Results tagged ‘ LeDarious Clark ’
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Rome Braves rallied with single runs in the eighth and ninth inning to claim a 3-2 over the Hickory Crawdads Monday night in the opener of a three-game series at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The loss for the Crawdads (27-17) combined with a win by Hagerstown (Md.) at Lakewood (N.J.) dropped Hickory into second place by a half-game in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division. The Crawdads have lost five of the last six games.
Although Rome (17-27) remains at the bottom of the Southern Division standings, the Braves continue to confound the Crawdads and have evened the series record at 4-4.
Hickory’s Pedro Payano and Rome’s Patrick Wiegel held the opposing offenses in check for the most part, though each contributed to their own trouble in the game.
Rome used defensive miscues to get onto the scoreboard in the second. With one out, Carlos Castro singled to right and moved to second on a passed ball by Chuck Moorman. After Payano struck out Lucas Herbert, Payano’s attempted pickoff of Castro bounced into center and moved the runner to third. Leudys Baez blooped a single to left for the RBI.
Ti’Quan Forbes got Hickory even in the third with his first pro home run, a fly ball that carried over the fence in left.
Wiegel returned the favor with a miscue of his own that gave Hickory the lead in the fifth. With one out, Eduard Pinto singled. Forbes followed with a bouncer back to the mound. Wiegel turned to second for the force play, but instead bounced the ball into centerfield, which allowed Pinto to go to third. Moorman’s groundout to second scored Pinto.
Though the Braves struck out three times in the eighth, Rome used two of those whiffs to score the tying run. With one out, Blake Bass struck out Austin Riley, but the pitch bounced to the backstop and allowed Riley to reach. Riley stole second and Jonathan Morales walked to end Bass’s night. Reliever Joe Palombo struck out Justin Elliott, but Carlos Castro loaded the bases with his second hit of the night. The Crawdads appeared to be out of the inning as Herbert struck out, but his strikeout pitch went to the backstop with Riley scoring on the play.
Rome scored the go-ahead run in the ninth as Ray-Patrick got an infield hit, stole second, and scored on Austin Riley’s double with two outs.
LeDarious Clark singled and stole second with two outs, but got no further as Pinto bounced back to the mound to end it.
Sloppy ‘Dads Hinder Efforts:
At times Monday, Hickory looked like a team that was tired from a weeklong road trip. Alejandro Salazar hit what looked like a routine single in the first. However, when centerfielder Eric Jenkins was slow to retrieve the ball, Salazar turned it to a hustle double, sliding into second easily.
Frandy De La Rosa appeared to lose track of the count as he remained in the batter’s box to hit after a third strike was called for the out.
Chuck Moorman didn’t seem his usual steady self behind the plate as the passed ball and two wild pitches all came on breaking balls by three different pitchers.
Forbes Stock up or down:
Ti’Quan Forbes showed in the course of Monday’s game the inconsistent season that has played out thus far.
At the plate, Forbes took a hanging curveball from Wiegel and served it out to left. However, with runners at second and third, Forbes mistimed a first-pitch fastball from new reliever Grayson Jones and hit it into a 4-6-3 double play.
At third base, Forbes made a hard-charging, barehanded play on a bunt by Justin Ellison in the sixth. In the ninth, Forbes bobbled an easy roller to extend the inning.
Impatience at the plate:
Of the 33 hitters Hickory sent to the plate on Monday, 21 of them saw four or fewer pitches. Eleven of them faced 1 or 2 pitches.
Payano not what it seems:
Payano needed 91 pitches to get through six innings and his fastball wasn’t without control issues, but his line score looks worse than it appeared. Of the seven hits he gave up over six innings, only Castro’s liner in the second was well struck. His curveball throughout the game had good snap to it with several missed bats, including all three strikes in a five-pitch K of Castro in the fourth.
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.
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.
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.
The Hickory Crawdads scored twice in the first inning and the tandem-pitching duo of Wes Benjamin and Erik Swanson made it stand up for a 2-1 win over the Kannapolis Intimidators Sunday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win improves the club’s record to 9-2, which is the best mark through at least the 2000 season (no game-by-game records are available prior to 2000). Hickory completed a 3-1 series win over the Intimidators (4-7) and is now 6-2 against its in-state rival this season.
With two outs in the first, Tyler Sanchez shot a groundball between the first-base bag and 1B Corey Zangari to score Andy Ibanez and Eduard Pinto, who had walked and double respectively.
That turned out to be enough for Benjamin and Swanson. Benjamin completed the first five innings, as he allowed one run on six hits and three walks with six strikeouts.
His only speedbump came in the third. With two outs and the bases empty, Benjamin walked Tyler Sullivan. Grant Massey (3-for-4) doubled and Landon Lassiter walked to load the bases. The run scored as Zangari reached on an infield hit to third, which allowed Sullivan to score. Benjamin then got Cody Daily to ground out to second.
“They started to get rolling as soon as I hit a little hiccup there and I had to adjust with my arm side,” said Benjamin. “I was turning up a little bit too much and throwing a lot more balls than I expected. My defense made some good plays and we worked out of it.”
Kannapolis had an opportunity to score in the fifth as it put together two singles and a double. But Benjamin picked off Daniel Mendick at first. Massey got a sun-aided double and Lassiter singled. However, Benjamin struck out Zangari to set down the threat.
Eric Swanson pitched the final four innings and allowed just one walk and struck out one.
Luis Martinez took the loss for Kannapolis, allowing both runs on just four hits, two walks and striking out five over five innings.
Tyler Sanchez had the lone run-scoring hit of the game for Hickory has he put an inside-out swing on a 1-2 fastball and had enough to shoot it into right.
As indicated by the score, Hickory didn’t put up much at the plate after the first innings, as the Crawdads had only four baserunners after the first.
Martinez was a one-pitch pitcher in the early going, as he was unable to get either the changeup or slider over the plate. However the Crawdads were unable to take advantage. Just 4 for the first 16 secondary pitches found the strike zone through the first 1.1 innings. One that did in the first – a hanger up and middle – was fouled off by Dylan Moore, who went on to strike out.
After Chuck Moorman doubled with one out in the second, Darius Day battled through a 6-pitch AB before striking out on a slider in. LeDarious Clark down 1-2 spoiled a breaking ball that appeared to be off the plate and then swung through the next.
Andy Ibanez had his six-game hitting streak snapped, but his first-inning at bat was a key part of the rally. With the count 2-2, Ibanez laid off a slider that just missed off the plate. He eventually worked a walk and scored the first run.
Eduard Pinto had two hits and a walk, and hit .571 in the series.
The tandem of Wes Benjamin and Erik Swanson has been a good one over the first two turns through the rotation. They have combined to pitch all 18 innings of their turn and allowed one run on nine hits, five walks (four by Benjamin) and strike out 12.
“Obviously, the starter that goes in, you try to go as deep as you can,” said Swanson of the first two outings. “And it’s obviously it’s nice if you can go in, like we have the first two times, and keep them to either one or no runs and have that guy come back in in back end and finish up the game and save our bullpen, too.”
Benjamin showed a fastball that stayed in the 89-91 mph range, and on Sunday that was his best pitch as, for the most part, he was able to spot it effectively for strikes. Of his six strikeouts on Sunday, three were on fastballs that were called-third strikes on the catcher’s glove side. Another was swung through by Corey Zangari.
“I had a set game plan and I knew what I was going to do from the get go. We established the fastball down and then it worked really well for us today.”
His most-used secondary was his change (81-83), that hit the zone for strikes, but other than Zangari’s whiff in the first, it enticed very few hitters to swing. Benjamin admitted that the pitch, normally his best he said, wasn’t on.
“I had to make a couple of adjustments, especially from the stretch. I was rushing a little bit too much and the ball was kind of flying up in the zone. So, I made some adjustments later on and got the ball down.”
Benjamin did break out the curve later on in the outing and Corey Schroeder to swing through one for a strikeout in the fourth.
Erik Swanson was impressive from the very start as his 95 mph sinker to his first batter splintered the bat of Cody Daily for a 6-3 grounder.
“The ball ran in a little bit more than I wanted it to. It was supposed to be on the outer half, but I mixed in a slide step there and it kind of bull-rushed him and caught him off-guard and got in on his hands a little bit.”
It didn’t get much better from there for the Intimidators as Swanson allowed just a walk with two outs in the eighth.
Seven of the 12 outs recorded came on groundouts as he established the sinker and mixed in a 90 mph slider (I think, slider?) that was enough to keep the hitters off stride.
“The plan going in there was to pound fastballs and get in on them a little bit and get some quick outs and hold it where we’re at.”
Battling the sun on a clear afternoon was job-one for both sides. Crawdads outfielder Jose Almonte was the lone casualty as he lost a fly ball by Grant Massey that fell 10 feet in front of him.
3B Ti’Quan Forbes nearly cut off the Intimidators only run of the game as he cut off a grounder in the hole by Zangari. He stumbled a bit as he fielded the ball, which cost him as he throw to second for the potential final out was late.
Almost a clean game but in the eighth, Pinto was caught leaning towards second by left-hander Matt Ball and it turned into an easy pickoff. Pinto did get a good jump on the slow delivery of Taylore Cherry for a steal in the sixth.