All four squads split their six games this week. Some signs of life in Louisville; it feels like a big win that the Bats won as many as they lost. I do think they’ll continue to improve at least somewhat. Pensacola has the chance to make some hay next week against last-place Mississippi at home. The Blaze held in second place, two and a half off the pace, as first-place San Jose was marked to show up at Sam Lynn Stadium come Thursday the 24th. Dayton did improve, stopping a 2-12 stretch, but the loss on the 23rd against Lansing (see below) really stung.
AAA Louisville Bats
Record this week: 3-3.
Overall: 15-32. Last. Eleven games back of Indianapolis (PIT). Still the worst record in the IL.
5/17: Down 2-0 in this four-game road series, the Bats managed to come back and capture a 4-2 win over Rochester (MIN) when SS Miguel Rojas and C Brian Peacock drove in the deciding runs in the top of the 11th. Jordan Smith pitched a 1-2-3 bottom half for the duke (W 1-1, 6.75, 1.1 IP). Travis Webb (3.57, 2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 4 K), Nick Christiani (4.03, 1 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K), and Kanekoa Texeira (0.96, 0.2 IP, 2 BB) all pitched scoreless relief as well following Brett Tomko’s quality start (3.48, 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR). 2B Cody Puckett was 3-for-5 in his Triple-A debut. C Corky Miller had a single and double (.273)
5/18: The Red Wings take the fourth game and the series, 5-3. Jeff Francis will have to induce weaker contact or miss more bats to get back to the majors at this rate (L 2-5, 4.45, 5 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 98 pitches/62 strikes); he’s rocking a 5.84 May after a 3.30 April. CF Felix Perez awakened from his season-long slump with three hits, including a solo homer (#1, .231, 2 R). The Bats had the tying run on first with C Dioner Navarro up in the ninth, but he grounded out to end the game.
5/19: Off to Lehigh Valley (PHI), home of the second-place IronPigs. But the Bats rose to the occasion, hammering starter Austin Wyatt for three homers- 3B Chris Valaika (#3), SS Kris Negron (#3) and 1B Neftali Soto (#4) in the first five innings. They cruised to a 9-2 win. Valaika finished 3-for-4 (.232), Negron 3-for-6 (.239) and Soto 2-for-5 (.228). LF Danny Dorn, another Bat stuck in a season-long slump, had a pair of doubles (.189). Sean Gallagher worked six for the win (W 3-3, 5.48, 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 K).
5/20: LV’s Tyler Cloyd came in to this game with a perfect 4-0 record and an ERA under 1- and the Bats blasted him anyway, scoring five runs in the sixth! Soto hammered a grand slam (#5) for most of that, although he was backed up by Dorn’s 3-for-4 (.206, 2 2B) and 2B Willie Harris’ two hits and two RBI. Another easy Louisville win, 7-3. Starter Pedro Villareal permitted just four hits in 6.2 (W 2-0, 3.32, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K). Smith got save #3.
5/21: This time it was the IronPigs with the big inning, as they chased Chad Reineke (4.91, 4 IP, 8 H, 6 ER) early with a five-run third. Louisville wiped out a 6-1 deficit with five of their own in the fifth, however, three coming on Dorn’s sixth home run. That was all the scoring until the 13th inning, when LV’s Andres Blanco stepped up against Travis Webb with one out and launched a game-winning solo home run. The Bats’ bullpen had piled up eight scoreless innings before that in large part due to Scott Carroll (7.03, 2.1 IP, 1 H, 4 K), Texeira (0.87, 2 IP, 2 H, 1 BB), and Josh Judy (3.15, 2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 4 K). Valaika had three hits (.244, 2B), RF Bill Rhinehart doubled twice (.248) and Negron led off the first with homer #4.
5/22: Schoolkid Special (a 10:35 EST start!) to close the four-game set, as the Bats would try to notch their first series win since they took two of three from Indianapolis on April 21-23. Brett Tomko was on the hill for Louisville, and despite six walks he held the IronPigs to four hits and just one run through seven (three double plays and a pickoff at second base helped; Tomko got his ERA down to 3.18). But LV’s Dave Bush (incidentally, a second-round draft pick of former Blue Jays and current Reds scouting director Chris Buckley back in 2002) was even better, shutting the Bats out on five hits and no walks on just 76 pitches through seven. Puckett had two of those hits. Willie Harris was sent up to pinch hit for Tomko in the top of the eighth but he grounded out. Negron whiffed and Rojas grounded out. After Wirfin Obispo allowed a second run in the eighth on a ground single, a pickoff throwing error, a flyout and a groundout, the Bats had just three outs remaining against Dave Bush. Sadly, though, there was little drama- Rhinehart flew out on an 0-2 count, Soto grounded out down 1-2, and Dorn flew out on a 2-2 count. LV salvages a split, 2-0.
Transactions: 5/19: C Brian Peacock returned to Pensacola. 5/22: LHR Rehabbin’ Bill Bray… you got it.
The only place I’ve seen this is the generally unreliable and amateurish Bleacher Report, but here you go: the Reds have supposedly purchased the contract of OF Joey Gathright, 31, from the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League. To best characterize Mr. Gathright, let me just say this: Billy Hamilton, if it doesn’t work out as well as you hoped… THIS COULD BE YOUR LIFE.
Around the minors: OF Quintin Berry, who spent most of 2011 with Double-A Carolina (and hitting .297/.399/.409 with 40 steals in 47 attempts), had his contract purchased by the Tigers after playing the first month-plus at AAA Toledo (39 G, .270/.368/.321). Congrats to the 27-year-old, let go by two teams in 2010 while he was busy batting a combined .210/.306/.284 at Double-A, for battling his way to the Show. He was originally a fifth-round pick in 2004 by Philadelphia out of San Diego State.
AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos
This week: 3-3.
Overall: 22-24, up to third place in the South Division, four and a half games behind Mobile (ARI).
5/17: Just after the Blue Wahoos claimed the rubber match of a home series against Birmingham, they had to get back in the bus for a trip to Jacksonville (FLA). A nip-and-tuck affair saw Pensacola score the tying run in the top of the ninth when 1B Joel Guzman doubled in SS Didi Gregorius (who’d singled and stolen second), but Curtis Partch served up a game-winning three-run homer in the bottom of the inning to the Suns’ Shawn Bowman to drop game one 8-5. JC Sulbaran struggled with his location (4.57, 4 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 94 pitches/57 strikes) but Clayton Tanner, Drew Hayes, Chris Manno, Justin Freeman, and Wilkin de la Rosa combined for four scoreless after Tanner let in both of Sulbaran’s inherited runners. Gregorius finished 2-for-5 with a double, two runs, and steal #1 (!?, .291). Guzman had two hits and two RBI (.262). LF PJ Phillips was 2-for-3 with a walk and run scored (.215). Stephen Hunt, just promoted from Bakersfield, got a hit in his first Southern League at-bat. 3B David Vidal, promoted a couple of games ago, was 0-for-5 with four strikeouts to drop to 0-for-12 overall in SL action.
5/18: Utility pitcher Tim Gustafson stymied the Suns on two hits over 5.2 innings (W 2-0, 4.05, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) and LF Yordanys Perez drove in both Pensacola runs with a pair of RBI singles (.208) as the BWs nipped Jacksonville 2-1. Guzman had two hits again, and- look out- the hulking slugger also stole his first base of the season. Tanner (4.76, 0.1 IP, 1 K), Freeman (3.43, 1.2 IP, 2 H, 1 K), and Donnie Joseph (save #8, 0.42, 1.1 IP, 1 K) were lights out late. Vidal got off the schneid; he’s now 1-for-16.
5/19: Pensacola built a 6-0 lead, then withstood a five-run Suns rally in the bottom of the seventh off the BW bullpen to hang on for a 6-5 win. Mark Serrano (W 3-0, 3.41, 2.1 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K) got the win in relief of Kyle Lotzkar (1.10, 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 7 K, 76 pitches/44 strikes). Partch atoned for the game-losing bomb a couple of days back by pitching 1.1 scoreless (letting in one of three inherited runners) to get the hold for Joseph (save #9, 0.40, 1 IP, 1 BB, 1 K). Guzman had two hits for the third straight day, one a two-run homer (#6, 3 RBI total, .275). CF Ryan LaMarre was 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs, and steal #12 (.294). Vidal had two hits and knocked in a run and 2B Brodie Greene had two hits and knocked in two runs (.247). The 2010 fourth-rounder was mired in a 3-for-26 slump.
5/20: Again the bullpen struggled, as Jacksonville got to Tanner (0-3) for the tiebreaking run in the eighth. Previously Hayes had blown the save by allowing a solo home run in the seventh (5.89, 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER). The Suns even the series at 2, 4-3. Starter Daniel Corcino was excellent (3.56, 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 HR). C Mark Fleury, an offensive non-entity all year, was 2-for-4 with a run scored (.186) and both Greene and RF Josh Fellhauer (.337) managed similar lines.
5/21: Pensacola takes back-to-back five-game sets, triumphing 4-1 in the rubber match! A three-run Perez homer in the eighth proved decisive (3-for-4, .232). Tim Crabbe fired six shutout innings (W 2-2, 3.69, 2 H, 2 BB, 6 K) and Joseph was automatic for save #10.
5/23: The Wahoos were held to three hits by Mississippi’s Zeke Spruill in a 5-2 loss. The last-place Braves take a 1-0 lead in this five-game series in Pensacola. Former Brave Tim Gustafson got the loss (L 2-1, 4.62, 5.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER). 3B David Vidal still hasn’t started hitting for real, but he did have an RBI triple here (.161).
Transactions: 5/19: C Brian Peacock returned to Pensacola; C Koyie Hill traded to the Cubs (and promoted immediately to the big leagues) for cash considerations.
High-A Bakersfield Blaze
This week: 3-3.
Overall: 26-19, second place, still two and a half games behind San Jose (SF).
5/17: Off to Lake Elsinore (SD) to face the Storm. (Too bad the Blaze are getting in too early to meet Sgt. Slaughter!) Josh Smith had his best outing of what’s been a tough year so far (5.09, 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K) but the Storm got to Jamie Walczak in the seventh for two to break a 1-1 tie. They held on to win, 3-2, as the Blaze couldn’t tie it despite having two on with one out in the eighth. CF Bryson Smith (2-for-4, .341) and LF Theo Bowe (2-for-4, .583) continued their hot hitting, while 2B Devin Lohman had a single, double, and RBI (.265). SS Billy Hamilton went 0-for-5 but stole bag #39 and scored a run.
5/18: LE cinched a series win, scoring five in the seventh off Brooks Pinckard (L 0-1, 13.03, 1 IP, 3 H, 5 ER, 2 BB) and coasting to a 6-3 win. Starter Tony Cingrani dominated for six (0.78, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 12 K). 1B Don Lutz was 2-for-4 with a RBI (.311, steal #7) and Bowe once again poked two hits. He also stole two bases (3).
5/19: The Blaze squeeze out a 16-inning marathon win, 4-2, with two in the top of the 16th. 3B Travis Mattair was 4-for-7 with two RBI (.174) and Bowe reached base five of six times (2-for-3, 3 BB, SAC, R). Bakersfield ran themselves out of many a rally, getting themselves thrown out by LE’s Rocky Gale on five of six steal attempts. The one successful one was Hamilton’s 40th. Justice French kept it rolling (1.06, 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K) and Pat Doyle (3.16, 1 IP), Brian Pearl (1.69, 2 IP, 3 K), Dan Wolford (3.33, 2 IP, 1 K), Chris Joyce (3.18, 3 IP, 3 H, 2 K) and Mike Griffin (W 2-3, 6.39, 2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K) all pitched excellently in relief.
5/20: It was one burned-out Blaze squad that rolled into Visalia for the next road segment, and the Rawhide administered an 8-0 whipping. Bakersfield got just two hits. Dan Renken (L 3-2, 5.04, 4.1 IP, 6 H, 5 ER) took the loss. Walczak pitched well (7.03, 2.2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K).
5/21: Back-to-back solo homers in the top of the ninth by Lutz (#12) and Mattair (#7) snapped a 4-4 tie (Visalia had nailed Wolford for four runs in the bottom of the eighth) and evened the series for Bakersfield 6-4. Lutz finished 3-for-5 with three runs scored and two RBI (.305) and Mattair the same, only with two doubles (.195). RF Jaren Matthews added two hits and two RBI and C Tucker Barnhart had a single and double (.235). DH Juan Duran whiffed three times but managed singles in his other two PAs (.167). Starter Sharky Rogers again was lights out (1.69, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K) but the undeserving Wolford (W 4-2, 4.26, 1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER) got the win. Pearl notched save #7.
5/22: Bakersfield scored in each of the first four innings, then piled on several more at the end to squelch a Rawhide comeback. They take a 14-6 rout and the series! Lohman hammered two homers and drove in six (#4 and #5, 3-for-6, .247). Duran had two doubles, a single, and four RBI (.185) and Mattair cracked the Mendoza Line with three more hits (.211, 3 R, RBI, BB). Hamilton, who entered the game on a 3-for-25 skid, poked two singles and a double while scoring three, driving in two, and swiping two bags (42, evening him up with his number of games played). Billy’s line now stands at .320/.395/.477. With the latest one coming on a throw in this game, he’s also got 12 errors in 42 games. Center field? Anyway, Josh Smith made it four solid starts in a row with 6.1 innings (W 2-4, 4.98, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K). Brooks Pinckard, who relieved Smith, let in two of those runs.
5/23: Off. Big three-game homestand against San Jose coming up on the 24th- a sweep would put the Blaze in first place.
LHS Tony Cingrani makes the Baseball Prospectus Monday Morning Ten Pack for 5/21:
Tony Cingrani, LHP, Reds (High-A Bakersfield)
While he's been overshadowed on the Blaze squad by the Billy Hamilton Show, Cingrani continues to dominate, striking out a career high 12 over six innings on Friday to give him 65 over 46 innings, while the one run allowed raised his ERA to 0.78. He certainly has the most eye-popping numbers in the league, but scouts are still mixed as to his future. He's dominating with two plus pitches, the best of which is a fastball that sits in the low-90s, touches 95 and features deception, location and movement. His changeup is a tick above-average with very good arm speed and fade, but scouts have yet to see a quality breaking ball out of him, and as a senior sign who turns 23 in July, it's fair to wonder if one will ever come. He looks like a big leaguer, but despite some of the best numbers in baseball, the role is still to be determined.
Low-A Dayton Dragons
This week: 3-3. Still, the team is 5-18 over their last 23 after starting 12-11.
Overall: 17-29. Two more games lost; now 15.5 out.
5/17: C Yovan Gonzalez homered in the top of the ninth (#3) but the Dragons still fell a run short, losing this road contest 5-4 to Bowling Green (TB). Gonzalez finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored to raise his average to .301. RF Kyle Waldrop had two doubles and a run knocked in (.256). Starter Jacob Johnson, making his return after missing all of 2011 following Tommy John surgery, worked five solid innings (3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K). James Allen (L 1-2, 5.59, 2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER) took the defeat in relief.
5/18: The fourth of four Hot Rods errors helped the Dragons rally for the two decisive runs in the seventh; they held on, 3-2, as Carlos Contreras (1.71, 2 IP, 3 K) and Kyle McMyne (save #1, 1.21, 1 IP, 1 BB, 1 K) were lockdown in the final three. Starter Dan Jensen got the victory (2-3, 2.43, 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K).
5/19: Great Lakes (LAD) rolled into Fifth Third Field and directly over the Dragons, 14-3. Radhames Quezada fell to 1-5 (3.65, 4.1 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 K). DH Ryan Wright was a small bright spot (2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI, .281).
5/20: Dayton evened the series with a 6-4 win. 1B Sean Buckley hit an early two-run homer (#3, 2-for-3, still .168). Amazingly, the cleanup hitter from last year’s Mustangs was batted ninth in the lineup. Wright had three more hits (2B, R, .292), SS Juan Perez had a pair of doubles (.248) and Gonzalez drove in a pair. Somehow the Dragons scored six runs while going 1-for-17 with men in scoring position. Tanner Robles got the win despite a less-than-dominant outing (W 3-3, 3.33, 5 IP, 5 H, 4 ER). Allen rebounded from his bad previous outing by setting down six straight (5.23, 2 K) . Mike Dennhardt worked the eighth and McMyne (save #2) the ninth.
5/21: You’ve got to give the Dragons credit in this case- they got blown out horribly in game one of a home series, then bounced back to take the next two close contests. They hold on to win the rubber matchup, 7-6, when Ryan Kemp bailed out Kyle McMyne with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, nobody out, one in, Dragons up by two- and got a groundout, popup and groundout to close out a 7-6 Dayton win. Kemp earned save #2 for this (2.52, 1 IP, 1 BB). Stalin Gerson worked six for the win (2-3, 4.15, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 HR). CF Kurtis Muller, playing in his first game of the year after splitting last year between Dayton and Billings (and appearing in eight games for Bakersfield earlier this year), was 3-for-4 with a home run. Wright was 2-for-2 with two runs scored, a double, a walk, and a RBI; Waldrop had two hits and two RBI. Buckley added two more hits (.183).
5/23: Well, crap. I was all set to pronounce a turning of the page, as Dayton had stormed back for five runs in the eighth to lead first-place Lansing (TOR) by three on the road…. but then:
Lansing Bottom of the 9th
• Pitcher Change: Carlos Contreras replaces Lucas O'Rear.
• Andrew Burns walks.
• K. C. Hobson flies out to right fielder Kyle Waldrop.
• Kevin Pillar walks. Andrew Burns to 2nd.
• Kevin Patterson walks. Andrew Burns to 3rd. Kevin Pillar to 2nd.
• Offensive Substitution: Pinch runner Markus Brisker replaces Kevin Patterson.
• Kenny Wilson singles on a ground ball to left fielder Steve Selsky. Andrew Burns scores. Kevin Pillar to 3rd. Markus Brisker to 2nd.
• Kellen Sweeney strikes out swinging.
• Jonathon Berti hit by pitch. Kevin Pillar scores. Markus Brisker to 3rd. Kenny Wilson to 2nd.
• Carlos Perez doubles (12) on a fly ball to center fielder Kurtis Muller. Markus Brisker scores. Kenny Wilson scores. Jonathon Berti to 3rd.
Ouch. Give the offense credit, as they lashed sixteen hits- outside of the 0-for-5 Juan Perez and 1-for-4 Brandon Dailey, every hitter had at least two hits- and DH Josef Terry had three (.256, R, RBI). Buckley drove in three in his inexorable quest towards the Mendoza Line (.194). Jake Johnson had another strong start (5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K). Contreras took the loss (0-1, 3.42).
Transactions: 5/20: OF Jefry Sierra returned to the DL, this time with a bruised heel. OF Kurtis Muller activated from Billings.