Tacoma 1 @ Tucson 5 in seven innings
Though at 34 years old he's hardly an up and coming prospect anymore, lefty Chris Michalak continues to be a factor in the Tucson starting rotation. In game one of a double header due to a soggy field at Tucson Electric Park on Wednesday, Michalak did what any manager would hope for in the first game of a double dip, he took the bullpen out of play. Michalak got the seven inning complete game in one of his best outings of the year. Michalak allowed just one run on four hits and a walk, while striking out three. It was his third complete game of the season for the Sidewinders.
The Sidewinders jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the first by taking advantage of a second chance. Andy Green started game one as the Designated Hitter, and lived up to his title, starting the game off with a double. Second baseman Keoni DeRenne then single to drive Green home, and after Josh Kroeger popped out, Carlos Quentin came to the plate. Quentin popped one up behind the plate, but catcher Wiki Gonzalez couldn't handle it, and given the second chance Quentin was able to capitalize. He tripled on a shot to center field, plating DeRenne, and would be driven home when first baseman Jesus Cota followed with a single.
Normally a scoreless second inning for the Sidewinders wouldn't command a full paragraph, but there was one single in the frame, and it was a big one. The Sidewinders starting left fielder Thursday was none other than Robby Hammock, and in his first game back since off season shoulder surgery, singled in his return to competitive baseball. Hammock would finish game one 1-2 with a RBI on a fourth inning sacrifice fly that scored Cota.
Cota had himself a fantastic game, he was 2-2 with a run scored and two RBI, giving him 12 RBI in 24 games with the Sidewinders.
Tacoma 1 @ Tucson 0 in seven innings
For the eighth time in his 12 appearances, and four straight, Oscar Villarreal had what we at FutureBacks have affectionately started calling a 'False Start.' Villarreal, still rehabbing in Tucson, toed the rubber as the starter in Tucson, going his scheduled two innings, and took the loss as the Sidewinders ran into a stellar pitching performance from Rainiers starter Damian Moss. Villarreal allowed only two hits on the day, but the first batter he faced would lace a double, advance to third on a ground out, and then score on a sacrifice fly, and the way Moss was going, that was all the offense Tacoma would need. Mark Freed came on to throw four innings of one hit ball, striking out one and not allowing a run, and Brian Bruney would surrender a lone walk, and strike one out, in his seventh inning.
Despite managing eight hits, the Sidewinders just couldn't push a run across the plate. Moss forced them to put the ball in play, not surrendering a single walk, and when you throw strikes, good things happen. Among the good things were three Tacoma double plays that helped squash rallies, and one curious baserunning decision that may have cost the Sidewinders a chance to tie. In the fourth inning Carlos Quentin led off with a double, but on a Koyie Hill ground ball to shortstop, Quentin, who had the play in front of him, decided to try advancing to third, he was thrown out on the fielder's choice, and as if to add insult to injury, the next Sidewinders hitter, David Doster, would ground into the second of those double plays on the day.
Tennessee 1 @ Birmingham 2 in 10 innings
Smokies right hander Adam Bass appeared to be on the verge of a terrible season. He was 2-8 coming into August, despite an ERA that hovered right around 4.00, and couldn't seem to buy any run support. In his first start this month things seemed to go from bad to worse, as Bass was shelled for seven runs on seven hits in just 5.2 innings. Since then though, Bass has been on a tear. He came into Thursday's start on a three game win streak, having allowed just six earned runs in his last 20 innings pitched, and continued to pitch well in his six innings Thursday. Bass allowed just one run, and though his control failed him at times, he walked four, he allowed only three hits. It was that control that would cost him a chance at victory though in the third inning. After getting the first man, Bass mishandled a comebacker, committing just his second error of the season. Rattled, Bass then unleashed a wild pitch that would send the runner to second, and then give up a double that would score the lone run off the right hander.
Still, it was really a lack of offense that cost the Smokies the game. Despite half of Tennessee's eight hits going for extra bases, they couldn't managed the clutch hitting needed to bring those runners home, and in fact their only run of the game came courtesy of an error.
Reliever Mike Schultz also had his share of control problems Thursday, and like Bass, his would be costly. Schultz came on to pitch the 10th inning, with the score tied 1-1, and promptly struck out the lead off hitter, but the third strike would roll to the backstop, allowing the runner to reach first. He would recover to strike out the next man, but unleash his second wild pitch of the inning, allowing the runner to move into scoring position. Schultz would then walk the next two before being lifted with the bases loaded and only one out. The Smokies caught a break when the runner at third was caught trying to steal home, but after that second out was recorded, a single to left would bring home the winning run.
Lancaster 6 @ Bakersfield 4
Jon Castellanos had his best outing in more than a month, and the JetHawks timely hitting helped him again, as he moved to 9-2 on the season Thursday. Castellanos went seven innings for just he sixth time this season allowing six hits and no walks, striking out two and letting just two Blaze cross the plate. Though Bakersfield would take a 2-0 in the third inning on three hits it would be their only major threat of the game, and the two out, run scoring single would be followed by the third out of the innings.
The JetHawks would strike back immediately in the top of the fourth inning. Shortstop Kenny Perez (1-3, RBI, run) would lead off with a walk, right fielder Jeff Cook (1-3, 2 BB, run) would follow with a single, and DH Alex Frazier would follow with his only hit of the game, a double to right that would score Perez, and leave two runners in scoring position. After first baseman Edgar Varela (1-5) struck out, centerfielder Jay Garthwaite would continue his torrid August with a double down the left field line that would plate Cook and Frazier.
Garthwaite was 2-3 with a walk and those two RBI, bringing his August average to .343 with eight homers and 34 RBI. Of Garthwaite's 35 August hits, 19 are for extra bases.
The seventh inning would garner the JetHawks two more runs, as Neb Brown (2-2, 2 BB, run, RBI) would lead off with a walk, be moved to second on an Erik Schindewolf sacrifice, advance to third on a wild pitch and then score on Perez's single, but it would also cost the JetHawks their starting shortstop, as Perez left the game with an ankle injury. In the eighth the JetHawks would pick up one more despite Brown being caught stealing third and Steve Garrabrants, who entered the game after Perez's injury, was picked off second.
Right handed reliever Dustin Glant continued to struggle, allowing two earned in two-thirds of an inning on four hits, but once again closer Matt Wilkinson was stellar, coming on in the eighth to strand both the runners he inherited from Glant, and then slamming the door on the Blaze in the ninth to earn his ninth straight save in as many appearances.
South Bend 5 @ Clinton 1
When you're struggling, nothing seems to go your way, and that's exactly how right hander Chris Kinsey must be feeling. After two straight starts where Kinsey lasted five innings or less, and gave up six earned or more, he bounced back Thursday to throw 6.2 innings of four hit, three walk, one run ball, and still couldn't earn a decision, despite the Silverhawks getting the win. The Silverhawks were shut out through the first seven innings, but after Clinton pulled starter Michael Schlact to start the eighth inning, the bats came alive.
With one out Emilio Bonifacio walked, and after a force out Carlos Gonzalez (3-5, run) singled, Cesar Nicolas was hit by a pitch to load the bases and set the stage for catcher Wilkin Castillo. Castillo came into the game with a nine game hit streak, but had been stymied up until his eighth inning at bat. With the bases juiced and two out Castillo hit a shot to center field that would clear the bases, put him on third and extend the streak to double digits. The Silverhawks would add two insurance runs in the ninth when Mark Reynolds (1-4) singled, was brought home on a Travis Gulick (1-4) triple, and Gulick scored on Brandon Simon sac fly.
Tri-City 13 @ Yakima 3
Angel Rocha would lose control in the third inning, and his team would as well, as Tri-City put up six runs in the frame to down the Bears. In the third Rocha would retire the lead off hitter with a strikeout, but allow two straight singles and a wild pitch to put two in scoring position. After another strikeout for out number two Rocha would allow a walk to load the bases and then a single to plate two. It looked as if the Bears would be out of the inning when Rocha struck out another Tri-City hitter, but catcher Manny Del Campo was charged with his eighth passed ball of the season, once again loading the bases. Tri-City made Rocha and the Bears pay for their mistake, as Sandy Almonte crushed a ball to center that would leave the yard for a grand slam.
Rocha would retire only one hitter in the next inning before being pulled. After his last start, where he went six innings without allowing a run and striking out 13, Rocha had to be disappointed by his 3.1 inning performance, though only two of the seven runs he allowed were earned.
In the fourth inning Ramon Downing hit his fourth homer of the year, a two run shot, to bring the Bears back to within five, but the bullpen couldn't hold down Tri-City, as each of the three relievers, Garrett Bauer, Ryan Doherty and Kyler Newby, allowed runs. The defense was the Bears undoing, as seven of the 13 runs they allowed would be unearned.
Great Falls 4 @ Missoula 8
Right hander Matt Green continued to show he's learning the pro game quickly, as he picked up his second win in his last three starts with five innings of two run ball that included a season high nine strikeouts. Green has now allowed just two earned in his last three starts, spanning 16 innings. After three innings of scoreless relief from Vince Bongiovanni, Jason Neighborgall got the opportunity to come out of the bullpen, but found no more success in that role than he had as a starter. Neighborgall would record only one out, a strikeout, but would allow two earned runs on four walks and one hit before being lifted for Dan Pohlman, who struck out the only two hitters he faced to earn his 11th save of the season.
Left fielder Osvaldo Diaz led Missoula offensively. He was 2-5 with three RBI and a run scored, but as usual third baseman Rusty Ryal was a force. Ryal was 3-4 with two doubles, two RBI and two runs scored. Center fielder Travis Tully was in the lead off spot Thursday and did exactly what you ask a lead off hitter to do, see pitches, get on base and score runs. Tully extended his hitting streak to 11 games by going 1-2 with a double, but also walked twice, drove in a run, stole a base and scored three times.