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Midshipmen’s Log 5/31/21: Nuts are hot, Everett splits a series, Travs crushed by Drillers

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Modesto’s powerhouse rotation keeps cruising, while Everett’s stumbles some

Adam Macko, lookin’ nasty
Dan Rogers, @drsnapsmodesto

It’s weird to have a bunch of teams not playing on Memorial Day, traditionally one of the biggest revenue days at minor-league stadiums, but you can thank the MLB brain-geniuses for that particular schedule quirk. It must be weird for the players to enjoy a Memorial Day off for probably the first time in their pro careers, but I’m sure none of them mind getting to have a day off like everyone else.

See that cool photo of Adam Macko that’s the header to this article? That picture is courtesy of Dan Rogers, who is graciously allowing us to use his photos from Modesto (and the occasional Rainiers-Sacramento River Cats game) this year. You can see more of Dan’s pictures at @drsnapsmodesto on Instagram, or @modestophoto on Twitter, or see ‘em all at https://danrogers.smugmug.com/.

Low-A West: Modesto (17-7) wins series against Visalia Rawhide (ARI) (6-18)

Mirroring the struggles of the big-league club, Visalia has the worst record in the Cal League, while Modesto owns the best. Visalia still managed to take two games in the four-game series, catching Modesto in a few mistakes as this young but enthusiastic club gets its footing in pro ball.

Game one: Nuts win, 9-6

Modesto scored in each of the first three innings against Rawhide starter Austin Pope, but were downright mean to his fourth-inning replacement Marcos Tineo, tagging him for three runs, all on singles. That helped Modesto recover from a top of the third where Nuts starter Josias De Los Santos gave up four runs of his own in a nightmarish inning where he wasn’t hit hard, but some missed catch errors and wild pitches allowed Visalia to take a 5-4 lead. De Los Santos, as one of the more experienced arms in pro ball in the Nuts rotation, has been much more polished up to this point, but this performance—five runs over five innings, only three earned, four walks, a throwing error, and two wild pitches—is a reminder that he’s still just 21 and developing. He also struck out seven batters to add to Modesto’s MiLB-leading total. Juan Mercedes, Luis Curvelo, and Travis Ray Kuhn held things down after that, with only Mercedes allowing a run (unearned) over two innings; the three combined for another six strikeouts, and Kuhn earned his fourth save. Modesto added another two insurance runs in the sixth, one on a Matt Scheffler home run.

Game Two: Nuts get crushed, 3-12

This was a real outlier game for Modesto, who is usually on the other side of blowouts like this. Connor Phillips struck out nine in just four innings of work, but also fought his command a lot, needing 91 pitches, of which only 51 were strikes (and yet somehow only walked two batters). He gave up six runs, five earned, and gave up eight hits, which was the total number of hits Modesto would get in this game. Jorge Benitez struck out the side but was tagged for another five runs in just one inning of work. Noelvi Marte and Dariel Gomez both homered in the game.

Game three: Nuts bounce back, win 9-3

Adam Macko is quickly becoming appointment MiLB TV for me. The Slovakian-born lefty had another ten strikeouts in five innings and continues to be an absolute force on the mound. This was the third straight start where Macko recorded 10 strikeouts; unsurprisingly, he’s tied for second in strikeouts in Low-A West, despite pitching three fewer innings than Inland Empire’s Ryan Smith, who gave Modesto such a hard time last series (the K leader is Modesto’s Taylor Dollard). He did give up some hard contact, allowing two RBI doubles, but those were his only earned runs on the day (a Noelvi Marte throwing error allowed the other run to score).

Kelvin Nuñez, in his return from the IL, pitched two innings of scoreless relief with five more strikeouts, and Matthew Willrodt and sidearmer Nolan Hoffman each pitched in a scoreless innings with a strikeout apiece. The offense was paced by Cade Marlowe’s three hits, and he also “stole” home (more of an aggressive read when a ball kicked away from an infielder, but a good decision anyway), because he’s trying to find new ways to prove he should be promoted to High-A already.

Game four: Modesto falls just short, 2-4

It was a battle of 2020 fifth-round draft picks, and unfortunately, the Nuts came out on the short end of this contest. Taylor Dollard struck out 10 in just 5.2 innings but gave up four runs, including a couple of hard hits on a double and a home run, and Modesto’s normally powerful offense couldn’t pick him up, scraping just two runs off D-Backs’ 2020 fifth-rounder Brandon Pfaadt. Cade Marlowe had two hits and Robert Perez Jr. had Modesto’s sole two RBI on a double.

Game five: Nuts roar back, crush Rawhide 16-5

Sam Carlson rebounded from a shaky outing against the Quakes (LAD) last outing, where he gave up six runs in just four innings, to earn his first professional win with a six-inning, two-run performance (and only one of those runs was earned, on a solo HR) where he struck out nine and walked two. Meanwhile, Modesto’s offense continued to show a penchant for the early-inning onslaught, scoring six runs in the first off Taylor Dollard’s Cal Poly ex-teammate Bobby Ay. Cade Marlowe started things off with a two-RBI triple and then scored on a wild pitch, as the Nuts batted around in the inning, continually benefiting from Rawhide errors while manufacturing offense of their own. The Nuts added another four runs in the fourth, again driven by a combination of a two-RBI Cade Marlowe hit and exploiting shaky defense from Visalia. The Nuts scored two more in the seventh on a Justin Lavey double and three more in the eighth, again taking advantage of sloppy play by Visalia. By the end of the game, Visalia had three charged errors; their pitching staff threw four wild pitches and hit Modesto batters five times, including hitting Robert Perez twice; and their pitching staff walked nine Modesto batters while only striking out seven. Modesto pitchers also walked seven, which is not good (the main culprit being the normally solid Travis Kuhn, who walked three in just under two innings), but struck out 14 Visalia batters (Kuhn had four of those Ks).

Game six: Modesto finishes strong, wins 6-3

Continuing the trend of pitchers improving on their previous outings, Damon Casetta-Stubbs followed up a start where he went just three innings, giving up four runs, with maybe his best outing yet as a pro: six no-hit innings with seven strikeouts. DCS still needs to harness his stuff—he walked three, hit a batter, and threw two wild pitches—but nevertheless, he only needed 74 pitches to get through those six innings. Anthony Tomczak, the 2019 15th-rounder, saw his first action outside of the AZL; he walked two in his debut inning, but also struck out two, and allowed a run.

Elvis Alvarado, part of the return in the Hunter Strickland trade, also struck out two in his inning but allowed two runs. Sidearmer Nolan Hoffman shut things down in the ninth with two strikeouts to earn his third save on the year. Offensively, the Nuts didn’t have their best day, striking out 12 times; Noelvi Marte had a scheduled off-day and Cade Marlowe went hitless (although he did walk twice). Catcher Ty Duvall, an UDFA signed post-draft last year, led the offense with a triple and a home run, an intriguing combo since he wasn’t known at Vanderbilt for being a power threat.

Name to know: SS/3B Juan Querecuto

Before there was Noelvi Marte, Juan Querecuto was the hot international shortstop prospect signing name everyone knew. A combination of some middling performances in Rookie ball and a lengthy rehab from a torn meniscus in 2019 dimmed his prospect shine to the point where he fell off Seattle’s top prospect lists entirely, but Querecuto is a defensively gifted shortstop (although the presence of Noelvi Marte has forced him to third) whose bat is slowly showing signs of life. He’s cut his strikeouts down but is still walking quite a bit, and hitting for average and even some power; he’s currently on a seven-game hitting streak and had a four-hit game in this series. Also, I love him for making me look smart for picking him as my “favorite unheralded prospect” last September.

Everett AquaSox (15-9) split series with Vancouver Canadians (TOR) (15-9)

Ron Tonkin Field has a beautiful camera setup that apparently the Hillsboro Hops are not allowing the Vancouver team to use. Boo. Boo to that. The former Northwest League is currently a three-team race, with Everett, Vancouver, and Eugene all tied atop the standings.

Game one: Frogs use three-run 9th to beat Canadians, 5-3

Matt Brash was effectively wild over five innings, striking out six and walking four (and hitting two batters), but he only gave up two runs (one earned) on just three hits. Tim Elliott worked as the long-relief hero, giving up just one more run over three more innings, and new member of Team Canada Brendan McGuigan slammed the door. The offense was led by Juliooooo, who had three hits, all singles, but two of them were clutch two-out RBI, and he also stole a base, because Julio stays mad about that 45 on his speed.

Game two: AquaSox hop all over Canadians, 7-3

The top half of Everett’s lineup really carried the club in this game, collecting nine of the team’s 11 total hits. Austin Shenton was the chief damage-doer with a three-hit day including a triple. Everett starter Levi Stoudt struggled with his command, needing 96 pitches (53 strikes) to get through just 4.2 innings and walking six batters, although he only gave up three runs. He was bailed out by Tyler Driver, who worked 2.1 scoreless innings (nice to see after he struggled in his last outing), and two scoreless innings from Dayeison Arias, who recently joined the team from extended spring training.

Game three: Everett loses Julio, game, 4-5

Julio had to catch a flight to Olympic qualifiers in Florida and departed the game in the fourth, although not before he had singled and stolen a base and then come home on an error by third baseman Ronny Brito. The Sox scored almost all their runs in that fashion, capitalizing on poor fielding by the Canadians. Maybe if Julio had been around the Sox could have mounted more of a comeback as the bullpen, pitching on a bullpen day after George Kirby was scratched, slowly but steadily leaked out runs over the course of this game. Alas, the AquaSox offense was only able to muster four hits total, and no extra-base hits.

Game four: Julio-less AquaSox lose, 0-3

Michael Limoncelli, making his first professional start in place of the mysteriously scratched George Kirby, gave up two runs in just one inning while walking two. Limoncelli will likely be assigned to Modesto as a full-time assignment, once one of the pitchers there is moved up to Everett (likely Dollard), but as he was doing fill-in duty, we’re just cheering for the recent TJ warrior getting back on the mound to finally start his pro career after the Mariners drafted the NY native in the sixth round in 2019. Stephen Kolek, acquired from the Dodgers in late April, had the job of long relief, and only gave up one run over 4.1 innings while striking out four. Fred Villarreal, recently returned from Tacoma, found High-A batters much easier to strike out than Triple-A batters many years his senior, and pitched 2.2 scoreless, hitless innings, striking out four. Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t get anything going against the Canadians; the AquaSox had just four hits, including doubles from Zach DeLoach and Patrick Frick.

Game five: Frogs squash Canadians, 9-1

In his best start as a pro, Brandon Williamson was absolutely filthy, going 7.1 innings and allowing just one run on two hits while striking out 13. Jarod Bayless closed things out, striking out two and keeping Vancouver off the board. With such a dominant start by Williamson, the AquaSox batters could have dinked in a couple of runs to win the game, but came after the Blue Jays’ 2018 third-rounder Adam Kloffenstein hard, dinging him for six runs in 1.2 innings. Zach DeLoach again led the offensive charge with an RBI double and a home run, and Patrick Frick had a three RBI day including a two-run double. Joseph Rosa had a two-hit day with an RBI single and an RBI double.

Game six: Frogs drop game in 9th, 1-2

The AquaSox squandered a great start from Juan Then, who went six innings, allowing just two hits, striking out six, and walking no one, as the Sox batters couldn’t get anything going off Canadians starter Paxton Schultz. They finally got a run off Schutlz’s replacement, Hagen Danner, a real pitcher in the Blue Jays organization and not a sentient pint of ice cream, when David Sheaffer doubled and took third on a wild pitch and then scored on a sac fly. Unfortunately, Isaiah Campbell took over for Then in the seventh and gave that run right back, struggling with his command and issuing back-to-back walks before an RBI single. Campbell walked another batter in the eighth but managed to escape damage, but wasn’t so fortunate in the ninth, giving up a leadoff double that came around to score on a sac fly. Maybe there’s such a thing as having too many starters on a team.

Arkansas Travelers (12-11) drop series to Tulsa Drillers (LAD) (14-10)

How do the Dodgers have yet another crop of highly-regarded prospects at this level of the upper minors? Their farm system is just one big perpetual motion machine. Michael Busch and Kody Hoese, the Dodgers’ #3 and #4 prospects, respectively, are here, as well as #10 Jacob Amaya, and the third-highest ranked pitcher in the Dodgers’ system, RHP Ryan Pepiot. (Jeren Kendall, LA’s 2017 first-rounder, is here too, although he is outside of MLB’s top 30 and barely cracks FG’s top 50 for LAD.) Long gone are the 2019 days when Seattle’s top-flight prospects used to kick around an aged and largely toothless Drillers team, sadly, and this six-game series with them almost pushed the Travs under the .500 mark.

Game one: Travs squeak out a 1-0 win

A bullpen day from the Drillers in which they still only surrendered one (manufactured) run, the Travelers were propped up by a strong effort from Alejandro Requena, who pitched six shutout innings with eight strikeouts. Moises Gomez, a minor-league signing this off-season, and Michael Stryffler, a 2019 minor-league signing, held the line the rest of the way.

Game two: Travs lose big, 2-10

This one was over early, as the Travs’ pitching staff couldn’t contain a powerful Drillers lineup and the hitters couldn’t contend with ranked prospect Ryan Pepiot, who struck out eight in just 3.1 innings. Arkansas didn’t even score a run until the sixth, and then one more pity run in the ninth, as they were thoroughly outdone on both sides of the ball in this one.

Game three: Travs lose 2-6

Unlike the previous day’s contest, this one was actually much closer than it appeared. After a strong start from Ian McKinney (6 IP, 0 ER, 8K), Tulsa and Arkansas went into the ninth inning tied at two apiece, the Travs wound up having to use position player Connor Lien in the 13th, which worked out exactly about how you’d expect. A robust pitching staff, we don’t know her.

Game four: Travs lose again, 2-7

Penn Murfee got bit by the homer bug, giving up three solo shots, and then a messy fifth inning with a wild pitch and a passed ball scored three more, leading to an uglier final line for Murfee than he actually pitched. Desperation call-ups from Modesto Leon Hunter Jr. and 21-year-old Holden Laws held the line well out of the bullpen, but again the offense wasn’t able to do anything much against the Drillers’ pitching staff. Jake “Rake” Scheiner did have another home run, his fifth on the season, so at least there’s that.

Game five: Travs lose, 2-5

Devin Sweet did not have as solid an outing as he did last time, giving up three runs over six innings, striking out six and walking three. Again the Travs offense was flat, once again held in check by the Drillers’ “every day is a bullpen day” strategy.

Game six: Travs lose again, 2-1

Once again the Travelers offense could not do much of anything against the quintet of Drillers who pitched in this game. Tyler Herb did journeyman’s work, going seven innings and giving up just two runs while striking out five, and Jake Rake Scheiner pitched in a solo home run in his ongoing attempt to drag the rest of the offense with him into the win column.

Name to know: RHP Reid Morgan

A 2019 13th-rounder who hadn’t pitched above two innings in High-A in his draft year, the Mariners sent Morgan up to Triple-A to cover innings earlier this year and are now using him to patch together Arkansas’ patched-together bullpen despite limited pro experience. The former Gamecock has a nasty sinker and a nastier slider and has 11 Ks in 11.2 innings at AA so far this year.

Upcoming matchups, June 1-6:

AA: Arkansas @ Wichita Wind Surge (MIN), 5:05 PT Tues-Fri, 4:05 PT Sat, 11:05 PT Sun

A+: Everett vs. Hillsboro (ARI), 7:05 PT Tues-Sat, 4:05 Sun

A: Modesto @ San Jose (SF), 6:30 PT Tues-Fri, 6:00 Sat, 5:00 Sun