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Midshipmen’s Log 5/12/22: Amador Arias plays hero, Sam Carlson makes season debut, Spencer Packard keeps packing heat

Also: a change to the minors publishing schedule

Sam Carlson

Welcome back to the MSL! As a heads-up, this will be our last mid-week update for the farm publishing on Thursdays. Now that we have a solid body of work to draw from down on the farm, we’ll be shifting these Thursday posts into the old State of the Farm posts, which will take more of a bird’s eye view of things down on the farm and focus more on individual player performances. The Midshipman’s Log will continue to publish on Mondays with updates on how each affiliate fared over their week of games. We think this makes the most sense as a way to take both a macro and micro view of what’s happening on the farm, but we welcome your feedback as we undergo this transition. In the meantime, here’s your midweek update on each affiliate:

Modesto loves free baseball, splits the first two against Inland Empire in extras

Modesto is facing off against the Angels affiliate Inland Empire for the first time this season and have come away with a mixed bag, so far: a loss and a win, both in extra innings. The normally stalwart Jimmy Kingsbury got touched up for three runs over 3.2 innings in the opener of this series, thanks in part to a season-high five walks; lefty Jorge Benitez, one of Modesto’s more experienced bullpen arms, crumbled in the 10th, surrendering the go-ahead run and then some. Robert Pérez, who really should be in Everett, provided the juice to keep Modesto close in this one, with a three-RBI, two-hit day.

Modesto was able to scrape out a win in extras in Game 2 of the series. 2020 minor league Rule 5 pick Amador Arias staked the Nuts to a 3-0 lead in the second with a three-run blast, his first of the season, but IE was able to get those runs back off Modesto starter Jordan Jackson in the fifth. Sam Carlson, making his 2022 debut after missing time with a knee injury, was a little shaky in his first outing back, allowing the go-ahead run after a hit batter - two singles - wild pitch sequence. Happily, Modesto was able to claw back in the 8th on the strength of an Edwin Arroyo double, and then Arias came up big again with a walk-off single in extras.

Everett splits openers against cryptids of Tri-City

The AquaSox came in looking to improve on their last series against the Dust Devils where they finished 2-4 and were outscored by 19 (okay, fair enough, 16 of those were in one game, so it’s a bit misleading). The Tri-Citys have allegedly banned all video recording devices within Tri-City limits. So, get ready for a fat wall of text for the next week coming at ya.

Back in the safe confines of the United States of America, Bryce Miller got another chance to shine in game one, and he really let it rip. Miller threw 5.1 innings, allowing just three base runners while striking out seven. He gave up just two hits, and one unearned run, on an error by Justin Lavey at second in the first inning. After the error, though, Miller set the tone for the rest of the game, putting down the next 14 batters in a row, striking out six of them.

Packard, fresh off his 22-game on-base streak ending, continued to be the best hitter in the Northwest League. He took an 0-2 pitch deep for his sixth home run of the campaign, forcing my hand to write him in greater detail very soon. I already mourn the day I will have to leave his coverage to my friend Kyle, when he takes a journey out to Arkansas. (I now am realizing that the readers likely do not realize who of us is writing what. A good reminder to myself to sign these sections).

That fifth-inning remained all the teams could muster for quite a bit, as this game drove past the ninth-inning milepost and just kept on trucking. In another interesting case of the Manfred Man, Luis Curvelo struck out the side, recording a strikeout against every batter he faced...two of ‘em. That’s because Andy Thomas came through with the baller-ass play of a snap-throw to second to pick off the Manfred Man of the inning, Gabe Matthews. God, I wish we had film of this.

Then, in the 11th inning, after Noelvi grounded out, Packard earned his second intentional walk of the season, setting the stage for Big Tyler Keenan to drive in the go-ahead run, scoring James Parker on a line-drive to straightaway center field.

After the Milller gem of a start, the Dust-Devils managed just one more hit. Mike Mokma and Luis Curvelo combined for 4.2 hitless innings, and Leon Hunter, who thus far has been getting a lot of high-leverage looks down there, gave up just a bunt single in the bottom of the 11th.

In game 2, Everett’s pitching wrote a check that their offense couldn’t cash for a win. In the first inning, Everett jumped on top quickly with a pair of runs. Noelvi Marte got on base after being hit by a pitch (*narrows eyes, loads and cocks gun*) and moved to third on a fielding error on a Packard ground ball. He then scored on a Keenan single. Keenan was then thrown out trying to go to third on an Alberto Rodríguez single that also scored Packard. Did I write those sentences confusingly enough?

Alas, this lead was a short-time lead. Jimmy Joyce had another poor result, allowing four runs in the first inning in four consecutive at-bats. After loading the bases on a trio of singles, Joyce went on a little run-allowing bingo adventure, as he: hit a batter, threw a wild pitch, gave up a single, and allowed a sacrifice fly. Add in a FREE square, and you got a Bingo.

Lavey drove in a run in the third, the first of three on the night, continuing his great start to the season. A single to left scored Keenan, who reached second on a walk and a Berto single.

Speaking of Berto (the ‘my beloved’ is implied at this point), he snapped a cold-streak with a 3-4 day, notching 3 singles and a walk. Hopefully, this will pave the way for a little more success coming his way. I’ll take this time to say that I am mystified by putting him in the cleanup spot, as they have for the last couple weeks. He has raked from the lead-off speed, where he can use his above-average speed and bat-to-ball skills a little more. He’s not exactly been raking in the XBHs, either.

After the first inning, Joyce gave up another pair of runs, though one was unearned on an error by first baseman Dariel Gomez, putting Everett down 6-3. An eighth inning appearance from Robert Winslow saw the gap grow to four, requiring a truly herculean effort from Everett.

Did they have it in them? Almost. They notched three runs in the top of the ninth, fighting tooth and nail to get back into this one. A pair of walks by Cole Barr and Packard gave the Frogs two on, with two outs after a pair of miscues from our resident Cotuisanos.

Then, in what must have been nearly the play of a lifetime, Lavey stepped up, driving a ball to deep right field, scoring Barr and Packard. Trying to tie it up himself, Lavey went home, and was, unfortunately, thrown out at home to end the game. I wish we had film of this moment too - was it close? Was it a TOOTBLAN? The record is lost to history, known only to oral storytellers of the exotic, far-away regions of Kennewink, Pasko, and Ritchland.

Arkansas Travelers (13-16) split thrilling opening two games against San Antonio Missions (12-17) as the offense comes alive

An Arkansas Travelers offensive explosion? In the year of our lord 2022?? I was starting to question if we’d ever see the day. I assumed that San Antonio was some sort of launching pad; how else do you explain 28 combined runs in two games? But nope. I know it’s not a perfect metric, but the Missions have the second-worst offense at home in the Texas League, ahead of only the Travs. If the offense coming alive wasn’t strange enough for you, how about a bullpen that just a few days ago I called “lethal” and “one of the best in the Texas League” (oops), blowing not one but two (and almost three) four-run leads. It’s been a wild two games.

Game One: Travs lose on the last pitch of the game. Will the pain ever end?

The Travs offense got going early on Tuesday night. So many of the runs they have scored recently (which isn’t a lot) have been gifts from opposing teams, a HBP and wild pitch led to the two runs on Sunday, but The struggling Travs offense impressed early on Tuesday. They opened the second inning with three straight singles. A Sac Fly and back-to-back walks gave the Travs a 2-0 lead and gave Joe Rizzo a chance to do damage with the bases loaded. The 2016 second-round pick came up clutch, sending a double to left field, scoring two to give the Travs an early 4-1 lead for Stephen Kolek.

Kolek had a respectable line, five innings, five hits, and two runs allowed. He did walk an uncharacteristically high five batters, but the two teams combined for 20 walks Tuesday night, so it is probably just a case of a tight strike zone. Nonetheless, it is encouraging for an Arkansas rotation looking for guys to step up in the wake of George Kirby being sent to Seattle.

Kolek left the game with a 5-1 lead, seemingly plenty big enough with the elite Travs bullpen. Ben Onyshko kept up his stellar recent run with a scoreless frame. The 25-year-old has a 1.23 ERA and a .182 BABIP. Those are very good numbers and could warrant a call to Tacoma in the not too distant future, especially considering his 60% ground ball rate.

Unfortunately, the bullpen could not sustain the rest of the night as Devin Sweet struggled in his inning of work. He loaded the bases on a single, walk, and HBP before Agustin Ruiz drove in two to narrow the game to 5-4. The damage could’ve been worse if not for Zach DeLoach throwing out the runner trying to advance to third on the play.

The Travs held onto that 5-4 lead until two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Missions loaded the bases on a double and two walks by the otherwise reliable Travis Kuhn. Kuhn has given up just two runs total during the first month of the season, but Juan Fernandez drove in two to spoil a solid night offensively for the Travs and a good outing by Kolek.

Game Two: Travs learn from the previous night, bullpen still almost costs them the win in an extra-inning shootout

The good marking of a good pitcher is when the line score is a little ugly at first glance, but they still put their team in a solid position to get the win. Sure, the six hits given up by Taylor Dollard over just four innings aren’t ideal, but I’ll take six strikeouts, and only one earned run every time out. Dollard has become a fan favorite of mine to start this season, and the fact that he was able to limit the damage as much as he did is a big reason.

Dollard allowed two baserunners in every inning he pitched, so he clearly didn’t have his A-game working on Wednesday night, but in each frame except the second, he was able to wiggle out of the jam, often because of timely strikeout. While the numbers don’t jump off the page, it was the second straight game that Dollard set his season-high in pitch count with 85 pitches. He did enough to keep his team in it, especially with how the Travs were swinging the bat.

Jack Larsen started the scoring with an RBI single in the first. Jake Scheiner joined the party with a two-run shot to left to give the Travs the 3-1 lead in the third inning.

You gotta imagine that early run support does wonders for this typically excellent Travs rotation and bullpen. They should try to score early more often, IMO. Seems like a sound strategy.

The Travs tacked on two more in the fifth to once again have a 5-1 lead for the second night in a row. And just like the previous night, the Travs bullpen could not hold it as the Missions came roaring back to tie things up in an especially dreadful bottom of the eight. The Travs had two errors in the inning, so it is hard to blame the pitching too much. Michael Stryffeler came in to stop the bleeding with the bases loaded While he did allow three to score, he was able to get out of the jam without giving up the lead, so not a complete nightmare of an inning. All the runners were inherited, so Stryffeler still has a 0.00 ERA on the season.

The two sides exchanged scoreless ninths before deciding they wanted to have fun again in the extra frame. The Travs opened the frame with three straight hits, including a Joe Rizzo double, to extend the lead to two. The Travs tacked on two more in the frame thanks to two wild pitches to push it to 9-5. Surely the Travs wouldn’t blow two four-run leads in the same game, right? Barely, yes. They tried their hardest, allowing the tying run to get into scoring position, but Jake Haberer struck Thomas Milone out looking to clinch a rollercoaster of a win for the Travs and stop their losing streak at three games.

Two bad for Tacoma Rainiers (9-23) in first pair of games with Reno Aces (16-16)

The good news for the R Squad is that they are back at home, and with the moribund big league club on a lengthy road trip, they are worth a visit for local fans looking to cleanse their palate. The bad news is the Rainiers appear to be suffering from many of the same maladies infecting the Seattle Mariners themselves. To make matters worse, at least from Tacoma’s perspective, they’ve just lost one of their best hitters as SS/UTIL Donovan Walton was traded to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Prelander Berroa, who will join High-A Everett. The move may pay dividends long-term, but the Rainiers will miss Donnie Baseball.

Game one: Reno bulllpen locks it down, Rainiers lose 8-3.
R Star: 1B Zach Green

Walton’s final game in the M’s org was an inauspicious one, as we went 0-for-4 in a rout of a loss. Though C Brian O’Keefe lashed a trio of hits and Green slugged a three-run homer to take the lead in the bottom of the 2nd, things did not stay properly raveled. RHP Darren McCaughan no longer occupies a 40-man roster spot as he did for a stretch around his call-up last year, but he’s in a position where a handful of good showings could earn him some looks given the thin nature of Seattle’s rotation. That was not a cause he advanced on Tuesday, unfortunately, as he struggled to contain the Aces the third time through the order. Pumping strikes and missing few bats as is his wyrd, McCaughan nearly escaped the top of the 6th all knotted at three but instead yielded a two-run go-ahead homer to veteran C Juan Graterol.

This game featured a few positives, including another solid offensive showing from OF Kyle Lewis, who DH’d and clobbered the hardest hit of the day, a 105.9 mph line drive single in the 1st inning. He walked as well, rounding out a 1-for-3 day wherein he once again looked less rusty than could easily be expected at the dish. Progress.

Game two: No Justus, good grief. Rainiers lose 7-6.
R Star: DH Steven Souza Jr.

I’m not sure what the Seattle Mariners intend to do with LHP Justus Sheffield going forward, but the promising young lefty is now in his age-26 season and still struggling with many of the same issues he’s been facing for the past few years. Wednesday’s outing was a tough pill to swallow, as Sheffield did his level best to locate his slider on or just off the outer half of the plate to lefties, and in on the hands or righties. While his feel for the changeup still lacked, it wasn’t without effort.

Unfortunately, Sheffield could not escape the second inning. After a labored first inning featuring two walks and a catcher’s interference on backstop Joe Odom that he skated through unblemished, the wheels came off the meal cart for Sheff in the second. Two singles, a wild pitch, a walk, a steal on said walk, another steal, one lone strikeout, yet another walk, and then three straight well-struck groundball singles doomed the southpaw. Had one of the grounders been at an infielder, a crisis might’ve been averted, and at his best Sheffield has done just that by turning ground balls into killers of rallies of his own creation. Not this time.

Promising RHP Ryne Nelson was on the hill for the Aces, one of the top prospects in the Arizona Diamondbacks system. Tacoma cobbled together a few early threats thanks to SS/UTIL Sam Haggerty and DH/OF Steven Souza Jr.. Working in tandem, Haggerty and Souza Jr. made for a potent 1-2 in Tacoma’s lineup, reaching base together in both the 1st and the 3rd, swiping bases in concert, and, well, unfortunately Souza Jr. was the only one of the two to hit a home run, a mammoth 425 foot blast that was scalded 110.9 mph off the bat off another solid arm from the D-Backs system, RHP Luis Frías.

Apparently, something Souza Jr. said in the bottom of the 9th was too scalding for the home plate umpire however, as with two outs in the 9th and OF Marcus Wilson at the plate, he received the heave-ho from the man working behind the dish, Derek Thomas.

It was a shame of an outcome to what was a triumph of a game from the Rainiers’ bullpen. Faced with grazing their way through 7.2 innings, the much-maligned (by me!) Rainiers pitching staff stood on their heads, allowing just two runs, one earned and giving their offense the chance to tighten the deficit to one that made that final Wilson plate appearance relevant. LHP Ian McKinney worked 1.2 scoreless innings before ceding to recent bullpen convert RHP Matt Brash. Though an infield single and a well placed line drive allowed a single run in Brash’s two innings, five strikeouts and not a single walk are the headline for his day.

The rest of the pen was sharp, as LHP Fernando Abad, RHP Patrick Weigel, and RHP Matt Koch worked scoreless frames and RHP Riley O’Brien was hurt by a wild throw from Odom that allowed a baserunner to advance and later score on what would’ve been an otherwise harmless groundout.

The move of Walton portends another change on the wind for the Mariners, and by extension the Rainiers. It seems likely Seattle still needs to see more from Kyle Lewis, at least in terms of durability. They also would’ve surely loved to see signs of improvement from Jarred Kelenic before he returns to Queens this weekend with the Mariners, and the young former top prospect may be facing a tough roster decision for Seattle. Could Souza Jr. have slugged himself to a call-up? He’s the most (and only) experienced big league hitter on Tacoma’s roster, as evidenced by Wednesday’s lineup not featuring a single current 40-man roster member. When the big league club struggles, Tacoma must adapt.