Things were wild all over the system last night, but nowhere more so than the Diamond, where the baseball was weird and wonderful. A tale in three tweets:
Lujan holds the game together.... 5.0 IP, 1R, 5H - Squirrels short on options sending Rando Moreno (INF) out to pitch the 9th, 2-2. pic.twitter.com/GF58lItA9H— Squirrels Baseball (@GoSquirrels) April 12, 2017
HIGHLIGHTS: Aramis Garcia had two more hits including 2nd HR; Miguel Gomez and Kelvin Beltre doubled and homered; Steven Woods K’d 7 in 6 IP.
The RiverCats continued their hot play to start the season, winning their first road game of the year in extra innings. The game was a back and forth affair, as Sacramento came back from a 5-2 deficit with a big 5-run 7th inning in which both Christian Arroyo and Orlando Calixte hit two-run doubles. But Chase Johnson and Kyle Crick gave the two-run lead right back in the bottom of the inning. Johnson surrendered a leadoff HR and single before leaving but Crick was victim to a dribbler, a bunt single and a sac fly to tie the game. From there on out the pen was stout with Crick, Sitton and Josh Osich shutting the Bees down the rest of the way.
The Cats offense was led by the middle of the order, with Arroyo, Hwang, Slater, and Moncrief collectively reaching base 12 times in the game and both scoring and knocking in five runs. Arroyo’s gotten off to a hot start at the plate, and in this game he not only hit his third double of the year (picking right back up where he left off in 2016), he also mixed in his first walk of the year giving him a healthy .450 OBP.
Josh Osich completed the victory with a perfect inning of work. He’s now worked three innings and allowed just one base runner while striking out four in his bid to work his way back to the SF bullpen. The race between Osich and Okert to earn promotion is turning into a fascinating Sacramento subplot.
Sadly, the video feed wasn’t working from Salt Lake City last night or even any photos that I can find. So you’ll have to be satisfied with this 1925 picture of Tony Lazzeri in his awesome Salt Lake Bees jersey the year he hit 60 HRs in the PCL and the year before Grover Cleveland Alexander struck him out with the bases juiced (and Alexander too) in the 7th game of the World Series.
And here the night took a turn toward the bizarre. But before getting there, Miguel Gomez gave the struggling Squirrels’ offense a quick jolt with a 2-run blast in the first inning, following a fantastic walk from Brandon Bednar.
Unfortunately, it was the only jolt the offense would receive for many a long inning.
Jordan Johnson took the mound for his AA starting debut and the right hander was solid over four somewhat arduous innings. Johnson, as the Squirrels announcing crew noted, was more notable for his command last night than for his stuff. He wasn’t blowing the Curve away, but he mixed his repertoire well and commanded to all four quadrants enough to keep them off balance. His defense didn’t help him, as the middle infield combination of Miguel Gomez and Carlos Garcia made four errors on the night. But Jordan navigated around the trouble spots and limited the damage before departing after four innings with 85 pitches.
Matt Lujan then gave the Squirrels yeoman’s work over four scoreless innings in which he also ran his pitch count over 80, and that was as far as Matt could go. As I noted last night on twitter, it’s not readily apparent why the Squirrels had no other relievers available beyond Lujan last night. Pat Young and Carlos Alvarado hadn’t pitched in two nights and neither had worked more than 3 IP this year. [ED’S NOTE: I THINK TODAY’S ROSTER MOVES HAVE CLARIFIED THIS ISSUE A BIT; TRICKLE DOWN FROM BLACKBURN DFA] But pitcher availability is strictly determined from the home office, so manager Kyle Haines had to work with what he had. And what he had was 80 pitches from Lujan and then the position players with strong arms. SS Rando Moreno got the 9th and he worked quickly through three flyouts.
With the game tied after 9 Haines then turned to OF Tyler Horan who had also demonstrated his pitcher stylings (consisting of 60 mph flutter-balls) last year. Horan got into a world of trouble with two outs and the bases loaded when he walked two and hit a batter all sandwiched around a swinging bunt. He got out of the jam with only one run scoring, but given Richmond’s offensive troubles, that looked like it would be enough to sink them.
But showing an exquisite sense of fair play, Altoona also then turned to a position player, as 3b Chase Simpson took the mound. (Actually, Altoona’s relievers had been forced to pick up 8.1 IP of this game after their starter left with an injury in the 1st). Simpson, too, got two quick outs before Brandon Bednar worked a walk in front of Gomez once again, and Gomez (who had also managed to work his first walk of the year in this game) came through again.
That set up Chris Shaw to deliver the game winner with a shot to the gap in left center field. (I won’t bother with the highlight since the video crew managed to capture absolutely none of the action; same goes for Hunter Cole’s game saving diving catch with the bases loaded in the 7th). It was another nice game for Shaw, who reached base three times, including a double and what was credited as a single on the final play. Three of Shaw’s five hits to open the year have gone for extra bases, and he’s also walked more times (4) than he’s struck out (3).
Richmond finishes their opening homestand tonight before heading out to Reading for their first road trip tomorrow.
San Jose Bats
San Jose continues to bash it’s way through it’s opening road trip in the southland. The Giants lead the Cal League in scoring with 52 runs in 6 games. That’s 10 more runs than 2nd best Lancaster, and 23 more runs than 3rd best Visalia. They’re tied for the league lead in HRs with six. They’re one off the league lead in walks (29). And they’re second in the league in OBP and OPS (in all cases behind Lancaster, which plays in by far the most offensive environment in the league) and 3rd in SLG percentage points behind Visalia.
As you can see from the table, it’s the top of the Giants order that’s really driving this bus as the top four hitters in last night’s lineup are all off to fantastic starts. Jalen Miller picked up his 3rd double and third walk of the season last night, and Ryan Howard continued to scorch the ball with his 2nd HR among two hits.
But it’s Aramis Garcia who has really hit the season with a “PROMOTE ME NOW” kind of fire in his bat. Over his last four games, Garcia is 10 for 19 with two HRs, a double, and two walks and is looking to be getting into something resembling the torrid month that ended his Sally league career. A very good sight to see for the Catching prospect who’s 2016 was hijacked by a fluke injury.
You can listen to Garcia’s thoughts on the young season in this interview with Joe Ritzo:
April 11 Aramis Garcia Interview— Jonathan Branch (@JBrady_Official) April 12, 2017
Sent with MiLB First Pitch https://t.co/Iak1pI1L5j
The Giants have now scored at least 7 runs in five consecutive games. They wrap up their road trip tonight before coming back for the home opener tomorrow. We’ll see if the hot offense makes the trip north with the rest of the team!
|Brandon Van Horn||SS||3||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||.158|
Hallelujah! What do you know? Augusta finally got themselves a decent pitching performance and the result was their first win of the season.
Did I say “decent?” It was actually a good shot more than that. Stephen Woods, Jr. made his full season debut an outstanding one. He went 6 strong innings, allowing just 1 ER (2 total) while striking out 7 against 3 walks. Woods is an interesting pitching prospect. A 6th round pick out of High School by the Rays (and what is it with all the crossover between Rays and Giants’ talent lately?), Stephen turned down Tampa’s contract offer and went to college at the behest of his parents. However, his choice of college was an odd one, going to a small upstate NY school little known for baseball prowess (or weather). There he struggled for three years (with a college ERA over 6 and BB/9 over 7) but he comes to the Giants with a lot of knock-out tools and he had several of them on display last night: a hopping fastball and a sharp breaking ball that he could throw for strikes or bury in the dirt to get hitters chasing. Like several of the hard-throwing college arms the Giants drafted last year, Woods has tantalizing upside, and unlike several of his ‘16 brethren, he appears to be the one who’s had the least quality coaching in his past and possibly the one that the Giants’ can make the most out of in getting the statue out of the stone. Let’s watch him pitch, shall we?
Woods was supported in his effort by two things: 1) execrable RiverDogs defense, and 2) a huge night from Kelvin Beltre. Talk about tantalizing skills! Watch the opposite field power Beltre displays here:
Beltre had a fine overall night with a double, HR and even a couple of outstanding defensive plays. He did make a couple of outs on the bases (including a CS) but it was definitely the kind of night that makes you think: “just stay on the field for 140 games, Kelvin!”
You can see Beltre’s booming double to the CF wall, and many other moments of the game in this RiverDogs’ edited wrap-up which also includes an interview with Charleston’s manager Patrick Osborn in which he delivers a few words of wisdom in how one should best follow the progress of A ball players.
Notes from the skip as the winning streak comes to an end: https://t.co/6STpuBnF7j— Charleston RiverDogs (@ChasRiverDogs) April 12, 2017
So there you have it! The first sweep of the season as the affiliates go a perfect 4-0 (well, nearly perfect cough:Giants:cough!) in thrilling fashion.
Tonight’s Scheduled Starters:
Sacramento: Michael Roth vs. Manny Banuelos
Richmond: Pat Young vs. Alex McRae
San Jose: Mark Reyes vs. Colin Welmon
Augusta: Dom Mazza vs. Albert Abreu
Flying Squirrels Transactions 4/12 - Jose Flores and Adam Sonabend - Transfer from Extended Spring Training to @GoSquirrels— Squirrels Baseball (@GoSquirrels) April 12, 2017
And lastly, of Clayton Blackburn, who almost certainly is very near the end of his Giants career, you definitely want to check out Good Friend of Minor Lines’ kdl’s twitter time line to get a lot of wonderful stories and pictures. I tried to pick out the best one but they’re all so heartwarming, just go read them all!
So long, Clayton and best of luck to you in the future!