Monday, July 7, 2014

'Cats drop heartbreaker in fourteenth

After some on-line sleuthing, I deduced from the logo (and Wikipedia) that a "Pippin" most likely refers to the pippin apple which is one of the oldest varieties of this fruit to come out of the Excited States of America. That piece of gastronomical trivia aside, the HarbourCats got right to it in another road series tonight against the Yakima Valley Pippins.

In the longest game of the year for both teams, the visiting 'Cats let one slip away in a fourteen inning nailbiting 6-5 loss, spoiling yet another good pitching performance from Mikey Wright. Victoria led the game by a 5-1 score at one point but could not score another run after the fifth inning, allowing the Pippins to chip away until Josh McCoy singled in Taylor Snyder in the bottom half of the fourteenth inning. "Mr. Wright" was cruising until the sixth when he hit back to back batters and allowed a couple of earned runs which made the score 5-3, but bounced back nicely for a 1-2-3 seventh, finishing with no walks, seven strikeouts and three earned runs.

Reliever Alex Fagalde entered the game in the eighth but could not hold the lead, giving up a two-out double bringing the score to five apiece. Preston Ryan entered the game and pitched extremely well in his five and two thirds innings and 109 (!) pitches of "relief", working out of a jam in the bottom of the ninth to extend the game, and again in the eleventh before giving up the heart-breaking single to McCoy in the fourteenth. Ryan himself batted in the Victoria half of the eleventh (where was the DH??), laying down a nice sacrifice bunt to get things going before Bryce Greager was gunned out in a close play at home. Ryan also struck out in the thirteenth with one out and men on first and third. Strange.

In the field, catcher Jake Lesinski left the game in the sixth due to injury, forcing the 'Cats to move DH Aaron Barnett behind the plate to cover which may have had something to do with why there was no DH in place after that. No word on how serious the injury was, but Jake was starting to find his rhythm at the end of the Kitsap series so this is an unfortunate loss.

In the losing cause, Hunter Mercado-Hood maintained his hot bat going four for seven, Aaron Barnett went three for seven and Bryce Greager knocked in a pair of runs while going one for four. Wyler Smith struggled in the lead-off spot against the Pippin arms going hitless in his seven at bats, but had a key outfield relay to Alex DeGoti in the bottom of the thirteenth as they threw out Justin Jacobs who was trying to score on a two-out Vince Fernandez double off the wall. Exciting baseball!

Aside from McCoy's heroics on the Pippin side, Alex Guenette was hit in three consecutive at bats before waving the white flag and exiting the game, bringing back memories of Coach Ernie Pantusso of Cheers. Jake Roberts was a solid three for seven with two RBI's, Vince Fernandez went three for five and Shawn Wardian also had a a couple of hits, going two for six with the two key RBI's to tie the game in the eighth.

Now that we are closing in on the midway point of the season, it's interesting to take a look at the HarbourCats pitching rotation. Right now the 'Cats seem to have a very solid threesome of starters in Mikey Wright, Logan Lombana and Alex Rogers and they are using them in a semi-regular rotation. These three amigos have ERA's of 2.84 (Wright), 2.48 (Lombana) and 1.77 (Rogers) and respective WHIP's of 0.89, 1.38 and 0.92. Pretty darn impressive numbers over their 14 combined starts. In fact, numbers like that should send fear and dread into the hearts of the heavy hitters of the WCL.

One question is who should be the fourth and even fifth man in this starting group? Andrew Nelson has been a regular in the rotation with five starts, and has followed Lombana in each of his last three starts, but not this one. Nelson checks in with a 5.10 ERA and 1.63 WHIP but after a slow start, he has lowered his ERA in each consecutive outing, with his WHIP also headed in that same direction. All that said, he looks to be a good candidate.

So should he remain as the fourth starter? If not, who should? How about Alex Garcia? In his two starts he has a miniscule 0.81 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP so at least deserves a shot to be a semi-regular starter. The only other 'Cat with more than one start is Tim Peabody but he has a 4.57 ERA and a 1.79 WHIP. After tonight's performance which was somewhat starter-like, does Preston Ryan deserve a shot? Maybe Victoria should stick with the three main starters and fill the last slot by committee, based on who has been going well of late. Or maybe Sean Watkins or Alex Fagalde need a shot (although tonight aside, Fagalde is a nice asset in the pen)? What do you think?

One thing I think, is that it was strange when Don Sullivan got a precious start just before heading back to school to deal with his entry exams. There may have been a good reason to give him the start, but it was also an opportunity to try and answer the above questions too.

And in completely unrelated news, Target Field in Minnesota just announced that they were introducing self serve beer kiosks at the all star game this year! Apparently you buy a prepaid card and use it to dispense whatever amount you desire. Cost would be about 38-40 cents an ounce and you are "limited" to 48 ounces every 15 minutes on a single card. That sounds like a challenge to me!

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