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5/4 Minor League Wrap-Up

NUTS!... Crap... That sucks... and that's awesome.

I was gonna ask, "What team gets what response?" but I wrote them in order, so oh well to that.

A:  Modesto 10, High Desert 4

Jon Lockwood: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 2 walks, K
John Sullivan:  2.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, K, wild pitch, hit batter
Jason Snyder:  No outs recorded, 2 ER, 2 walks
David Asher:  2 IP, 3 H, (2 R) 1 ER
Brian Kappel:  1 IP, 1 H
Michael Saunders:  0-2, R, 2 walks (.237)
Casey Craig:  0-2, 2 walks, 2 K (.267)
Jesus Guzman:  0-3, R, walk (.292)
Johan Limonta:  1-3, R, walk (.330)
Adam Moore:  1-4, GRAND SLAM (.250)
Jeff Dominguez:  1-4, K (.287)

The Mavs got beat by deez.

Deez what?

Modesto jumped all over Jon Lockwood, beating him so well that Lockwood did not escape the 3rd.  John Sullivan gave a passable performance until he was tagged for 2 runs in the 5th to make it 6-0.  The offense, dead up to this point, responded in the top 6th.  Michael Saunders led off with yet another walk.  After Casey Craig went down swinging for one out, Jesus Guzman drew a walk.  Johan Limonta, probably the best hitter to date on this squad, lined a single to right that was quickly fielded by Lino Garcia but loaded the bases for Adam Moore, and Moore CRUSHED a pitch from Brandon Durden for a huge grand slam that made it 6-4, and a ballgame.

Jason Snyder came in to start the 6th, and walked Jeff Kindel.  Cole Garner pinch hit for Lino Garcia, and drew a walk himself.  It wasn't looking good at all, so Snyder was quickly yanked for David Asher.  Kyle Blumenthal bunted the runners ahead, but beat the throw to first to load the bases!  Travis Becktel lined a single to left that scored Kindel and kept the bases loaded, no outs.  7-4 Deez.  Deez what?

I cannot imagine this hasn't become the most tired running gag in Modesto.

Asher settled down despite it all.  Dexter Fowler grounded to 3rd, and Jesus Guzman threw home to force out Cole Garner at home for one out.  Eric Young popped out, but Chris Nelson's grounder to short got through into LF to score Blumenthal and Becktel and make it 9-4 Modesto.  Jose Valdez's grounder found an infielder for the 3rd out, but that was basically all Modesto needed, as the Nuts teabagged the Mavs 10-4.

Sorry, sorry.  Seriously, though, these guys couldn't get with the times and switch to a less flammable nickname, even one of those annoying Gen X nicks like the Fuschia Saberpanthers or something?  But the Nuts?  Well, I guess if you have a name for 43628473 years, you can't just up and change it.  I understand.

A:  South Bend 9, Wisconsin 1

Chris Tillman:  1 IP, 4 H, (6 R) 4 ER, 2 walks, 1 K
Rollie Gibson:  2 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 3 walks, 2 K
Natividad Dilone:  2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 walks, 3 K
Robert Harmon:  2 IP, 1 H, walk, K
Andrew Barb:  1 IP, walk, 2 K
Greg Halman:  1-4, R, K (.244)
Carlos Triunfel:  1-4 (.263)
Leury Bonilla:  0-4, K, more time at catcher late in the game (.288)
Carlos Peguero:  2-4, RBI, K (.162)
Kalian Sams:  0-3, 2 K (.236)

Okay, after Chris Tillman's meltdown and another vapid performance at the plate (5 hits, all singles), I think we can officially proclaim that something is rotten in the state of Wisconsin and something, anything, needs to be done.  We don't necessarily need to can anybody.  Let me offer a positive suggestion: Can we send Jeremy Reed, Bryan LaHair, and/or Luis Valbuena, hell, even Rene Rivera, all struggling right now at higher levels, on a 15 day recon mission to Appleton (well, South Bend for now) to help lift these kids' spirits and offer some veteran mentorship, while, I dunno, playing some fundamentally sound D and smacking the tar out of single A pitching?  Whoever they supplant can take their spots at their respective clubs for a couple weeks and ride some pine, watch and learn, get in some practice between games on their fundamentals, maybe get in and play a little bit in the interim.  Hey, we did it with Austin Bibens-Dirkx last season and with Prentice Redman this year in Tacoma.  Of course, those were injury/rest replacements, but the idea is the same.

Because, right now, trying to play out of the perceived slump not only isn't working, but one of the team's few strengths, the starting pitching, is starting to unravel.  Emotion and momentum matters with young guys, and right now, the only thing I can imagine these kids are learning is that they make tons of mistakes and losing sucks.  I can't imagine these kids feel too good about themselves with a 4-20 record.

Recapping the game in any real detail is a waste of time.  Chris Tillman, pretty good up to this point, got hammered in the 1st inning, did not come out for the 2nd, Rollie Gibson wasn't much better and it was 9-1 after 2 innings.  The T-Rats bats had no answer whatsoever against the quality arm of Anthony Barnette, who went 8 innings for his longest outing of the year, striking out 6.

Question: You're a 17 year old infielder with amazing raw talent in your first, some would say improbable season of professional baseball, and your single A ballclub has lost 83% of their games, in some part because of your fielding gaffes.  How do you feel?

AA:  Mobile 3, West Tenn 1

Robert Rohrbaugh:  6 IP, 2 H, (2 R) 0 ER, walk, 3 K
Juan Sandoval:  3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER (HR), 4 K
Chris Minaker:  1-4, RBI (.230)
Marshall Hubbard:  0-4, 2 K (.267)
Prentice Redman:  0-3, walk, K (.268)
Matt Tuiasosopo:  0-4 (.347)
Jeff Frazier:  1-3, walk (.215)
Rene Rivera:  0-2, K (.197)
Luis Valbuena:  2-3 (.192)

We had us a duel for the first 4 innings between pitching MacGyver Robert Rohrbaugh and the somewhat erratic arm of Mobile's Jonathan Castellanos, who the D-Backs are trying to convert to a starting role with reasonably decent results.  A meh 2006 as a reliever at the AA level somehow showed the D-Backs that he had the makeup to work through a lineup 3-4 times, thus the conversion.  30.1 innings later, with a 2.97 ERA and 23 Ks to 11 BB, it's clear he has what it takes... at least at the AA level.

It was scoreless coming into the 5th.  With one out, Carlos Gonzalez hit a dribbler that Rene Rivera... sigh... misplayed, allowing Gonzalez to reach.  Chris Rahl's deep foul down the 1B line was caught by Prentice Redman for two outs.  Redman, while not consistent, had his moments at the plate during his trial in Tacoma, showing that he's not far from competence at the AAA level, good news for the DIAMOND JAXX's struggling lineup.  Meanwhile, Jon Zeringue came to the plate, and Gonzalez stole 2nd, before Zeringue drew a walk.  Rohrbaugh need only get the serviceably useless SS Ronnie Merrill (215/326/304 this year, .668 OPS last year in the Texas League) to escape the inning.  And Merrill hit a drive to center past CF Sebastien Boucher for his first triple of the season, scoring Gonzalez and Zeringue to make it 2-0 Mobile.  Rohrbaugh got Emilio Bonifacio swinging but he couldn't be happy with allowing two runs in a duel.

West Tenn wanted to have his back, and went after it in the bottom half.  Ron Prettyman grounded out like a Uselessman for one out, but Rene Rivera drew a walk, and Luis Valbuena, cold as ice this year, hit a fly ball to left that dropped in for a base hit, moving the lead-footed Rivera to 2nd.  Sabastien Boucher whiffed for two outs, but Chris Minaker, erratic but capable of having good moments, lined a single to center to score Rivera and make it 2-1, with Valbuena taking 2nd.  However, Marshall Hubbard, clutch all year to date, surprisingly swung and missed at strike three to end the inning.

Rohrbaugh did not give in, putting down the Bay Bears (speaking of WTF nicknames) in order in the top 6th, and the DIAMOND JAXX went for it again in the bottom 6th.  Mobile precluded the frame with a curious substitution, bringing in Josh Ford to replace Wilkin Castillo at catcher.  Prentice Redman led off by drawing a walk, but Tui grounded to 3rd and 3B Mark Reynolds was able to get lead runner Redman at 2nd for one out.  Castellanos called it a game after that, ceding to Clint Goocher, who has been hit around a bit in middle relief this year (10 ER in 16 IP for a shiny 5.63 ERA).

Not wanting to let Ron Prettyman gag up a scoring opportunity in a soccer-like ballgame, manager Eddie Rodriguez pulled Prettyman for Brent Johnson, out of the lineup today and not the most consistent hitter, but certainly capable of getting on base, much moreso to date than Prettyman.

And Brent rewarded Rodriguez's managerial acumen by grounding into the 6-4-3 inning ending double play.  MARINERS IN THE MAKING!

Juan Sandoval, who had the 3 previous days off but is still on pace to work something like 100 innings in relief, relieved Rohrbaugh and got the side in order in the top 7th.  Despite a two out Sabastien Boucher walk, West Tenn also went down relatively easy in the bottom 7th.  Both relievers took care of business without incident in the 8th.  The DIAMOND JAXX  were still in easy reach of tying or winning the ballgame as we went to the top 9th.  Hold the fort, push in a run and we're tied.

Sandoval came out for his 3rd inning, mowed down Javier Brito, hung a pitch to Mark Reynolds and watched him take that sucker deep to make it 3-1.  Well, crap.  Much like an insurance goal in the 83rd minute of a Premier League match, that was a huge, huge run for Mobile.  Tui muffed a Cesar Nicolas grounder to put him on, but Carlos Gonzalez grounded into the inning ending 4-6-3 double play to get them out of the top 9th, but now the DIAMOND JAXX needed 2 runs to tie instead of one.

Dustin Glant, a reliever repeating AA and getting it right this time so far (17:3 K/BB, 2.57 ERA in 14 IP), came in to shut it down for Mobile and didn't face much opposition, with Frazier, Brent Johnson and Rene Rivera due up.  You can probably figure out the rest.

Discussion topic (thanks to CoachOwens): Rene Rivera is a waste of space.  Discuss.

AAA:  Fighting Lacheys 6, Salt Lake 3

Justin Lehr:  7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER (HR), walk, 4 K
Jon Huber:  2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 K (slump OVER)
Adam Jones:  1-3, double, R, 2 RBI, walk, K, SB (.303)
Jeremy Reed:  3-4, R, RBI, SB (.250)
WLAD:  1-4, R, SB (.371)
Bryan LaHair:  2-4, RBI (.220)  What was I saying about these guys struggling again?
Mike Morse:  3-4, double, R, RBI, K (.353)  Back to back 3 hit games for Big Roider!
Jeff Clement:  1-3, double, R, walk (.200)
Rob Johnson (DH):  1-4, K (.226)

Salt Lake SP Pedro Liriano is no Francisco Liriano.  Hell, he ain't even Nelson Liriano.  After 3 decent innings (escaping the 1st with one run allowed despite allowing 3 hits), the Rainiers hammered him in the 4th for 4 runs and he did not make it out of the 5th.

Justin Lehr was solid but took his lumps as well.  He gave up a two out, 2 run HR to Matthew Brown that gave the Stingers a 2-1 lead, then surrendered back to back singles to start the top 4th, and eventually ceded a bastard run after inducing a groundout to make it 3-1.

But the Rainiers came up huge for Lehr in the bottom 4th.  Mike Morse's grounder found a hole into LF to lead off, then Jeff Clement lined a shot to left that actually didn't find a fielder for a change, for a double, though the flat-footed Morse only got to 3rd.  Rob Johnson's liner, however, did find the glove of Kendry Morales (HEY) for one out, and Brant Ust grounded to short for two outs, but Morse was able to score on the play to cut the lead to 3-2.  Oswaldo Navarro, he of many gaffes this season, drew a walk off Fake Liriano to put runners at 1st and 2nd.  Adam Jones, once again hot after returning from his unspecified injury, watched Pedro Liriano uncork a wild pitch that moved the runners into scoring position and eliminated the force out at any base.  Jones likes causing pain to opposing PCL pitchers, so he smoked a double to left that scored both runners and gave the Rainiers the 4-3 lead.  Jeremy Reed grounded to short and SS Gary Patchett isn't replacing Orlando Cabrera anytime soon: he had trouble with the worm-burner and did not get Reed in time.  Jones, going with the pitch, easily scored from 2nd to make it 5-3.  Reed, however, still needs work with swiping bags, as he got gunned down trying to steal 2nd, with WLAD at the plate, to end the inning.

With the lead, Lehr worked an easy 5th, and WLAD picked right up in the bottom 5th with a grounder through the left side for a base hit.  Bryan LaHair flew to center for one out.  With Morse at the plate, WLAD took off and swiped 2nd, prompting catcher Jeff Mathis (HEY) to hork it into the outfield, giving WLAD 3rd base.  Morse took advantage and lined a shot into right for a double that easily scored WLAD and made it 6-3.  Fake Liriano was yanked and Marcus Gwyn quickly put an end to this nonsense, including a Clement groundout and getting Rob Johnson on strikes.

Lehr gave it one more inning before ceding to Jon Huber, who had a very encouraging outing his last time out.  It appears that Daren Brown and co have taken a common approach to getting Huber out of his funk: using him for extended stretches in lower pressure situations.  And Huber rewarded them by putting down the last six Salt Lake batters to earn the save and lock down a nice win for the Rainiers.  Four of the six batters got good wood, with two line outs and two fly outs, but it's a start: the other two outs were strikeouts, and 19 of his 24 pitches were for strikes, indicating he's focusing on pounding the strike zone instead of nibbling and forcing the hitters to beat him.  This is an excellent development for Jon Huber after his awful April.