April 2007

EAST IS EAST

Just two games to wrap up in the Eastern League and we’ll be halfway through our completion of the 10 full-season leagues.

No, I’m fine, really. But thanks for asking.

The Reading Phillies held on to their lead over the Harrisburg Senators, tacking on two more runs in the bottom of the seventh for some breathing room en route to their 4-1 victory. Outfielder Javon Moran, a former Phillies farmhand who was traded to the Reds and then back to the Phillies, was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI as well as a steal. On a personal note, he’s best friends with Phillies outfielder Michael Bourn, who I am sure was happy to see his buddy return to the fold during the off-season.

In one of the most exciting games of the night, the Bowie Baysox edged the Trenton Thunder, 1-0. After a scoreless battle through eight, the Baysox scratched out a run in the ninth as Val Majewski came around on a Nolan Reimold single which was misplayed in the outfield. In the bottom of the inning, Trenton native and Baysox closer Jim Hoey came on and loaded the bases but then struck out the side to preserve the victory.

PALM TREES AND OCEAN BREEZES

And Florida State League action …

The Dunedin-Clearwater game finally got underway after a lengthy rain delay, with the Threshers (those are the Phillies for those of you who weren’t sure) emerging victorious, 9-3. Rehabbing Major League starter Freddy Garcia allowed just three hits over 3 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out seven. On offense, the Phils were led by outfielder Gregory Golson, who was 3-for-4 with three runs scored and a double and triple, and second baseman Brad Harman who homered and drove in a pair.

The Daytona Cubbies scored six runs in the last three innings, including a four-run eighth, to put an exclamation point on an 8-3 win over Brevard County as shortstop Matt Matulia was 2-for-4 with three RBIs to lead the way.

The game between the Lakeland Flying Tigers (gotta get the Flying in there) and the Tampa Yankees was called complete at five innings so Lakeland starter Andrew Miller got the complete game win with five innings of three-hit shutout ball in the 3-0 victory.

Sarasota edged Fort Myers, 2-0, behind stellar pitching from starter Carlos Fisher who allowed three hits over seven scoreless frames. He matched Miracle starter Kyle Waldrop who got a no decision, leaving after five no-hit innings.

St. Lucie Mets ace Deolis Guerra struck out five in five innings of tw-hit ball for the Mets in their rain-shortened 2-0 win against Vero Beach in seven innings.

Third baseman Allen Craig was 3-for-5 with three runs scored, a homer and two RBIs to lead the Palm Beach Cardinals to a 9-3 victory over Jupiter. The Cards posted 13 hits against Hammerheads pitchers.

CARO-WINDS

To wrap up the four Carolina League games of the night (oh my gosh, a league that didn’t have a cancellation! Catch me while I faint!) …

The defending champion Kinston club got things started on the right foot with a 5-3 win over Winston-Salem in a South Division matchup. David Huff, the Indians’ first-round pick last spring, allowed one hit in four innings in the start and T.J. Burton, the club’s closer for much of the second half of 2006, got the win in relief with Scotty Roehl, another ’06 returnee, coming on for the save.

The Potomac Nationals gave notice they would not be shut down offensively this season with a decisive 11-4 win against Lynchburg. Led by outfielder Dee Brown, who was 2-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs, four players had two RBIs apiece in the win.

The Wilmington Blue Rocks shut down the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, 2-0, behind the pitching of Carlos Rosa who got the win with five innings of three-hit shutout ball. First baseman Miguel vega was 3-for-4 with an RBI.

Frederick got started on the winning foot with a 5-4 win against Salem, as Sandy Madera was 2-for-4 with two RBIs to aid the fine start of Brandon Erbe (six innings, three hits, one run).

UP THE MIDDLE

Wrapping up the day’s Midwest League action, though we can’t touch Jonathan’s first-hand account of the barnburner in Dayton …

Ryne Sandberg’s managerial debut was a success as his Peoria Chiefs held off Wisconsin, 9-5. Though they saw their early 7-0 lead disappear somewhat, the Chiefs benefited from the Timber Rattlers’ seven errors (amazingly enough, from seven different players) despite being outhit 11-9.

The Clinton LumberKings bea the Swing of Quad Cities, 8-4, behind the pitching of starter Omar Poveda who got the win with five innings of three-hit ball. the two teams combined for nine errors (maybe it was something in the Midwest League water!), with the Swing making five and the ‘Kings four.

The Great Lakes Loons beat South Bend, 10-3, collecting 11 hits. The victory went to Douglas Brooks who came on in relief of starter Clayton Kershaw and tossed 3 2/3 hitless innings.

The Burlington Bees beat the Kane County Cougars, 6-3, with the big blows coming from second baseman Marc Maddox who was 2-for-3 with three RBIs.

SALLYING FORTH

Fans at the Greenville Drive-Charleston RiverDogs game certainly got more than their money’s worth. Beyond the obvious starpower of new Drive manager Gabe Kapler and Drive starter Jon Lester, they also got an extra-innings pitchers’ duel that lasted for almost 10 innings before Wilmer Pino’s 10th-inning single scored Christopher Malec with the game’s lone run as Charleston won, 1-0.

Lester tossed four innings of one-hit ball striking out five in the start but it was Travis Beazley in relief of the Major Leaguer who really sparkled with five no-hit innings, striking out four. Beazley poted a 2.39 ERA at short-season Lowell in 2006.

Meanwhile in other Sally League action:

The Hickory Crawdads held off the host Hagerstown Suns, 5-4, despite a two-out grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning by Hagerstown second baseman Leonard Davis to put his team right back in the game.

Lakewood made things more respectable than their early 9-0 deficit would have led one to believe, but in the end they still fell to Greensboro, 11-7. The Grasshoppers were led at the plate by outfielder Scott Cousins who went 4-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs. Almost lost in the offensive firepower was the sparkling start by Greensboro southpaw Graham Taylor who tossed six innings of one-run ball, striking out seven without walking a batter for the win.

Wade Townsend’s comeback from Tommy John surgery put one in the win column for him and his Columbus Catfish as he allowed just two hits in five scoreless innings, walking one and striking out six as the ‘fish beat visiting Kannapolis 6-1.

The Augusta Greenjackets edged the host Rome Braves, 3-1, thanks to yet another great pitching performance from Adam Cowart, who went five innings of four-hit ball for the win. Cowart was the Northwest League Pitcher of the Year in 2006 as he helped lead the Salem-Keizer club to that circuit’s title and the best winning percentage in the Minors.

Lexington rallied to beat visiting Delmarva, 4-2, but pitching was still the name of the game in that one. For the Legends, David Qualben got the win in relief of starter Casey Hudspeth, who allowed just two hits in his six innings of work. For Delmarva, meanwhile, the loss spoiled a fine effort by Pedro Beato who allowed two hits in five scoreless innings, striking out six.

The Toastman of West Virginia had something to cheer about after all as his West Virginia Power rallied to beat Lake County, 4-3, behind the bat of outfielder Michael Brantley. Brantley was 3-for-4 with a double, triple and two RBIs.

Michael Paulk was 3-for-5 and Daniel Mayora and Bret Berglund each drove in a pair of runs as the Asheville Tourists rallied to bear host Savannah, 7-4.

PACIFIC OVERTURES

Moving right along to the Pacific Coast League, the lone league that spans three time zones …

Phil Humber’s Triple-A debut was a rousing success as he allowed one run on one hit over his five innings of work, striking out four for the New Orleans Zephyrs. Okay, am I ever going to get used to say the Mets in the PCL??? Probably not … anyway, the Z’s led host Nashville (Brewers) 3-1 in the eighth …

At Round Rock (Astros), infielder Brooks Conrad was the man with the big bat as his two-run homer was much of the difference in the Express’ 5-2 lead through seven against the visiting Iowa Cubs.

The Tucson Sidewinders (Diamondbacks) were locked in a good one with the host Colorado Springs SkySox, tied at 4-4 into the bottom of the eighth as each team had 11 hits. For Tucson, the defending PCL champion, Jamie D’Antona was 4-for-4.

Seeing red? You were if you’re in Memphis. The host Memphis Redbirds (Cards) were leading the visiting Oklahoma Redhawks (Rangers), 4-3, in the eighth, though it was the Redhawks playing longball. Victor Diaz and Nate Gold each had homers for Oklahoma. Gold, you may recall, hit 34 home runs last year and is off to another hot start this season.

The Albuquerque Isotopes (Marlins), who are busy preparing to host the Triple-A All-Star Game in July (can you tell I am psyched, since I’m already talking about it?) were leading the Omaha Royals, 5-2 through five innings. ‘Topes outfielder Reggie Abercrombie had gone yard for his team while Billy Butler had done the same for the O-Royals.

Also going deep in his first game of the season was Las Vegas 51s first baseman James Loney, who frankly really shouldn’t even be in Vegas. He knows it, we know it, the parent Dodgers know it, but without a chance to play every day behind Nomar Garciaparra, Loney is back in the Minors (where he only hit .380 last year). His 51s were tied with the host Salt Lake Bees (Angels) 3-3 in the seventh.

Meanwhile, the two remaining games in the PCL (Portland at Fresno and Tacoma at Sacramento) were just getting underway which means I’m going to be here for awhile. Have the veal.

INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR

How quickly things can change … one minute your team is tossing a no-hitter, the next they’ve lost the game …

That was the case in Durham where the Bulls lost the no-no (see, now I can say it) and the game, 2-1, to the Syracuse Chiefs (Blue Jays).

First John-Ford Griffin broke up the no-hitter with his leadoff single in the top of the eighth inning, coming around to score to tie the game at 1-1. One inning later it was Griffin the Bull Killer again as his double brought home Mike Vento with the winning run for Da Chiefs.

in frigid Scranton (Moosic, Moosic, must remind self it’s Moosic) it’s a slugfest with the Norfolk Tides leading 7-5 heading into the ninth thanks to a five-run eighth inning. That frame was highlighted by a two-run homer by new Orioles farmhand Luis Montanez (always a favorite of Jonathan Mayo). Tyler Clippard, who started for Scranton, gave up two runs in five innings while Tides pitcher Hayden Penn was yet another in a line of successful Baltimore farmhand pitchers on Opening Night with his five innings of two-hit ball, striking out six.

Two-time defending International League champions the Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers) scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning at Louisville (Reds) to knot that game at 2-2. Ryan Raburn hit a two-run homer for the Hens (and let this stand as my own correction on my earlier Southern League wrapup that it was his brother, Johnny, who drove in a pair for the Mudcats. No, Ryan was not actually in two places at one time)

Bomby is back in the International League but his team was trailing late in the game … but with his history of success that shouldn’t be the case too often. Bomby, of course, is Charlotte Knights manager Marc Bombard who returns to the Minors after a year as the Phillies’ first base coach with a ******** 1,556 victories as manager, by far the most of any active manager in the Minors. He replaced popular Knights skipper Razor Shines who is now the White Sox third base coach. The Knights trailed visiting Pawtucket Red Sox, 5-2, in the eighth thanks largely to a first-inning grand slam by PawSox outfielder Brandon Moss off of Knights ace Heath Phillips.

TEXAS TWO-STEP

This one should be a quickie, with only eight teams in the league and one already postponed due to rain (Corpus Christi at Wichita as noted earlier).

One other game, San Antonio (Padres) at Tulsa (Rockies), has also been delayed by rain while scoreless in the third. Rockies top 2006 pick Greg Reynolds was the starter for the Drillers in that one.

At Midland, the RockHounds (Athletics) were leading the visiting Springfield Cards 7-1 in the seventh as outfielder Danny Putnam put some room between his team and the visitors with a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh.

in a lower-scoring game, the visiting Arkansas Travelers (Angels) led the Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers), 2-1, in the sixth. The Travelers live up to their name, on the road for a week before heading back to Little Rock where they’ll enjoy their new digs, Dickey-Stephens Stadium, which replaces historic (read: really old) Ray Winder Field.

SOUTHERN COOKING

Quick bulletin before getting into the first round of Southern League action …

Durham Bulls pitchers Jason Hammel (five innings) and Tim Corcoran (two) have, so far, limited the visiting Syracuse Chiefs to NO HITS through seven innings. You see I’m not saying that hyphenated word, BUT … you can actually go watch this game via MiLB.TV …

Hammel, one of the many aces the Devil Rays Triple-A team has stacked up at Durham this season, had one of those combined hyphenated things last year in July, as you may recall!!!

Oh yeah, the Bulls lead, 1-0 through seven. Now go watch. I’ll wait.

OK, in case you want to know what’s happening in the Southern League in a nutshell (I guess a pecan since it’s the south), there were some low-scoring affairs going on there:

In Huntsville, the host Stars (Brewers) trail the visiting Mississippi Braves, 2-1, in the fifth. Braves starter Matt Harrison had struck out four in four innings.

The Mobile BayBears (Diamondbacks) also had a 2-1 lead, this in three innings, over the visiting Chattanooga Lookouts (Reds).

The Montgomery Biscuits (Devil Rays) clung to a 1-0 lead over the visiting West Tenn Diamond Jaxx (Mariners) on a Reid Brignac run-scoring groundout in the third. Chris Seddon had allowed one hit over four innings for the Biscuits.

In Birmingham, the host Barons (White Sox) trailed visiting Carolina (Marlins), 2-1, as shortstop Ryan Raburn had a two-out two-run single in the third to give his team the lead.

And in another marquee pitching matchup, the Tennessee Smokies (Cubs) led the Jacksonville Suns (Dodgers) 3-0 in the eighth with both starters out of the game. For Tennessee, Sean Gallagher had tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out five while southpaw ace Scott Elbert struck out nine in six innings for the Suns. Good news for Dodgers fans, though, was the return to the mound in relief of 2005 first-rounder Justin Orenduff, who missed 2006 with arm trouble. He’d tossed two scoreless innings out of the pen tonight.

RUNNING OUT OF CUTE TITLES HERE

With all the weather issues, there are just two games in progress in the Eastern League tonight and both have been low-scoring well-pitched affairs.

  The Bowie Baysox (Orioles) and host Trenton Thunder (Yankees) were scoreless heading into the ninth. For Trenton, starter Chase Wright continued his mastery of the opposition that he showed as the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year in 2006, with seven innings of two-hit ball, striking out nine without walking a batter. For Bowie, Beau Hale allowed one hit through six innings of work, striking out five.

  At Reading, meanwhile, the host Phillies led the visiting Harrisburg Senators (Nationals) 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh. Third base prospect Mike Costanzo went yard for the Phils in the second inning but that was one of the only blemished against Harrisburg starter T.J. Nall, a fine six-year free agent pickup for the Nationals. Nall, who led the Southern League in strikeouts last year for Jacksonville (Dodgers), fanned nine in his five innings of work. For Reading, Landon jacobsen gave up one run in six innings.

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