WILMINGTON, DE – An RBI single from Ramon Torres off of Tayler Scott in the bottom of the 10th inning gave the Wilmington Blue Rocks their second walk-off win of the season, this one a 3-2 final over Myrtle Beach in the first game of their three game series from Frawley Stadium. After losing three games in a row on the road to the Frederick Keys, the Rocks are now riding a modest two game winning streak.
Making this win for Wilmington all the more impressive is the fact that they were down to their final strike in the ninth inning against reliever Jasvir Rakkar. Rakkar, who worked one, two, three frame in the eighth inning, was looking to close things down in the ninth for Myrtle Beach. He got two quick outs and then a Frank Schwindel double off the base of the wall in leftfield extended the inning and put the tying run in scoring position. Then Zane Evans, coming off a career performance in the Frederick series, ensured that the Rocks would not go quietly with a two-strike double down the leftfield line to plate Schwindel. Mauricio Ramos, who drove in the Rocks first run with a single in the fourth, grounded out to send things into extras.
Both pitching staffs in this one were superb, starting with the starting hurlers. Jen-Ho Tseng sat down the first nine Blue Rocks he faced until a Torres single to leadoff the fourth inning ended his no-hit bid. He got through five innings, allowing three hits and just the one run. Alec Mills, on the other hand, struggled in the early going only to settle down. Mills gave up lone runs in the first and second innings on a bases loaded walk to Victor Caratini and an RBI single from Mark Zagunis. Mills had retired the first two hitters he faced in the first inning before the Pelicans loaded the bases on two singles and a walk.
The Rocks and Pelicans will square off again on Wednesday evening in game two of this three game set from Frawley Stadium. The Rocks will send out Eric Skoglund to the mound. Skoglund labored through six innings his last time out against the Keys, allowing five runs on nine hits and a walk. He will be matched by Jonathan Martinez for the Pelicans. Martinez, who is currently in his fifth professional season, is 0-1 with a 3.27 ERA so far on the young season.
PEBBLES OF KNOWLEDGE:
The Blue Rocks bullpen has been good this season, but they were great on Tuesday night. A combination of Benino Pruneda, Matt Alvarez, and Estarlin Cordero combined to pitch the last five innings allowing just one hit, a double by Wes Darvill off of Alvarez in the top of the tenth. Pruneda and Alvarez sat down 13 Pelicans in a row between the sixth and tenth innings. Cordero faced just one batter, Billy McKinney, who he struck out to end the Myrtle Beach threat in the tenth.
For the first time in 2015, Logan Moon was patrolling centerfield for the Blue Rocks. With the call-up of Bubba Starling we may have to get used to seeing a few different defensive alignments in the outfield. Dominique Taylor is projected to be the everyday centerfield, but in Minor League Baseball it’s all about diversity, as in diversity of playable positions. Moon has shown in the past he is capable of playing all three outfield spots. He played centerfield twelve times last season at Rookie-Level Burlington, paling in comparison to the 41 appearances he made in right. The Rocks defense didn’t seem fazed by the first-time outfield alignment. The Rocks didn’t make any errors on Tuesday night.
Ramon Torres just does not want to stop hitting in 2015. Torres had another great night at the plate on Tuesday, ending the day 3-for-5 with the walk-off single, a run scored, and his second stolen base of the season. Torres’ average is now at .304 (21-for-69) and his RBI was his third of the season from the leadoff spot in the order. Tuesday was Torres’ first walk-off hit of the season, the first for the Rocks since Bubba Starling’s walk-off double against the Keys on April 16th.
Tuesday’s game was what you might call a paradox as the two best statistical offenses in the Carolina League squared up and played a ten-inning pitcher’s duel. Blue Rocks pitchers gave up eight hits and two runs in ten innings, while striking out 11 batters. Pelicans’ pitchers also gave up eight hits, those in 9.2 innings pitched. Both staffs also showed immaculate control, walking just two batters each. The Blue Rocks are still leading the League with a .264 team average on 161 hits, the most of any team in the League. With the dominating performance by Wilmington pitchers, the Pelicans are now third in the C.L. in hitting. Myrtle Beach is swinging the bat to a tune of .251 as a team. They currently have the highest on-base percentage of any team in the League (.331).
THEY SAID IT:
Manager Brian Buchanan
“(Ramon Torres) swung the bat well. He did a nice job, he hit a ball hard in the first inning too, the line drive that the second baseman made a good play on. He’s been swinging the bat well all year, (he was) the right man in the right spot there in the 10th (inning).”
“(Alec Mills) was getting up in pitches. If he goes over a certain number of pitches, we (have) to get him out of there…and he was getting up there with the long (at-bats) with walks. I thought that we were going to have to bring someone in if he got too high in his pitch count in the first inning…He calmed down after that. He threw well the rest of the way.”
“(The bullpen) did a good job. Those guys haven’t thrown at all. (Benino) Pruneda and (Matt) Alvarez, it’s been five and six days for them. They haven’t been able to throw because of piggybacks (in the rotation) and it just didn’t work out, but Pruneda was lights out, and so was Alvarez. They’ve been doing well all year. The pitching staff has been doing outstanding.”
“(Jen-Ho Tseng) kept the ball down pretty well. I think he was a little deceptive. He had that big curveball that kept us off-balance. He threw well, he threw a good game against us. It’s just one of those things in baseball. You (have) to tip your hat to that guy, he did a nice job.”
“(The piggybacking in the rotation will continue) probably all year depending on injuries and people getting called up. That’s the plan for now, but that could change tomorrow if someone in Double-A gets hurt…For those guys, they’re trying to protect their arms a little bit.”
“(The offense has been resilient) all year, those are two-out RBI’s. We’ve been doing a real nice job this year battling through the whole inning, and once we get to two outs, we don’t give up. Tonight again, those guys, they’ve been swinging the bats well.”
“(The off-day yesterday was) absolutely (welcome). Any off-day in the minor leagues, they are few and far between, so every off-day is welcome.”
Starting Pitcher Alec Mills
“I just (have) to bare down and get those outs, plain and simple. I don’t think there’s any reason to blame (mechanics or command). (I) just (have) to get guys out.”
“I think something just clicked (after the early trouble). Something happened on the mound, I just started feeling better, and I was able to command the strike zone a lot better and get guys out early.”
“(Facing Myrtle Beach again helps you) know somewhat going in how you can get guys out…We’ve only played them once, so later on in the year, you get a lot better idea on how to get guys out.”
“I think (I’m a different pitcher after my injury) a little bit. I’m trying to get it back to where I was before. I think anybody wants to get back to where they were, that’s the whole point. I think it’s a little different. I’m getting there.”
“(The rehabilitation) is tough. It’s a mental grind says White Sands Orlando. You got to go into rehab every day, work hard, work out four or five hours of nothing really baseball related for a while. You just (have) to stick to it, and eventually you’ll get out of it and come out better.”
“The third inning for me is something (where) I felt like I was able to start letting it go. The pitch count kept me from going to the sixth (inning), but you (have) to have a quicker first inning to get to the sixth, so that’s all on me.”