Results tagged ‘ Dylan Moore ’

Crawdads Strikeout History

(The following story is based on records I have at my disposal since 2005, as well as sporadic records kept by the Crawdads prior to that season. If others have further information, I welcome their inclusion here and will update.)

At Thursday’s home-opener win over Kannapolis, the Hickory Crawdads tied a club record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game. The trio of Jake Latz (8), Tai Tiedemann (5) and Nick Snyder (4) struck out 17 hitters during a 4-1 win.

With that game in mind, I thought Crawdads fans might want a look back at some of the other big strikeout games in the team’s history.

Hickory first registered 17 Ks in a nine-inning game back on May 25, 2009 in a game at Hagerstown, Md, when a pair of future major leaguers turned the trick. Right-hander Jake Brigham twirled the first five innings of shutout baseball, striking out eight and allowing three hits. Martin Perez then came in and upstaged him. The 18-year-old left-hander, then one of the pitching prospects in the minors, struck out nine over four innings and finished off a seven-hit shutout in a 6-0 win.

The individual pitcher with the most strikeouts in a single game was right-hander Jason Lakman, who on July 31, 1997 struck out 16. During that contest, he became one of the few pitchers in baseball history to struck out five in one inning when he turned the trick in the fifth.

The all-time single-game record for the team in a came back in August 2000 as part of a game that set the South Atlantic League record for most combined strikeouts in a game. Asheville and Hickory played 20 innings that day and rang up 53 strikeouts. In what was a loss, the Crawdads pitchers set 23 down on strikes. Unfortunately, the Hickory hitters set the league’s record for most whiffs in a game when they fanned 30 times.

The Crawdads got close to catching that mark a couple of times. During a 17-inning affair on May 9, 2015, Brett Martin (4), Trey Lambert (2), Adam Parks (7), David Perez (6) and Kelvin Vasquez (3) combined to strikeout 22 against Savannah. Their chance to catch and break the club mark ended on Crawdads walk-off homer by Jose Cardona.

The Crawdads has two other extra-inning games during which they struck out 20 or more batters. In a home game on May 4, 2010 against Asheville. Two future major league pitchers were among a quartet of Crawdads hurlers that fanned 20 during a 13-inning game. Starter Joe Wieland (8) and closer Josh Lueke (5), both of whom would go onto the big leagues, collected 13 with Braden Tullis (5) and Hector Nelo (2) filling in for seven others.

The other 20+ strikeout contest came during a loss in 19 innings to Rome (Ga.) on May 15, 2016. Peter Fairbanks had a pedestrian four over six innings with Blake Bass added two more in the seventh and eighth. Reliever and future big leaguer Jeffrey Springs had five over three innings before Omarlin Lopez dominated the Braves with eight in five innings. Sitting at 19 after 16 innings, the club record was in reach. Matt Ball tallied just one more in the 17th and 18th innings. With the Crawdads out of fresh arms, position player Dylan Moore threw in the 19th and was not able to register a K.

#RakersWhoPitch: Bolin’s night on the Mound

After the Hickory Crawdads were involved in so many lengthy extra-inning games last year, the Texas Rangers decided to limit the use of their pitchers in such marathon games. The result of that will be the use of position players on the mound once the game gets to a certain point. Enter Travis Bolin during Thursday night’s 12-inning win over the Kannapolis Intimidators.

Travis Bolin pitching - Lin

Travis Bolin as he prepares to deliver the pitch during Thursday night’s game vs. Kannapolis (Crystal Lin / Hickory Crawdads)

Bolin got an inkling a few days prior to Thursday’s game that he could be used as a pitcher at some point during the season, if the situation called for it. Then, it happened and no one was more surprised that Bolin.

“I came out here (to the bullpen) and threw about 20 pitches,” said Bolin. “Then they called me in. I thought they were joking at first. The last out came and the pitching coach (Jose Jaimes) called me and said, ‘Hey, you’re going in.’ And I was like, ‘Are you guys serious? You guys are actually letting me go out and throw?’ Yeah, I went out there and had a good time.”

A good time, indeed. Bolin pitched, despite the tie game and his scoreless inning was enough to get the win as Hickory scored a run for the 2-1 walk-off victory.

“That is pretty cool,” said Bolin of the decision. “I was just happy about my first strikeout, the first batter. I thought it was pretty cool.”

Bolin said he hadn’t pitched since high school and threw just a few innings then. His brother was a pitcher, and so in watching him, Bolin had some sense of pitching out of the windup, which was fairly seamless.

Travis Bolin windup - Lin

Travis Bolin windup (Crystal Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

“I’m pretty accurate when I’m trying to hit my spots,” said Bolin. “I did a pretty good  job of it last night.”

The strikeout came as the inning’s leadoff hitter Zach Remillard swung through a 2-2 fastball. Grant Massey sent then a 2-0 fastball (heck, they were all fastballs) for a 6-3 grounder.

The one wrinkle came on a walk issued to Tyler Sullivan, an at-bat Bolin said he thought the umpire squeezed him on a pitch.

Bolin said, “Man, I painted one right on the corner and he didn’t give it to me. But that’s how it goes with pitching.”

The inning ended with a groundout to second by Joel Booker. Bolin threw all fastballs – topping out at 85, though he said he could gas up to 92, but was told to keep it eased back so as to not hurt his arm – but he was prepared to use a slider if needed.

“Actually, I was going to go to throwing a slider, or a real cut-fastball, but we ended up getting the guy out on the next pitch anyway, so we didn’t have to go to that.”

The response from teammates was described by Bolin as ecstatic and the opportunity may indeed arise again to pitch.

“I asked Spike today, I said ‘Hey, now that that actually happened, is that going to happen again?’ He said, ‘Of course, that was a test. Good job.’ I was like, ‘OK, I’m ready to go.’”

Travis Bolin gets win - Lin

Travis Bolin receives congratulations as the Crawdads close on the win vs. Kannapolis (Crystal Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

 

Crawdads position players pitching:

It rarely happened in the early years of the club’s history, but as major league teams become more cautious about over using pitchers and keeping them in a routine, position players throwing in games is becoming more common.

Over the first 15 seasons, just five position players pitched for Hickory. None did until 1999 and then from 2007 until 2013, but since 2014 it’s happened ten times, five of those in 2016.

Below is an overview of those position players who have climbed the hill.

1999: 1B Carlos Rivera – and a future big leaguer – mopped up in a game during which he gave up a run on two hits in an inning.

2000: 1B/ OF Jason Landreth allowed three hits and walk, all of which scored during his lone inning.

2000: C Jose Hernandez walked the only batter he faced and took the loss.

May 15, 2005: 2B Dan Schwartzbauer. The Crawdads were completing a suspended game from the night before against Lake County (OH), which eventually went to extra innings. After the Captains scored three in the 11th – and with another full nine-inning game to go – Crawdads manager Jeff Branson brought in Schwartzbauer, who struck out the only batter he faced.

Schwartzbauer 2

Dan Schwartzbauer fanned the only player he faced in 2005.

June 28, 2007: 2B Jose J. De Los Santos. In the night cap of a doubleheader against Kannapolis, the Crawdads had blown a 5-2 lead and ran out of available arms to pitch in extra innings. De Los Santos was brought in and gave up six runs to take the loss in an 11-5 defeat.

May 23, 2013: LF Nick Vickerson. In one of the wildest games in Crawdads history – both managers were ejected and a walk-off homer was reversed – the Kannapolis Intimidators scored four runs in the top of the 12th to take the lead. Vickerson got Justin Jirschele – the current Intimidators manager – to hit into a fielder’s choice. The Crawdads went on to score five in the bottom of the inning for a 7-6 win.

June 25, 2014: IF Janluis Castro. In mop-up duty vs. Kannapolis, Castro retired all four batters he faced, fanning two.

July 8, 2014: IF Janluis Castro. Became the first Crawdads position player to pitch twice as he entered a game during a blowout loss to the Lexington Legends. Gave up two hits, but struck out two during a scoreless ninth inning.

Janluis Castro

Normally an infielder, Janluis Castro pitched in three times in 2014, including back-to-back games. (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

July 9, 2014: 2B Janluis Casto. The Legends scored three in the top of the 14th and rather than waste a pitcher, Castro moved over from second and strike out the only batter he faced. For the season, Castro allowed two hits and struck out five of the ten hitters he faced.

August 8, 2015: C Jonathan Meyer. Became the first position player to pitch on the road since 2000. Gave up a walk-off, three-run homer at Lakewood in the 18th inning for the loss.

May 15, 2016: 1B Dylan Moore. Back-to-back errors on what should’ve been inning-ending double play balls played a big role in seven unearned runs during a 9-2 loss to the Rome Braves in 19 innings.

Dylan Moore pitching

Dylan Moore vs. Rome (Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

June 6, 2016: OF Josh Altman. The utilityman worked around two hits in the 13th inning during a game with Greensboro. However, two errors were costly in the 14th as Hickory dropped a 6-5 loss to the Grasshoppers.

Josh Altmann pitching - Lin

Josh Altmann holds a runner on while pitching during an extra-inning game vs. Greensboro (Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

July 15, 2016. C Chuck Moorman. The starting catcher entered the game during a blowout loss to West Virginia and retired both batters he faced with one strikeout.

Chuck Moorman pitching

Normally a catch, Chuck Moorman catches the view from the mound (Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

 

July 24, 2016. OF Connor McKay. A 15-3 blowout at Lakewood precipitated the use of McKay in the ninth, who retired all three batters he faced.

July 30, 2016. OF Connor McKay. After the Crawdads gave up four runs in the top of the 10th against Hagerstown, McKay was brought in and he retired the lone batter he faced.

Connor McKay pitching - Lin

Connor McKay pitched twice for the Crawdads in 2016 (Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

Forbes HR fortune leads Crawdads Victory

Ti’Quan Forbes lined a solo homer in the sixth and a pair of relief pitchers spun five shutout innings to give the Hickory Crawdads a 4-3 win over the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws Thursday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

With the win, Hickory (48-43 overall, 10-11 second half) salvaged the final contest of a three-game series with their South Atlantic League Northern Division rival and snapped a four-game home losing streak. Lakewood (39-51, 11-10) had won the first two games of the series and the loss interrupts a stretch in which the BlueClaws had won six of their last seven.

The Crawdads will begin the back half of the two-team homestand on Friday as they host the West Virginia Power in a four-game series.

After Hickory’s Dillon Tate and Lakewood’s Jose Taveras breezed through the first inning, both hand trouble keeping the opposing lineups in check during their remaining tenures on the hill.

The BlueClaws struck first in the second. Damek Tomscha singled to left to open the inning. One out later, Wilson Garcia sneaked a groundball through the right side before Deivi Grullon singled in Tomscha. Tate held Lakewood at bay from inflicting further damage as he got Grenny Cumana and Brendon Hayden to ground out.

Hickory answered in the bottom of the inning, as Josh Altmann doubled and scored on Tyler Sanchez’s bloop single to left-center.

Lakewood countered in the third when Tomscha’s sacrifice fly scored Zack Coppola. Sherman Lacrus quickly brought the Crawdads even again to start the bottom of the inning when he homered to left-center – his first of the season.

Grullon cracked his third homer (6) against the Crawdads in as many games in the series to put the BlueClaws up again 3-2 in the fourth. Lakewood put two other runners aboard in the inning, but Tate worked out of the inning by getting Josh Tobias to foul out to Forbes along the dugout at third.

A Lakewood error got the Crawdads even again in the fifth. With two outs, Frandy De La Rosa singled and moved to third on Dylan Moore’s bloop single to right. With Josh Altmann at the plate, BlueClaws catcher Grullon attempted a pickoff of Moore at first. First baseman Wilson Garcia allowed the throw to trickle away, which allowed De La Rosa to scamper to the plate with the tying run.

In the sixth, Forbes lined a fastball from Ismael Cabrera (0-1) just over the wall in left-center, which turned out to be the final margin of the game. That single-run margin, however, was not without peril. After Joe Palumbo (6-3) was relatively untouched from the fifth through the seventh innings, the BlueClaws threatened after one out in the eighth. Brandon Hayden walked and Zack Coppola placed a single into shallow left field.

Manager Steve Mintz brought in Garrett Brummett to replace Palumbo. Cornelius Randolph greeted Brummett with a sharp single to right that loaded the bases.

Brummett got Josh Tobias to pop up to De La Rosa at second and Tomscha followed with a popup in front of home plate. With a quartet surrounding the play, it took a diving play by first baseman Altmann to complete the out and hold the BlueClaws scoreless.

From there, Brummett retired the side in order in the ninth for his first pro save.

Game story July 13: Lakewood survives heat, Crawdads rally

After the Hickory Crawdads tied the game in the ninth, the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws struck for three runs in the 11th to take a 6-3 win on a hot, muggy Wednesday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win was the second straight by Lakewood (39-50 overall, 11-9 second half) at Hickory and overall their sixth out of the last seven games.

Hickory (47-43, 9-11) dropped to 19-23 at home this season and lost its fourth straight at home. The Crawdads are assured of continuing a drought in which they have not won a home series since taking three of four vs. Lexington (Ky.) from April 29 to May 2. Since that time, the Crawdads have lost six series and tied two others (9-19 overall).

As they did in game one of the series on Monday, the Crawdads took the early lead in the second. Ti’Quan Forbes tripled just past the dive of Jose Pujols in right to score Josh Altmann, who had singled and stole second earlier.

Lakewood rebounded with a two-out rally in the fourth as Damek Tomscha singled and Pujols followed with a two-run blast to right, his South Atlantic League leading 17th of the season.

Both starting pitchers held the opposing lineups from wreaking further damage through five innings. Lakewood’s Franklyn Kilome allowed three hits and two walks, and struck out seven. His counterpart Wes Benjamin gave up five hits to go with his two runs allowed and struck out five.

BlueClaws reliever Skylar Hunter contributed to his downfall in the sixth as an errant pickoff attempt of Frandy De La Rosa at first skipped into foul territory in right field. De La Rosa moved to third and scored when Tyler Sanchez singled to left.

A controversial play led directly to a run for Lakewood in the seventh inning. With runners at first and second and two outs, Zack Coppola singled on what looked to be a routine grounder to second. Frandy De La Rosa charged the ball and as he entered the baseline between first and second, the runner, Edgar Cabral, ran into De La Rosa, knocking De La Rosa flat and sending the glove high into the air. Cabral was ruled safe at second with Wilson Garcia scoring on the play from second. De La Rosa remained in the game, but Cabral was taken out after struggling to run to third.

Crawdads manager Steve Mintz argued the call and was eventually ejected from the game.

The score remained 3-2 until two outs in the ninth. Forbes singled and scored all the way from first when Pujols mishandled a bloop single into right by Yeyson Yrizarri.

Emerson Martinez (0-2) entered the game for Hickory in the 11th and immediately walked Pujols. A sacrifice moved him to second before Martinez got Duran to bounce to short. After a wild pitch, Grenny Cumana singled in Pujols and then scored on Deivi Grullon’s second homer in as many games.

Jeff Springer struck out two of the three batters he faced to close out his three-inning relief outing and pick up the win (1-0).

Crawdads leave ducks on the pond:

As has been the case much of the year, the Crawdads missed several opportunities to add runs to their ledger and finished the game 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

A couple of stout defensive plays contributed to Hickory’s woes. Though Altmann eventually scored from third in the second, Ricky Valencia missed an RBI when second baseman Josh Tobias, who was playing in to cut off the runner at third from scoring, made a diving stab of a sharp grounder to hold Altmann and retire Valencia.

With Forbes at third, the Crawdads had a chance to take the lead in the seventh, Eric Jenkins chopped a ball to the left of the mound. Third baseman Damek Tomscha made a hard-charging play to the ball and short armed a quick throw to first to barely catch the speedy Jenkins and end the inning.

Otherwise, the Crawdads flailed away at the plate and that cost them a scoring chance in the fourth. Dylan Moore and Altmann walked to start the inning and moved up to second and third on Kilome’s wild pitch. With his fastball command perilous at times, Kilome turned to the slider to get Tyler Sanchez, Valencia and Forbes on strikeouts.

Altmann again whiffed in the sixth with a runner at third in the sixth, though De La Rosa did eventually score in the inning.

For the season with runners in scoring position, the Crawdads collectively have a slash of .239/.316/.343. With the bases loaded, it is .183/.243/.267.

Forbes fortunes continue at third:

What is becoming routine this season, Forbes showed off the leather with a couple more quick grabs of short hops in the game, including perhaps his best of the season in the tenth. On a sharp grounder by Tomscha, Forbes made a sprawling backhand pick of a short hop. Then seated with his right leg bent behind him, Forbes got enough on a throw across the diamond to get Tomscha by a step.

Benjamin money:

Wes Benjamin continued a steady progression through the 2016 season on Wednesday night. Coming off Tommy John surgery, the goal was to steer the lefty through good health and thus far it is working. Of his 12 starts, Benjamin has completed five or more innings in ten of them. In those ten starts, he has given up more than three runs just once and has walked more than one batter in just two of his 15 overall appearances (13 walks overall in 71 innings)

Benjamin is a guy that spots his fastball (90-91) well around the strike zone. He’ll mix in a change and a curve for show and used both to good effect today. Benjamin was especially tough in a couple of long battles with Phillies No. 5 (mlb.com) prospect Cornelius Randolph, who fouled off several pitches in both appearances against Benjamin. After Benjamin spun a high-and-tight fastball to the lefty in the first, he spotted a 92 mph pitch on the corner at the knees to get the out. In the third, it was a change on the inside corner that got the job done for a caught looking K.

Benjamin has 26 Ks over his last 20.1 innings of work.

Martinez a one-trick pony:

Emerson Martinez had his second tough outing in a row in a win/lose situation and has been tagged for the loss in both.

On Saturday at Rome (Ga.), it was two walks and two wild pitches that led to two runs scored in the ninth for a Braves walkoff win. On Wednesday afternoon, it was the inability to throw the curve for strikes that did him in. By my count, all five of them were well out of the strike zone, staying up and well to the 3B corner side of the plate. With that info in hand, the BlueClaws hitters were able to pick out a fastball to their liking and went to the attack. Cumana’s RBI single and Grullon’s homer were both on fastballs down the middle.

Moore joins the club:

Dylan Moore stole his 30th base of the season when he swiped second in the fourth inning. He joins teammate Eric Jenkins in the 30-steal club, as the outfielder already has 39. The two become the sixth duo in club history to steal 30 or more in a season, the first since Odubel Herrera (34) and Christian Villanueva (32) turned the trick in 2011.

Yrizarri stays hot:

Yeyson Yrizarri had two more hits on Wednesday and he now has multi-hit games in six straight (11-for-22). Currently in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak, the 19-year-old has 11 RBI and 0 strikeouts in that span.

Game Story July 12: Lakewood Cools Hot Crawdads Bats

The Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws built a five-run lead, then fended off a late charge in claiming a 6-4 win over the Hickory Crawdads Tuesday night at L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory.

The win by the BlueClaws (39-49 overall, 10-9 second half) – their fifth in six games – was the first in four meetings with the Crawdads (47-42, 9-10) this season. Hickory entered the game on the heels of a 5-2 road trip, but continued its woes at home, dropping to 19-22 at Frans this season.

Behind starter Matt Ball, the Crawdads eked out a 1-0 lead through five innings. The lone run came when Josh Altmann ripped a sharp, one-hop grounder past second baseman Josh Tobias to score Eduard Pinto. Ball allowed four hits and three walks over five shutout innings and struck out five.

Lakewood countered with a strong start by Seranthony Dominguez (1-1), who allowed just the one run on five hits and struck out three.

The BlueClaws took the lead for good against reliever Blake Bass (3-2) in the sixth. Josh Tobias singled to left and moved to third on Damek Tomscha’s double. Wilson Garcia’s grounder to second scored Tobias before Jose Pujols singled in Tomscha to take a 2-1 lead.

Dominguez and reliever Sutter McLoughlin held the Crawdads lineup in check, retiring 13 in a row from the fourth through the eighth.

Lakewood blew the game open in the ninth against John Werner. With one out, Cornelius Randolph doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch. Deivi Grullon then cracked a two-run homer to left to open the lead to 4-1. Tobias later singled in two more for Lakewood’s final runs.

Hickory’s lineup reawakened in the bottom of the ninth to make it a game. Pinto singled and scored on Dylan Moore’s double to left-center. After McLoughlin walked Altmann, Zach Morris entered the game to face Yeyson Yrizarri. Moore and Altmann worked a double steal and then both scored on Yriarri’s single up the middle. Morris then settled down to strike out Chuck Moorman and got the final out of the game when Ricky Valencia lined out to Carlos Duran in the left-centerfield gap.

 

Hot sticks stymied:

The Crawdads entered the game after scoring six or more runs over the past five games, and it appeared they would another to the list after a strong first inning. However, Dominguez settled down and overwhelmed the lineup with a lively, cutting fastball that stayed in the 95-97 mph range. The pitch was especially effective in running into the hands of left-handed hitters, elliciting weak contact. Early on, Dominguez was unable to throw the slider for strikes and dumped the pitch pretty much after the second inning, although he got Chuck Moorman to chase two of them to end the fourth.

Sutter McLoughlin had an effective changeup (83-84) to compliment a 93-94 mph fastball. The ball seemed to jump from the righty after a slow windup and delivery.

 

Pinto continues to smolder:

One day after winning the South Atlantic League’s hitter of the week award (.567/.581/.833) Hickory’s Eduard Pinto continued to hit the ball hard and picked up two hits on the night to extend his hitting streak to nine. In seven of those games, he has two or more hits. Pinto was one of the few hitters to solve the fastball of Dominguez, getting the bat out early to pull it into right for a single in the first.. A  liner to short in the third turned into a double play in the third. Another line out came in the sixth, this one to right. He saw just one offspeed pitch on the night, a changeup which he lined for a single to center in the ninth to start the Crawdads final rally.

Opportunity knocked but thrice:

Hickory missed chances to open up its early lead and it proved to be costly in the game’s ultimate result. On Altmann’s RBI single in the first, Dylan Moore rounded the bag aggressively at third, but manager Steve Mintz decided to hold him at the last moment. Moore slipped and fell trying to stop, then was tagged out trying to retreat to third.

In the second, Hickory led off with an infield hit by Yeyson Yrizarri, who used a grounder and a balk to move to third. With two outs, Connor McKay built a 3-0 count, but eventually struck out.

Eric Jenkins doubled and Frandy De La Rosa walked to start the third. Pinto’s liner to short turned into a double play that erased Jenkins. The play nearly became a triple play, but De La Rosa was able to scamper back to first.

Prevent defense actually works:

Only a no-doubles defense kept pinch-hitter Ricky Valencia from keeping the ninth inning alive, as his hard liner into the LCF gap was taken by Duran, who was playing near the track in center.

Failing to take Ball home:

Matt Ball held steady command in the early going for Hickory. It looked like he held mostly to a (94-96) / slider diet. The slider did much of the dirty work for him, ringing up four Ks, all swinging. A 94 mph was called for a third strike to finish off Zach Coppola in the third.

Ball’s fastball control began to fade in the fourth as he walked a pair of hitters. But after a mound visit, a fastball from Ball broke the bat of Jose Pujols and turned the ensuing weak grounder into a double play.

In the fifth, Lakewood put two on with two outs, the second a walk by Ball of Coppola. However, Duran undercut a hanging slider and weakly flew out to left.

No balm for relief:

Bass had a rough sixth inning, but it didn’t compare to the tough night for Werner in the ninth. Lakewood hitters jumped Bass’ fastball early in the count to start the rally, however, it was a broken bat single by Pujols on a slider that put Lakewood ahead. Bass eventually recorded the final two outs of the inning to keep the Crawdads in the game.

In the ninth, it was Werner’s slider that the BlueClaws attacked effectively, when it crossed the plate. Grullon hammered a hanger for an insurance, two-run homer. Randolph and Emmanuel Marrero also hit the pitch hard for base knocks.

But with all the problems with the slider, it was the demeanor for Werner that was evident. Werner argued that the homer by Grullon was foul – it appeared fair from the press box. A few slight kicks to the rubber and just general body language issues after a walk eventually brought manager Steve Mintz to the mound for a rare non-pitching change visit.

The homer was the sixth allowed by Werner, all of them coming since June 19 (seven appearance, 11.2 innings) when Yermin Mercedes took him deep in the ninth inning of a loss to Delmarva (Md.).

Interview with Mike Daly Part 2: Jenkins, Yrizarri & the Crawdads Hitters

This is part two of a lengthy interview I did with Texas Rangers Senior Director of Minor League Operations Mike Daly during the last homestand.

In part one, we talked about two of the higher profile prospects, Hickory Crawdads second baseman Andy Ibanez and starting pitcher Dillon Tate.

Part two is a look at the Crawdads hitters, with a longer look at 2015 second round pick, outfielder Eric Jenkins, as well as at shortstop prospect Yeyson Yrizarri.

 

Eric Jenkins struggling now. The speed doesn’t go into a slump and he’s been able to use that some, but a bit of a work in progress at the plate. We’re noticing sometimes he’s having difficult in fastball counts being able to be ready for those pitches. He seems to be seeing the breaking ball a little bit better. How is his progress as you see it at this point?

Daly: Any time that a young player, especially a high school kid, comes out and plays his first full season here in the South Atlantic League, it is a challenge. It is a grind of 140 games. It’s something that these guys have never gone through before. So understand that each and every night, no matter if you’re in a slump or if you’re hot, you have to be ready to play at 7:00 in front of fans with the scoreboard on. That’s a great challenge.

Eric’s got tremendous speed. He has a game-changing type speed. He’s a plus defender in the outfield. But these guys, as they start to play teams, professional pitchers that know how to attack hitters, that have scouting reports on Eric and other players it becomes like a big challenge for these guys. Eric, Yrizarri (Yeyson), (Ti’Quan) Forbes, they need to make adjustments and understand  that when the league adjusts to you, you need to adjust to the league.

So where Eric’s at, we think that it’s just him going through the first year of playing each and every day. His speed tool is great. It allows him to bunt. It allows him to put the ball on the ground and make some of the infielders really hustle in terms of having to throw to first base. Frankly with that speed, it should never be a prolonged slump, but I think with Eric, the fact that each and every day he’s healthy, he’s on the field and getting through that first year grind here in Hickory.

 

I have some people asking, “Why are they keeping him at the top of the order, why not drop him down?” And my response has been he’s got to learn how to hit lead-off and this is the place to do it. Have the Rangers basically wanted to see that through. at least at this point?

Daly: Most definitely, I mean it’s game-changing type speed. He’s a guy that had some success last year when we drafted him right away out in Arizona and was a part of the championship team here last year.  We’ve got a lot of confidence in Eric. He’s going to have some struggles, but Eric needs to work through that and he needs to know that the organization is behind him and he has the confidence to go up there and try to set the table for the meat of the lineup.

We want him to feel that pressure, if you will, batting leadoff. We want him to go up there and find a way to get on base and identify what the pitcher is throwing that night. So, we think it’s really good for Eric and he’s going to be at the top of the lineup here for some time to come.

 

 

I’ve enjoyed watching Yeyson Yrizarri play. I love defense. I loved watching Michael De Leon play shortstop the last two years. You guys have run some guys through the last two years that can flat out play defense and (Yrizarri) is certainly at the top of the list for me. He’s very well put together for a 19-year-old and does some things well for his age and his level. Let me ask you about his progression.

Daly: He’s a strong and durable young man. Obviously, he’s got some strong blood lines there, being the nephew of Deivi Cruz. He was a guy that had a really strong body when we signed him. It’s been step-by-step. He started out in the Dominican Summer League and he earned his way to Arizona. Last year, he played under the lights out there in Spokane.

You’re right, he’s here in a long line of shortstops that we’ve been lucky enough to send here to Hickory. It’s a cannon. It’s a bazooka over there at shortstop. He loves to play. I think it’s the same kind of thing that Eric Jenkins is going through – the grind of playing each and every night, playing against teams that have seen him multiple times and have an idea of how to pitch you and have an idea what some of your weaknesses are. It’ s a great challenge for Yeyson to make some adjustments with the bat. But he shows some power at the plate. He’s a plus shortstop with an absolute bazooka.

 

He seems like at the plate to be somebody that is a little bit more advanced than a Jenkins or a Forbes or other 18, 19 year olds. He’s able to work deeper into counts. He may eventually strike out or hit a week groundball, but he seems to have a better idea of how to go about an at-bat at this point.

Daly: Definitely, and I think it’s a credit to him. Yeyson has a very good aptitude and he’s also in a situation in where he signed in July of 2013, where Eric signed in June of 2015. So, Yeyson’s had a little bit more at-bats. He’s been in the organization almost two years longer. He’s been through more games in Arizona and Spokane, so I think that might be a little bit of a difference in terms of just a little bit more experience for Yeyson Yrizarri versus a guy like Eric Jenkins. But I think both those guys have great aptitudes and it’s exciting to see them go through their first full season here together. Yeyson has a clear idea of what he’s trying to do at the plate and it’s exciting to see.

 

Who is somebody at the plate that is maybe under the radar that a fan might want to pay attention to that is otherwise not being talked about?

Daly: I say, it’s like a few guys. I think it’s been a really good catching tandem with Chuck Moorman and Tyler Sanchez. I think those guys have really invested in our pitchers. They’ve done a really good job behind the plate and put together some really nice at-bats.

Dylan Moore playing first base, second base, shortstop and third base as been a really good player right in the middle of the lineup there for Steve Mintz. He’s a guy that brings a lot to the table and is able to bring lots of versatility for Steve Mintz every night to be able to play him at a lot of different positions.

I think Ti’Quan Forbes over there at third base is another guy that played next to Yrizarri last year at Spokane and the year before that in Arizona. He’s a guy that continues to get bigger and stronger and put together good at-bats and he’s been real exciting.

Eduard Pinto is a guy that certainly the Hickory fans have had some experience with and they see how he’s come back from the tragedy that was going on in his life. He’s a guy that’s been in the organization for four or five years, but always puts together a good at bat.

LeDarious Clark is an interesting guy that really lit it up last year in Spokane and is as athletic as they come, and has tools, and just being able to see how he’s gone about it each and every game and how he’s continued to get more and more experience and he’s starting to tie in his physical attributes with what he’s learned here on a daily basis.

I think all of the position players are very interesting at this point for the Crawdads.

 

Do you like how the team is developing with the speed game?

Daly: Definitely. I think it’s a credit to Steve Mintz to push our guys to run and to give a lot of them green lights and not to hold them back. I think it’s about development and how these guys are learning what they’re capable of doing and to see them have a lot of success. We have some speed on the team and it’s good to see these guys be aggressive and to take chances on the base paths and to see the success that they’re having.

It’s a dog fight. Hagerstown is a really good team and this whole South Atlantic League is really good. It’s good to see these guys compete and battle to try and win the first half.

Greensboro Stays Hot, Keeps Crawdads Slumping

The Greensboro Grasshoppers pushed across two runs in the top of the ninth and defeated the Hickory Crawdads 3-1 Thursday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win was the ninth out of the last ten for Greensboro (22-25) and it also sent the Crawdads (28-19) to their seventh loss in nine games. The Grasshoppers beat Hickory for the first time in seven games this season.

What Happened?:

It was another low scoring affair during the Crawdads homestand, as Hickory and its opponents have combined for 18 runs in four games.

Both teams brought across runs in the third inning. Greensboro got its run when Zach Sullivan doubled with one out and scored on Anfernee Seymour’s single. Hickory answered in the of bottom half when LeDarious Clark ambushed a first-pitch fastball by Steven Farnworth for a homer to left.

Farnworth pitched the first six innings for Greensboro and allowed one run on five hits with two strikeouts. His counterpart Wes Benjamin countered with his lone run allowed on three hits and struck out six over five innings.

Blake Bass threw three scoreless innings for Hickory and Jeff Kinley (3-2) negotiated around three walks to log two scoreless innings.

Greensboro scored the go ahead runs in the ninth against reliever Joe Palumbo (3-2). With one out, Josh Naylor walked and stole second. One out later, Angel Reyes joined Naylor with a walk of his own. Roy Morales and Justin Twine each picked up RBI singles to right to account for the final margin.

Hickory put runners on second and third with one out against closer C.J. Robinson. But Robinson struck out Eduard Pinto and Clark to end the game and get his ninth save of the season.

The two teams will continue their series on Friday at 7 p.m.

 

Benjamin money on the mound:

Benjamin handled the Grasshoppers easily in his only other start against them on April 11 (4 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K) and added to that ledger on Thursday. He hurled a fastball that ranged in the 91-93 range and spotted it effectively around the plate. Of the six Ks he registered, three of those came on fastballs, two looking. The one mistake was a 93 mph up to Seymour that he smoked to center.

Changeup held in the 84-86 range with two missed bats, both for strikeouts. He sprinkled in an occasional curve, including one that fanned Isael Soto. Seymour’s double came on a curve that he went down to get.

Overall, Benjamin threw first-pitch strikes to 13 of 18 hitters and had 41 strikes out of 65 pitches.

 

Bass rebounds:

Blake had little trouble with the Grasshoppers and rebounded after allowing runs in his previous two outings. The 6-7 righty allowed two hits and struck out one over three scoreless innings.  His fastball ranged in the 91-92 with a change and it looked like just one slider, which he used the strike out Angel Reyes.

Baby Steps at the plate:

The ledger says Hickory had six hits, but the lineup squared up several pitches that went straight to fielders.

After Ibanez walked in the ninth, Tyler Sanchez roped a fastball that went straight to Sullivan in center.

Jenkins, who had struggled with fastballs during the Rome series, seemed back on track Thursday. He took a pitch deep to right in the first and lined one to right for a single in the third. His 4-3 grounder in the sixth was smoked, but right to Justin Twine at second. The walk in the eighth was arguably his best AB of the homestand as he laid off a couple of fastballs off the plate and then ignored a curve to work a walk.

There are still examples of the lineup missing fastballs on fastball counts, but on Thursday, they were too few to mention.

Moore fancy footwork at 1B:

Moore made a couple of tough plays on throws. In the fourth, a liner from Reyes was snared by Frandy De La Rosa at third. His quick throw to first caused Moore to shift feet and take the throw to the outfield side of the bag, which he held for the out.

In the sixth, a bunt by Seymour was pounced on by catcher Tyler Sanchez, who fired a bullet to first. Moore had to tap dance across the bag to catch the throw and hold the base for the out.

 

Greensboro adjusted to Clark:

After Clark jumped the first-pitch fastball in the third, he saw only two more fastballs – one lined to left in the fifth. In the final AB of the game, Robinson threw two sliders that Clark fouled off, then came back with a curveball over the inside corner for the final out of the game.

Braves Hop Over Crawdads 3-2

 

The Rome (Ga.) Braves scored three runs in the fourth to edge the Hickory Crawdads 3-2 during a Wednesday morning contest held at Hickory’s L.P. Frans Stadium.

 

What Happened?:

What had been a tough-hitting  series (14 total runs in the three games) continued on Wednesday as for the most part Rome’s Ricardo Sanchez and Hickory’s Erik Swanson held the opposing lineups in check.

Hickory (28-18) scored both of its runs in the second as Dylan Moore walked and Eduard Pinto followed with a two-run homer that just skimmed the tip of the fence in the rightfield corner.

The Braves (18-28) got their rally started with one out in the fourth as a ground ball to second baseman Andy Ibanez caromed wildly to Ibanez’s right for a single. A four-pitch walk to Wigberto Nevarez and a single by Jonathan Morales loaded the bases. Swanson (3-1) issued a second four-pitch walk in the inning, this time to Justin Ellison to score the first run. Carlos Castro popped up to first, but Alejandro Salazar singled in two runs to provide what turned out to be the game’s final margin.

Sanchez (3-4) allowed just the two runs on two hits with two strikeouts and two walks over 5.2 innings. He left in the sixth due to a shoulder injury.

Oriel Caicedo finished up for the Braves, though he had to work out of a Crawdads rally in the ninth. With two outs, Ibanez and Moore singled and Pinto walked to load the bases. However, Caicedo got Yeyson Yrizarri to pop to first to end the game.

Game management the difference:

The difference in the game was the ability of the two starters to work out of their one trouble spot in the game.

Sanchez:

In the second, Sanchez was clearly affected by a 3-2 pitch to the right-handed Moore that appeared to catch the outside corner, but was called ball four. After a fastball away to the lefty Pinto, a fastball in was pulled down the line and went about 333 feet and barely cleared the 10-foot fence.

After Yrizarri flew out to center, Ti’Quan Forbes beat out an infield hit to short.

The inning seemed to affect Sanchez, as he took several trips around the mound between pitches to collect himself. It took mound visits by the shortstop Salazar, the catcher Nevarez and finally Braves pitching coach Dan Meyer to settle down the 19-year-old lefty. Sanchez then got Chuck Moorman to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Swanson:

It appeared that Swanson was a candidate for a “Maddux” after needing 30 pitches to get through three innings. After getting Ray-Patrick Didder to ground to short, the inning began to unravel as Swanson’s pinpoint control with the fastball suddenly left him.

Four straight 95 mph pitches sailed to the righty’s glove side. Morales was able to get a seeing-eye single into left to load the bases before four straight fastballs then went off the plate arm side.

Castro popped up a 2-2 fastball onto the infield and then it appeared Swanson was going to keep the lead when he started Salazar 0-2. But a slider to Salazar caught a lot of the plate and he lined it hard to left and that turned out to be the ball game.

 

Stellar play in the field:

Third baseman Frandy De La Rosa and shortstop Yrizarri make stellar plays in support of Swanson in the second. De La Rosa snapped up a tough short-hop off the bat of Ellison to get the out. Yrizarri then made a grab of a grounder deep in the hole and then made a Jeter-like jump throw on the money to first to retire the slowfooted Castro.

 

Missed hitter’s counts:

What was an blip in the game log in the second turned out to be a key play as Moorman pulled a 2-1 fastball into a double play to keep Sanchez in the game with only two runs. But other hitters missed out on hitter’s counts as well.

In the third, Jenkins laid off a pair of curveballs away, but then mistimed a fastball and popped it to third.

One inning later, Moore worked a 2-0 count as two secondary pitches missed. But he, too, missed a fastball and bounced weakly to second.

In the fifth, De La Rosa saw a 2-0 fastball and bounced it to third.

Said Crawdads manager Steve Mintz after the game, “I don’t know why we couldn’t figure that guy out. I don’t know why we were getting in counts to hit and we couldn’t square up any balls.”

Crawdads Fried Braves

(I apologize in advance for grammatical/ spelling errors. Been up since 2:45 a.m.)

 

The Hickory Crawdads put together a big first inning and made it stand up for a 3-1 victory over the Rome (Ga.) Braves in game two of a three-game series at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win by the host Crawdads evens the series at 1-1 after the Braves took the first game on Monday. Hickory (28-17) remains one-half game behind the Hagerstown (Md.) Suns in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division chase. The Suns stayed in first by virtue of a 3-0 win at Lakewood (N.J.). Rome drops to 17-28, which is last in the Southern Division.

What Happened?:

Hickory scored all three runs in the first inning against Braves starter Max Fried. With one out, Dylan Moore and Andy Ibanez both singled and then pulled off a double steal that set up RBI singles by Tyler Sanchez and Eduard Pinto. After LeDarious Clark struck out, Ti’Quan Forbes singled in Sanchez to complete the scoring.

That turned out to be enough for a trio of Crawdads pitchers, led by starter Jonathan Hernandez (5-3). The 19-year-old right-hander allowed one run over six innings on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts. Matt Ball then pitched two scoreless innings and struck out two before John Werner closed out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

The Braves put just one runner past second and it turned into their only run in the fifth. Leudys Baez singled and moved to third on Yeudi Grullon’s double. Ray-Partrick Didder’s grounder scored Baez.

Max Fried (2-3) settled down and did not allow a hit after the second inning and struck out four with three walks.

Hernandez hurling heat:

Pretty much the bulk of the work for Hernandez came on the fastball, which hung in the 92-95 range and touched 97 as he overthrew a pair of fastballs to Lucas Herbert in walking him with two outs in the sixth. He settled down and Alejandro Salazar to bounce to third to complete his outing.

For my untrained eyes, it seems that when Hernandez is in control of his delivery, he is able to spot the fastball nearly at will at the knees. When he begins to fall to the first base side, the pitch travels to the glove side.

By my count he had eight missed bats with the fastball with most of that coming at the expense of Braves 3B prospect Austin Riley. Hernandez carved up his fellow 19-year-old as the right-handed Riley swung through a pair of fastballs and then took a 92-mph pitch on the outside corner at the knees. In the third, Riley lost on a five-pitch at-bat by swinging past a 95-mph heater. Hernandez completed the hat trick, with a slider off the plate that Riley missed and then blew two fastballs by him.

The majority of his secondaries appeared to be his slider, which didn’t have much of a bit, but was enough to work the timing of the Rome hitters. He missed badly on an 0-2 pitch that Herbert lined hard to right. Other than Juan Grullon’s double in the fifth, the Braves were unable to make solid contract against Hernandez.

Crawdads offense shines, then goes into a funk:

Manager Steve Mintz moved Dylan Moore into the second slot behind Chris Garia, who was inserted into the leadoff spot in place of Eric Jenkins. It appeared the Crawdads found the magic elixir as they pounded out five hits against Rome starter Max Fried in the first. After Moore and Ibanez picked off fastballs, Sanchez and Pinto picked off hanging curves to do damage.

Yrizarri served a curve into left to start the second and after Chris Garia fanned, Dylan Moore walked. A double steal attempt by Yrizarri and Moore blew up as Yrizarri stopped on his way to third and went back to second. However, Moore didn’t see the play ahead of him and Yrizarri was tagged out during a rundown.

As what seems to happen when the Crawdads have a blunder, the team went into a funk as the Crawdads managed only two more walks against Fried through six innings. The Crawdads finished with nine hits, but just four after the first.

Pinto showing strong arm:

The Crawdads left fielder made his second strong throw in as many nights and Alejandro Salazar was the victim both times. On Monday, Pinto threw out Salazar at the plate trying to score on a hit down the line in left. Pinto got him again on Tuesday when he tried to go first-and-third.

Relievers slam the door:

Matt Ball flamed a 94 mph fastball mixed in with a tight slider that goes for strikes. He gave up just one baserunner when Baez reached on an error in the eighth. Ball recovered to get the next two outs and shut the door. He completed Riley’s golden sombrero in the eighth with a slider in the dirt.

John Werner needed only eight pitches to close out the save. Fastball 94-95 with a slider. Works quickly and pounds strikes. Josh Altmann assisted the save with a diving catch of a sinking liner by Salazar.

Speed played role in big inning:

One key in defeating Fried was to figure out how to beat the lefty’s tough pickoff move. After Fried picked off two in his last start vs. Hickory – and in the process got Crawdads manager Steve Mintz tossed for arguing the legality of the move.

On Tuesday, the Crawdads were more careful with Fried’s move and were not picked off. The Crawdads were able to be patient and pick out pitches to run on. The key to the first was Ibanez’s single that put runners and first and second. As good as Fried’s pickoff move is, his deliver to the plate is slow. Ibanez/ Moore picked on a curve ball to move easily up a base on the double steal. Sanchez and Pinto collected on the RBI opportunities.

Hickory went on to steal five against Rome in the game; four of those came against Fried.

Lovin’ the Outcome: Hickory Edges Rome 8-7

A mistake-filled game by both teams led to a see-saw affair that the Hickory Crawdads finally were able to take an 8-7 win over the Rome (Ga.) Braves on Saturday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

Now at 24-11, Hickory holds the best record in the South Atlantic League and is 1 ½ games ahead of Hagerstown (Md.) in the Northern Division. Rome has dropped to 12-23 and is tied with Greensboro for the worst record in the SAL.

What Happened?:

A crowd of 3,486 at L.P. Frans – many in attendance for the post-game concert by Christian artists “Love and the Outcome” – were able to see two of the top pitching prospects in minor league baseball in Rome’s Max Fried (MLB.com’s No. 10 Braves prospect) and the Crawdads Dillon Tate (No. 4). However, neither of the hurlers was sharp as the offenses took to the attack.

Rome scored three against Tate in the third. Yeudi Grullon used a strong wind to send a liner to the wall in right for a double. One out later, Luke Dykstra singled him in and then stole second. Juan Yepez and Justin Ellison collected back-to-back doubles to account for the other two runs.

The Crawdads got one back against Fried in the fourth as Eric Jenkins tripled and scored on Andy Ibanez’s single. Hickory then took the lead with four runs in the fifth. Josh Altmann and Ti’Quan Forbes opened the inning with singles and advanced to second and third after a sacrifice bunt by Chuck Moorman. Frandy De La Rosa singled in both runners before Chris Garia homered to right.

Errors by De La Rosa at second and Garia in left set up the tying runs for the Braves in the sixth as Grullon eventually singled in both Justin Ellison and Bradley Keller.

Rome took the lead with a run in the seventh. With one out, Dykstra and Jonathan Morales each singled. A wild pitch moved the runners up and Dykstra scored when Yepez hit a sharp grounder to Forbes at third. Forbes was able to knock the ball down and keep Morales at second, though Dykstra scored. Ellison walked to load the bases, but Crawdads reliever Adam Choplick got Lucas Herbert to fly out to shallow right and then struck out Keller to keep the deficit at 6-5.

The ability to hold the Braves to one run in the seventh proved crucial as the Crawdads returned serve for a final time in the bottom of the inning against Braves reliever Taylor Lewis. Moorman worked a leadoff walk followed by De La Rosa’s single. The key play of the inning came on Garia’s sacrifice back to Lewis in front of the mound. Lewis fielded the ball and as he turned to look towards third, dropped the ball and allowed Garia to reach and load the bases. Lewis struck out Jenkins, but then walked Andy Ibanez to force in Moorman. Dylan Moore singled in both runners to break the tie and make it 8-6.

Rome got to within 8-7 in the eighth as Crawdads reliever Joe Palumbo hit Ray-Patrick Didder with a pitch after two outs. Didder came all the way around to score as Dystrka doubled into the corner in left.

The Braves threatened in the ninth as Yepez doubled to lead off the inning. However, he remained there as Palumbo struck out Ellison and then got Herbert and Keller on fly outs to end the game.

 

The Wind:

What started out as a light spring zephyr at game time (11 mph) turned into a small gale a couple of innings into the game with the flags starched blowing left to right. Its first victim was Crawdads CF Jenkins, who had settled under a fly ball just short of the track in center, only to realize too late the ball was to his left by 20 feet.

Grullon’s first hit of the game in the third likely was wind-aided as it carried behind LeDarious Clark in right and off the wall. However, the wind likely took a homer away from Juan Yepez, as what looked an easy shot over the fence banged off the wall instead.

Garia’s homer to right was well struck in the fifth, but under normal circumstance it probably doesn’t leave the park. Garia made a nice play to circle around and catch a fly off the bat of Lucas Herbert to curtail further damage during the Braves three-run third. However, he misplayed a ball along the wall in left, then dropped the catch to enable Rome to score two runs in the seventh.

But as the wind taketh, the wind also giveth, as in the crucial seventh, the wind held up a blooper off the bat of Herbert and allowed Clark to make a running catch.

Pitching duel a dud:

Neither Tate for Hickory, nor Fried for Rome had their best stuff on display in the game.

Tate’s fastball was a tick down in velocity that what we’re used to seeing, but still running 93-95, with an occasional 96. We noticed in the press box that the high leg-kick Tate usually has in his delivery wasn’t quite as high on Saturday, and perhaps that affected his control, which at times was spotty. The fastball in the early innings tended to miss badly to his glove side. A strikeout of Yepez looking in the first caught the outside corner to the right-handed hitter. However, catcher Chuck Moorman’s glove was set up on the inside corner.

Tate’s changeup took the brunt of the beating in the third as both Yepez and Ellison jumped on pitches up and over the plate. The slider didn’t appear to get much use, nor did it have the same bite we’re used to seeing. With all that said, Tate managed to keep his composure on the mound in tight spots. After the wind-aided double in the second, Tate recovered to make Brandon Keller look silly on the best slider of the game and then blow a fastball by Alejandro Salazar to complete the inning.

Fried is, in a sense, getting his sea legs back after missing much of the last two seasons from “Tommy John” surgery. He ran a fastball in the 90-92 range, topping out at 94, which missed very few bats. Only Clark and Ibanez missed the pitch, which both times resulted in strikeouts. The lefty did throw the occasional change, though not for strikes, nor did it catch anyone off balance when it caught the plate. His main secondary of choice was the curveball that did have pretty decent bite, the best of which came prior to Clark’s strikeout.

So, with the secondaries average and the fastball on the straight side, Hickory hitters were able to square up good contact and keep Fried in trouble. Jenkins turned on a 93 mph heater inside and rifled it into the RF corner for his triple. Garia hit a fastball hard for an out in the first, but then got to one for his homer in the fifth. Forbes two hits against Fried came on fastballs and Chuck Moorman lined a first-pitch fastball to right in the second, but for an out.

Seventh the decisive inning:

Rome missed a golden opportunity to break open the game in the seventh, as Crawdads Adam Choplick struggled with curveball command. The key at-bat came with one out in the inning after a runner had scored with Choplick facing Herbert. After seven straight balls, Choplick got a 3-0 fastball over the plate and then got Herbert to chase a curve. A fastball in on the hands resulted in a jammed pop-up that LeDarious Clark ran down as the wind blew it to him in right. Choplick then got Alejandro Salazar to strikeout on three straight pitches. Hickory made Rome pay for the missed opportunity in the bottom of the inning.

Pickoff or not?:

Mild-mannered Crawdads manager Steve Mintz got tossed between prior to the top of the fifth inning, while arguing over the legality of a pickoff move by lefty Max Fried that resulted in two pickoffs, and kept the other Crawdads runners at bay at first.

With a flamingo like stance as he began his delivery, Fried was able to hold the front leg into place long enough to entice Hickory runners to break for second and become easy pickoffs. Both Dylan Moore and Josh Altmann fell victim to the tactic in the second. The move was a key part in a double play in the third, as Ti’Quan Forbes retreated a step to first on a pitch to the plate and then was an easy out on a grounder up the middle to second.

The question by Mintz was whether or not Fried was stepping towards first on the pickoff move to first, rather than a 45-degree step that he appeared to be taking on throws to the bag.

Baserunning still a work in progress:

Pickoffs aside, there were other miscues on the bag that I’m sure will be addressed. On De La Rosa’s two-run single in the fifth, Forbes ran a stop sign but up by acting manager Marty Hagen at third. Oddly enough, Rome chose to cut the ball off, allowing Forbes to score without a throw.

Chris Garia appeared to do the same on Dylan Moore’s two-RBI single in the seventh.  On the same play, Ibanez took a wide turn around second as the ball was cut off from the outfield and was easily out during a chase in the third.

Stats not always what they seem:

My friend Scott Lucas does a minor league primer each spring during which he explains the precarious nature of earned runs. Many times, they are a tool to measure a pitcher’s effectiveness, but at times, it can be subjected to the whim of the official scorer.

Both errors committed by Hickory in the seventh were on plays I thought were 50-50 calls. I went to the error side on both calls and totally expected Rome to challenge the calls after the game (the Braves didn’t, after all). I debated in my head the Garia error against the wind factor; radio voice Aaron Cox thought the De La Rosa error was harsh. Both errors resulted in unearned runs for Jon Werner, who pitched the sixth.

Official scoring also has a minor effect on offensive stats as well. In the case above, both hitters – Ellison and Keller – had their averages nicked downward. On Garia’s sacrifice that was botched by the Rome pitcher, I had to determine whether or not Moorman should have been out at third – thereby giving Garia a time at bat – or if Garia was to be the one out – giving him a sacrifice and not charging a time at. I decided on the sacrifice. These are things that keep me awake at night.