Weird and distressing weekend around my neck of the woods, the DC Capitol region. Before we get to baseball, Minor Lines — which is dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal — wants to highlight some of the messages from Nats P Sean Doolittle. Most have read at least some of his words this weekend, but they’re worth reading again.
This kind of hatred was never gone, but now it's been normalized. They didn't even wear hoods. It's on us to condemn it and drive it out.— Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) August 13, 2017
And now to the bulwarks of our life, the fields where the worst thing that can happen is a walk-off grand slam.
HIGHLIGHTS: Matt Lujan threw 8 shutout innings; Bryan Reynolds and Sandro Fabian both doubled and walked; Stetson Woods struck out 7 over 5 innings;
|Melvin Upton Jr.||CF||4||1||2||0||0||0||0||0||2||.381|
The RiverCats were outhit in this game 13-8, but they had the advantage where it counted, thanks to bunching all their hits together into the 2nd thru 4th innings of the game. Matt Gage was once again eminently hittable, allowing 11 hits in his 6 innings of work, but surrendered just 2 runs. He had plenty of help from his defense which bailed him out with several timely plays. In his final inning, he gave up four consecutive hits and a wild pitch, and yet only allowed one run thanks in large part to an assist from Mac Williamson.
Great throw. Poor video work. Mac also contributed a two-run single to the win and had another couple hard hit balls. On Saturday night, Williamson hit his first HR since June 22nd, so perhaps a late season turnaround to a woebegotten year is in the offing?
DJ Snelten and Derek Law finished up with three innings of relief. Snelten was touched up for a solo HR from the Angels preseason #16 prospect Michael Hermosillo in his inning. Law allowed just a single in his two innings of work.
Chris Shaw was out of the lineup and showed up with a hand brace the day after getting hit in the top of the hand with a pitch. It seems like the Giants avoided a worst case situation here and he’ll be back to work, hopefully soon.
Richmond beat the Reading Fightin’ Phils, 3-0
winning their three game series, 2-1
Matt Lujan threw a career high eight shutout innings in leading Richmond to series win over Reading. Lujan spent about two months on the DL this season, and has just recently worked himself back to Richmond after short rehab stints in the AZL and NWL, and effectively took the rotation spot of fellow lefty and fellow Matt, Matt Gage. I suspect some of you have trouble differentiating from the two Matts so let me see if I can help.
Matt Gage was selected in the 10th round of the 2014 draft out of Siena college in NY and received a quick promotion up to AA in his first full season in 2015. Matt Lujan went undrafted out of the University of San Francisco back in 2012, and was signed as a free agent by the Giants. Lujan has spent the last three years in Richmond and Sacramento. Lujan has featured better K rates throughout his career and Gage has featured better (much better really) BB rates, though both fall into the “feel lefties” phylum of pitchers.
With Lujan cruising, the offense didn’t have do too much, and by and large they didn’t. Solo HRs were the weapon of choise, as the Squirrels went deep three different times for all of their offense. One of those came from former Brewer Caleb Gindl, who went deep for the third time in the weekend series.
The Giants have certainly gotten their moneys worth from their Indy Ball scrounging for Richmond. That was Gindl’s 6th HR in just 25 games with the Squirrels, while 1b KC Hobson earlier hit his 7th HR in 36 games. Swiss Army knife Myles Schroder (playing 2b these days) finished things off with his 5th HR of the year. Schroder is in his 7th year of playing with the Giants and it’s now been 10 years since the Giants drafted the versatile good soldier. He’s another one I can see coaching when he decides to hang them up.
Speaking of all the floating on and off the Richmond roster this year, John O’Conner at the Richmond Times-Dispatch had a nice article on the topic this weekend.
San Jose lost at Modesto Nuts (Mariners), 3-1
losing their three game series, 1-2
San Jose Bats
Good lord, Matt Gage, Matt Lujan, and Mark Reyes all on the same day? We are in “feel lefty” heaven here today.
Needing a win to pick up the rubber match of the road series and stay in first place, San Jose came up lame. They managed just three hits against the division leading Nuts. The Giants had just three batters reach 2b in the game, and their lone run got on base thanks to a two base throwing error in the 8th inning.
Bryan Reynolds was the hitting star of the night for the Giants with a walk and an RBI double. Reynolds is slashing a solid .312/.362/.445 and has taken a big step forward this year with his contact rates. Reynolds has always combined high batting averages with high strike out rates going back to his amateur career, but his K rate in the Cal League is now down a hair under 20%, which is currently about 5% better than he did in the NWL last year.
Mariners #1 prospect Kyle Lewis (the 11th overall pick of the 2016 draft) did the damage against the Giants with an RBI double vs. Mark Reyes and an RBI single against Caleb Simpson to end the scoring.
The Giants now return home a game out of 1st place. The time to make hay is now, as they play 10 of their next 13 games at home before finishing the year with a road trip down to Inland Empire and finally Stockton.
San Jose pitching coach Mike Couchee joined Joe Ritzo during the road trip, talking about some of the new changes in the Giants pitching staff, including newcomers Garrett Williams and Shaun Anderson. You can hear that interview here.
Augusta lost to Asheville Tourists (Rockies), 11-2
winning their three game series, 2-1
|Jose Vizcaino Jr.||1B||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.239|
Probably the most momentous moment of this lopsided game came in the 7th inning when Sandro Fabian drew a walk. That was his first walk in the month of August which tied him with his walk total from July! With two weeks left, he could make a late rush to tie his monthly high set back in May when he walked three times.
I jest, of course, but without a doubt the next step in Fabian’s development will involve starting the process of tightening up his strike zone and beginning to learn which pitches he can do damage on and which he should the better part of valor on. Aside from “swing early/swing often” approach, however, there are a lot of good signs coming from Fabian these days. He now has a seven game hitting streak during which he’s gone 11 for 28 with four doubles and a HR. For the month of August he’s hitting .368/.385/.579. That he’s having one of his finest stretches of the year as the calendar has turned to August is all the more impressive for a 19 year old in his first full season. August has tended to wear down and destroy the young kids at this level but Fabian appears to be hitting his stride.
Really, other than a disastrous May, Fabian’s had himself a pretty competitive year in the Sally. He posted just a .486 OPS in May, but since June 1st, Fabian’s hit .274/.292/.422 with a solid 16% K rate. His OPS has climbed monthly, to .627 in June, .704 in July, and so far .964 in August. Given that “not getting worn to a nub” is a solid goal for a teenager in the Sally in August, this is a pretty encouraging run for Sandro.
Twenty year old Kelvin Beltre, who also doubled in this game, has had a season that’s gone the other direction. Following an .804 OPS in April, his monthly OPS has gone .693, .759, .539, and so far .523 in August. This is, effectively Beltre’s first full season as well, and seeing him get through the year healthy is a positive sign. But it’s been a rough second half for the young infielder. Since July 1st he’s hit just .210/.282/.252 with a 25% K rate. He had done an excellent job cutting the K rate (and boosting the walk rate) in the first half of the year, but it’s slipping away from him in the dog days.
|1- Christopher Burks||PR||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.200|
|a- Kevin Rivera||PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.235|
|b- Dalton Combs||PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.250|
There was a lot of great pitching in this contest, and one inning of really bad pitching.
For the second time this year, the Volcanoes went up against the high heat of Blue Jays 1st round pick Nate Pearson. Pearson, a Florida JC pitcher had a lot of late helium in the 2017 draft after he started hitting triple digits in workouts with teams. He blew through the Volcanoes hitters, striking out 6 of the 9 batters he faced in his three innings of work.
There was an almost palapable sigh of relief when Pearson left the game, as Malique Ziegler went deep in the very first at bat following Pearson’s removal from the game. That was Ziegler’s 2nd HR of the weekend after not having hit a HR since the season’s opening week on June 20. After slumping all the way down to .269 coming into this series, Malique’s found a little life again. In the first three games in Vancouver Ziegler’s gone 4 for 9 with two HRs plus four walks. That’s a 52 point jump in OPS in a weekend. Hopefully, this means the aches and pains that had been bothering Ziegler throughout July are feeling better! Or it could be a random sample size. Still, it would be great to see the All Star finish his season on a high note these last two weeks.
On the bump, Stetson Woods nearly matched Pearson pitch for pitch. Woods struck out 7 (one off his season and career high) over 5 innings of work, allowing just 1 run. Woods strike out numbers have been up and down this year (he’s 8th in the league), but he leads the NWL in ERA and IP. Another guy having a long looked for breakout season.
But following Woods to the mound was 2017 4th rounder Garrett Cave who fell into a big inning, allowing four runs in the space of six hitters. Following a leadoff pop up, Cave allowed five consecutive batters to reach base. While that stretch did include three ground ball singles, he also walked two and WP in a run. Over a two-inning performance, Cave threw just 20 of 42 pitches for strikes. Oof!
John Russell restored order with yet another perfect inning and two more Ks. I included some college era video of Russell’s killer breaking pitch last week, but I’ll add it again here ICYMI:
That’s good snap!
AZL Giants and DSL Giants both had off days
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have the goods to satisfy your Heliot cravings. Bobby DeMuro of Baseball Census was on hand last week and has reports and video of Ramos and Gonzalez.
If you like Baseball Census’ stuff (and why wouldn’t you?) hit the subscribe button on their You Tube channel. I know they appreciate the support.
Today’s Scheduled Starters:
Sacramento: Casey Kelly vs. Osmer Morales
Richmond: OFF DAY
San Jose: Grant Watson vs. TBD
Augusta: OFF DAY
Salem-Keizer: TBD vs. Donnie Sellers
AZL: Miguel Figueroa
DSL: Luis Moreno
Final off day of the year for Richmond as we hit the last stretch. San Jose and Salem-Keizer are both in a position to limp their way to the playoff despite below .500 seasons. San Jose sits a game behind Modesto in their division, while SK is two games out of first, but currently in last place, in a tightly bunched group. The DSL Giants, meanwhile, are making a very late run to avoid elimination. They now have a 5 game winning streak, including two straight wins over the 1st place Blue Jays to put them 5.5 games out with 15 left to play. Probably too tall a hill to climb but though they cannot make their sun stand still, yet they might make it run.