Anticipated Pitching Duel Fizzles into Slugfest at HoHoKam
With two of the AFL's top starting pitchers on the hill, naturally the game turned into a slugfest, as the Mesa Solar Sox scored eight unanswered runs in the middle innings to overcome a 4-0 deficit, only to blow a four-run 8th inning lead, before scoring the game-winning run on a two-out single in the bottom of the 9th, en route to a 9-8 victory over Surprise Rafters in Arizona Fall League action this afternoon at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.
(And next time you come by, bring my stomach!)...
Cubs RHP Andrew Cashner got the start for the Solar Sox, and went just three innings. He left a lot of his pitches up in the zone, allowing four runs on seven hits (including three doubles and a home run) in what was his worst outing of the 2009 AFL season.
Ike Davis (Mets 2008 1st round pick out of Arizona State) was Cashner's main tormentor, ripping a two-run double into the right-field corner in the the top of the 1st, and a two-run homer over the right-centerfield fence in the top of the 3rd, as the Rafters took an early 4-0 lead.
Cashner did strike out five and walked just one, but he had to throw 69 pitches (44 strikes) to get through his three innings.
Meanwhile, Rafters RHP Ian Kennedy (NYY) sailed through his first four innings, before falling apart in the bottom of the 5th. Like Cashner, Kennedy allowed four runs on seven hits, although at least he was able to get one out in the 5th before he was relieved. .
Red Sox CF Ryan Kalish clubbed a three-run homer off Yankees LHP Michael Dunn to cap the five-run Mesa 5th, and then the Solar Sox added two more runs in the 7th, one of the runs scoring on a Josh Vitters RBI single.
Vitters returned to the Mesa lineup today as the Solar Sox DH, having missing five games after suffering a muscle strain while taking BP last week.
Vitters grounded out to short in the 2nd, popped up to the catcher in the 4th, and lofted a singled over the third-baseman's head in the 5th, before ripping his RBI single to left in the 7th. (Vitters was called out for interfering with the catcher's throw to 2nd on a stolen base attempt in the bottom of the 9th--a VERY questionable call by the ump--leaving him 2-5 for the day).
The Solar Sox took their 8-4 lead into the top of the 8th, but Doug Hogan (TEX) clubbed a two-run home run over the scoreboard beyond the fence in LF off Red Sox LHP Dustin Richardson to narrow the gap to 8-6, and then Cubs RHP Blake Parker blew the save, surrendering a towering game-tying two-run home run to Yankees 3B Brandon Laird off the light-standard in left-center with one out in the top of the 9th. Parker struck out two (including Ike Davis) in his one inning, while walking one and allowing the game-tying HR.
The Solar Sox pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the 9th, on a two-out RBI single by Cuban defector SS Jose Iglesias (BOS) following a walk and a single (overcoming the Vitters interference play), edging the Rafters 9-8.
Michael Brenly entered the game as a pinch-runner in the bottom of the 7th, as Hank Conger (LAA) pulled up lame at 3rd base, and scored on the Vitters RBI single. Brenly then stayed in the game at catcher, and grounded out 6-3 in his one AB in the 8th.
Starlin Castro had the day off, although he and Angels OF P. J. Phillips alternated as the Solar Sox 1st base coach (good experience for when their playing careers are over).
LHPs John Gaub and James Russell threw yesterday at Surprise, and Gaub had a very bad outing, immediately walking the bases loaded and throwing a WP after entering the game in relief, before allowing an F-9 SF and an RBI single. Gaub was yanked out of the game after retiring only two hitters and throwing 26 pitches (only ten strikes).
If it's possible to pitch yourself off the 40-man roster by throwing piss-poor in the AFL, Gaub might be doing just that. Now, I personally do not believe what Gaub does in the AFL should have a bearing on whether he is added to the 40 on 11/20, but it might influence Jim Hendry.
Remember, Donald Veal appeared to be a virtual "lock" to get added to the Cubs 40-man roster this time last year, but then he stunk it up in the AFL, got left off the 40-man roster, and was selected by Pittsburgh in the December 2009 Rule 5 Draft. (And Veal has been the best pitcher in the AFL so far this year, too).
Although Gaub had a poor outing yesterday, James Russell had another fine one, throwing 1.1 IP of shutout ball for Mesa in relief of Gaub. The 21-year old Russell has now thrown 9.1 innings of four-hit shutout ball (2/7 BB/K) over his last eight appearances for the Solar Sox.