez: The tandem continues to wreck havoc on opposing lineups. In their five outings together, the duo has allowed 36 baserunners and struck out 39 over 34.2 innings. Separately, Mendez has a 1.15 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP in 39 innings, while Jurado has a 2.10 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP.

Players to watch – Asheville:

C Dom Nunez: The number nine prospect (mlb.com) of the Colorado Rockies has had a dominant second half with a SAL-high seven homers to go with a .373/.506/.780 slash. He was drafted in the sixth round (2013) as an infielder, but the Rockies moved him behind the plate. His 16 errors lead all catchers

CF Omar Carrizales: The Rockies No. 30 prospect currently leads the SAL in batting .328 and is fifth in OPS at .843. He has six multi-hit outings in his last ten games. The speedster has stolen 21 bases in 64 games.

OF Drew Weeks: Among the hottest hitters in the SAL with a .357/.446/.607 slash in the second half. Overall, he is second in the SAL with 24 doubles and 55 RBI. Weeks

1B Roberto Ramos: The native of Mexico has crushed the ball since joining the Tourists on July. In 16 games, Ramos has four homers and posted a .361/.420/.607 slash. The lefty is batting .421 against right-handed pitching.

SP Ryan Castellani: The Rockies second-round choice in 2014 out of Phoenix is the No. 10 prospect. He has managed to put up good numbers and McCormick (4.33 ERA) and kept the ball in the park, giving up one homer in 27 innings. Castellani has thrown five innings just twice in 18 starts.

SP Helmis Rodriguez: Currently the No. 27 prospect in the Rockies system, the lefty has walked seven and hit four in his last two starts, leading to 13 runs (9 earned) covering 5.2 innings.

RP: Josh Michalec: The Rockies’ 21st-round selection out of Baylor has six saves in eight chances this month. He can be wild at times (8 walks in last 22.1 innings), but rings up strikeouts as well (42 in 43 innings.