Pinch Hit Homers and Pitching Near Perfection

Pinch Hit Homers and Pitching Near Perfection

Scott Hairston is heating up and Carlos Quentin is mashing in Tucson; Jerry Gil starts his term at Double-A without success, and Micah Owings is (finally) not perfect in Tennessee; Chris Rahl, Josh Ford, and Javier Brito lead Lancaster to a lucky 13 runs; Eduardo Baeza is done being anything less than brilliant, and Justin Upton refuses to be stopped in South Bend. The FBMLR is on.

(13-13) Tucson 2 @ (10-15) Fresno 5

In the minors streak or no streak, when its your turn for a day off, it's your turn for a day off, so in the midst of a 14 game hit streak Stephen Drew sat against the Fresno Grizzlies.  Lefty Michael Tejera made his first start of the season for Fresno, and after Tuesday's performance it seems likely there will be more to come.

Tejera allowed just one run, on a fourth inning home run by Carlos Quentin, and spoiled some fine relief work by the Sidewinders bullpen after lefty Neil Musser lasted just three innings.  Mike Bacsik came on in the fourth inning and allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out five in his three innings, and then the newest Sidewinder, righty Mike Schultz, continued to impress, allowing just hit and striking out two in his two innings of work.  It was Schultz's first action in Triple-A after he was called up and shortstop Jerry Gil was moved down to Double-A Tennessee.  For Musser, who took his third loss of the season without a win, it was his worst outing of the year, and once again opens speculation that sooner than later lefty Bill Murphy may be returning to the starting rotation.

Despite racking up eight hits as a team the Sidewinders offense was pretty much limited to the fourth inning homer by Quentin and a 3-4 day for left fielder Scott Hairston, who has raised his batting average 29 points in the last four games.  Hairston's eighth inning single drove in his 10th run of the year and brought the tying run to the plate, but after a pitching change center fielder Chris Young grounded into a routine 6-4-3 double play to end the inning, and the threat.

(12-14) Tennessee 3 @ (17-9) Chattanooga 4

With the Tennessee Smokies' April Pitcher of the Month Micah Owings on the mound even division leading Chattanooga didn't look that imposing, but Owings was out dueled by Edward Valdez on Tuesday as the bats couldn't get going.

Jerry Gil had been seeing a lot of time in center field during his tenure with Triple-A Tucson, but with the return of Chris Young from a broken hand Gil was moved back down to Double-A to increase his playing time, and he got the start in center on his first night with the Smokies.  Gil was hitless on the night, but no Smoky player tallied more than one hit in the game as Valdez scattered six hits and allowed just three runs on the night. 

Owings was solid, going six innings and allowing four runs on seven hits and taking his first loss of the season.  Owings continued to be as much a threat with the bat as he is on the mound, going one for two with a double and a RBI, bringing his season total to four and his season average to .333.  While commentators often joke that Dontrelle Willis could play the outfield when he wasn't pitching, it is quickly becoming apparent that Owings legitimately could play first base when he wasn't on the mound.

Second baseman Danny Richar collected the only other RBI of the game for the Smokies (one run scored on a wild pitch), on a fifth inning single that drove in Owings, running his hit streak to 11 games.

(12-14) Stockton 7 @ (9-17) Lancaster 13

The JetHawks offense had been woeful in the early going, and it was something of a surprise.  Apparently those woes have been replaced with WOWs as the JetHawks exploded for 13 runs on 18 hits in support of their staff ace, lefty Matt Chico.  Chico had his worst game of the season, allowing 11 hits and five earned in just five innings, to raise his ERA up to 2.62, but he still collected the win as the JetHawk bullpen managed to quiet the Ports late.

There was plenty of offense to go around as six different players had multi-hit games and six different players drove in runs.  As has become customary left fielder Chris Rahl lead the way, going 3-5 with a double, homer, walk, three runs scored and three RBI, but right behind him in the production category was catcher Josh Ford whose two run double in the five run fourth helped put the JetHawks firmly in control.  On the day Ford was 2-5 with three RBI and a run scored.

Shortstop Derek Bruce collected his first three hit day of the season, DH Mark Reynolds crushed his fifth homer of the season, and Javier Brito made the most of his opportunity, pinch hitting for Reynolds in the 8th and banging a shot out of the park over the right center field wall for a two run homer.  It was Brito's second homer in just 26 at bats this season.

After being shelled to the tune of nine earned in his last 1.2 innings reliever Ryan Coffin bounced back nicely with two scoreless frames in relief of Owings, but the same could not be said for Dan Pohlman, who allowed two earned on three hits and two walks in two innings and saw his ERA shoot up to 8.10 on the young season.

(10-16) South Bend 3 @ (13-13) Cedar Rapids 0 in 10 innings

Eduardo Baeza has been 'On The Cusp' of the FutureBacks.com Power Rankings for each of the last two weeks, and apparently he means to get on the list proper this week.  Despite not factoring in the decision Baeza was brilliant allowing five hits, a walk, and zero runs in seven innings while striking out five.  Unfortunately for Baeza he was matched and more by Thomas Mendoza of Cedar Rapids, who also went seven, but allowed only two hits, both to Justin Upton, allowing no runs in his stint. 

It became a battle of bullpens after the seventh, and the combination of 7'1" right hander Ryan Doherty and 6'5" righty Vince Bongiovanni proved too much for the Kernels as back to back homers from pinch hitter Greg Thomson and left fielder Trey Hendricks gave Doherty his first win of the season and Bongiovanni his second save.

Upton's 2-4 night gave him a modest three game hit streak while Thomson's pinch hit homer (his first of the season) extended his hit streak to five games.  Bongiovanni's scoreless ninth lowered his ERA to a miniscule 0.68 on the season.

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