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Midshipmen’s Log 8/9/22: Nuts sink Ports, Travs split a series, AquaSox struggle, Rainiers pen a series W

The Nuts are hot

Axel Sanchez

With a new look for many of the squads in the system after trades and promotions, some teams are responding, like Modesto, as the Nuts shrugged off losing their best position player and stomped on the hapless Stockton Ports for most of the series. Other teams didn’t fare so well with the new kids and new additions, and some [stares in Travelers] tripped over their own shoes.

Modesto Nuts (52-50) choose, then un-choose violence, take series over Stockton Ports (35-67) anyway, 4-2

Stockton is the California League’s worst team, and Modesto is currently the best by record, but I honestly wasn’t sure how this series was going to go after the departures of so many of Modesto’s lineup mainstays (Edwin Arroyo, Robert Pérez Jr.) and bullpen pieces (Jorge Benitez, Andrew Moore). Game 1 seemed to answer that question resoundingly, as the Nuts sank the Ports by the obscene score of 18-1. Jonatan Clase doubled and tripled, and Freuddy Batista doubled and hit two home runs. Lost in all this offensive noise: Michael Morales’s best start of the second half and maybe of the season. He went 5.2 innings, struck out four, walked one, and allowed just one run in the first inning and nothing after that.

If the Ports thought the Nuts would take it easy on them in Game 2, they had, as my mom would say, another think coming. Modesto took this one 9-2 as newcomer Axel Sanchez, just 18 years old and up from the ACL to replace Edwin Arroyo at shortstop, had a big day with a double and a grand slam of his own. Again, not to shortchange another good pitching performance; this time it was Sam Carlson spinning a gem, going 5.1 innings and giving up two runs, but more importantly walking just two and striking out eight.

Game 3 required some extra-innings heroics for Modesto to win, 10-7. The offense got a list from its youngest additions, with Sanchez again showing out with a double and a home run, and highly-touted prospect Gabriel Gonzalez, “El Dron,” adding two hits of his own, including his first Cal League home run. The offense was able to recover from a blown save by the bullpen and then another stumble in extras by taking advantage of some poor command from Stockton’s last arm up; Jonatan Clase worked the go-ahead bases-loaded walk, followed by Hogan Windish doing the same and one more small-ball run to give the Nuts a comfortable lead headed into the bottom of the 11th.

Modesto returned to their trouncin’ ways in Game 4 with a 13-1 victory. Hitting in the two-hole, Gonzalez had three hits. Jonatan Clase, hitting out of a lower spot in the order, had two hits as well, and also walked twice and stole his league-leading fortieth base of the season. Hogan Windish had his first Cal League home run in the first inning, a three-run shot that set the pace for the rest of Modesto’s offense. Meanwhile, Joseph Hernández continued to look strong, allowing just one hit and no runs over 6.2 innings of work while striking out nine.

Unfortunately, that’s where the party stopped for Modesto, who dropped their final two games of the series to Stockton. Saturday’s game was as much of a bloodbath as the Nuts have allowed, a 1-8 loss where the team left eight runners on base. Adrian Quintana, recently assigned to Modesto from the ACL, struggled in the loss. The series closer didn’t go much better, with the game ending in a frustrating 7-8 walkoff loss after another Modesto bullpen meltdown. The loss spoiled a fine effort by Modesto’s offense, as Freuddy Batista had another two doubles, Gabe Moncada—another recently called-up player—had his second home run, and Axel Sanchez added yet another homer to his resume.

For his sterling week, Sanchez was awarded Cal League Player of the Week honors—not bad for the newcomer.

Next up: Modesto returns home to face Visalia (ARI), which means TV and clips of all these fun new players! Hooray!

Everett AquaSox (48-53) arms write checks that bats couldn’t cash, lose bad to bad Hillsboro Hops (45-55)

If yikes was a six-game series of High-A minor league baseball, it would probably look something like this one. Like we mentioned last week, the cupboards are very, very bare in Everett, having been emptied by promotions, trades, and injuries. It absolutely shows in this series, where we see an already league-worse team in run prevention sink lower.

Game One was the only win for the Frogs, an 8-3 trouncing. It featured an excellent first High-A start from our player to watch from last week, Bryan Woo. Woo put in five solid innings of work in his first start for Everett, giving up four hits and one unearned run on a passed ball, while notching five strikeouts. He’s got big spikes to fill, with Prelander Berroa and Bryce Miller having departed for Arkansas, but showed plenty capability in his first appearance. Ken Giles also made another Pizza Rehab appearance

As for the bats, the bottom half of the lineup put in the work - six of the eight runs were driven in by the 6th - 9th spots. Third baseman Ben Ramirez (another Modesto callup) and catcher David Sheaffer each notched an RBI, while Trent Tinglestad and Justin Lavey each recorded a pair. Lavey slammed his fourth home of the season in the second inning to add to an early lead, while another former-Nut, Robert Perez Jr., aka The Notorious RPJ (ty Kate) hit his first homer in High-A, and his 21st (!) of the campaign, in the eighth inning. Man’s got power.

Game Two was a heartbreaking 6-5 loss. Hillsboro hopped out to an early 4-0 lead off starter Logan Rinehart, with a three-run homer in the first and a solo sho tin the second. Everett fought back, with a pair of home runs of their own to make it 4-3 in the bottom of the second. Lavey had his second night in a row with a home run, while Dariel Gomez hit his eighteenth home run of the season:

Everett scratched two more runs across to give the Frogs a 5-4 lead, but Max Roberts continued his struggles this season, giving up a two-run double that sunk the Frogs.

Game Three is where it starts to get ugly, as the AquaSox fell 6-2. It was a tough night for starter Jimmy Joyce, who gave up all six runs (five earned) in his five innings of work, seeing his ERA slip above 6. Both of the runs came from RPJ, smashing a double in the third.

On a positive note, Fred Villareal, Mike Mokma and Peyton Alford combined for four innings and no runs between to three of them.

Game Four was even uglier, a 9-4 loss. A six-run first inning settled things pretty early on, as starter Jordan Jackson was unable to get more than two outs. In fact, all six runs were scored before Jackson recorded even a single run. A two-run double in the third and a wild pitch by Giles made it nine runs by the fourth inning. Alberto Rodriguez was a bright spot, recording two hits, including an RBI double.

If it feels like each game has been getting worse and worse in this series, you would be correct. We reach rock bottom in Game Five, as the Hops stomped on Everett 13-2. Kelvin Nunez appeared in relief in his first appearance with Everett, and it, uh, well...

This followed a not-stellar start from Juan Mercedes, who went 4.1 innings, giving up 4 runs, to put the Frogs behind by 11. Roberts then appeared, giving up two runs in his 1.1 innings to put Everett down by 13 before they scored even a single run. Gomez and Mike Salvatore pushed the only two runs across for Everett.

Finally, in Game Six, there’s the bright side, which is that Everett scored 11 runs! There’s the not-bright side, which is that they gave up 14. Let’s do a little contrast therapy to get through this rough game - a little bit of good, a little bit of bad.

Dariel Gomez, RPJ, and Tinglestad all had home runs!

Everett gave up two runs in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings to let it slip away.

Three hitters had multi-hit games, including Berto!

Diego Castillo had a bad pizza rehab, giving up 4 ER in .2 IP.

Perez Jr. had four RBIs in total!

Everett’s defense gave up three unearned runs.

Woo went four innings, only giving up 2 earned runs!

The lineup struck out 14 times.

Well, that’s that. Hopefully Everett pulls it together, when...

Up Next: ...the Frogs travel to play the floundering Tri-City Dust Devils (41-58), who are fresh off losing 5 of 6 to Vancouver. Hopefully Everett can get right on the road.

Arkansas Travelers (49-53) split the series with Midland RockHounds (53-49) after a rough weekend prevents series win.

A series split is a lot better than a series loss, but man, it’s gotta be kinda tough to swallow after taking three of the first four games of the series. Two shaky outings from two of the most intriguing pitchers in the system did the Travs in over the weekend. However, strong outings from Taylor Dollard and Bryce Miller, paired with some timely hitting, were enough for the Travs to pick up their first series split (or better) for the first time in nearly a month.

Game One: Travs bats wake up late to take the series opener 7-5

Nick wasn’t joking when he was hyping up Bryce Miller, huh? The fourth-round pick from last July dominated the RockHounds on Tuesday night. The former Aggie struck out ten over six innings, with just three hits and a single walk. He did also give up two earned runs.

No offense to Levi Stoudt, but if I had to choose, I would much rather watch Bryce Miller take the hill every five days than Stoudt. It feels like Miller’s upside is much higher, and when everything is working, like it was on Tuesday night, he is a dangerous pitcher to face. I still love that the top three pitching prospects in the organization are located in Arkansas right now.

Thankfully Miller’s outstanding performance wasn’t for naught. Although he didn’t factor into the decision after the Travs knotted things up at 2-2 after Miller’s day was over in the seventh. The floodgates opened for the offense in the eighth inning. Cade Marlowe smacked a single to right field to give Arkansas the 3-2 edge. A misplayed Sac Bunt, a walk, and a few more singles eventually led to a five-run inning for the Travs. I can’t imagine it’s super common to score five runs in an inning without a single extra-base hit.

Travis Kuhn made it interesting for a minute by allowing three runs to score on the lone hit he allowed, but Rob Kaminsky came in to record the final out for the series-opening win.

Game Two: Big inning propels Travs to a 10-5 victory

What better way to follow up a five-run inning than with a seven-run inning? And for the second consecutive game, the big inning came by simply taking advantage of Midland’s mistakes. Four walks, three hits, one error, and one Sac Fly led to the Travs putting seven on the board in the third and speeding off to an early 8-3 lead.

Emerson Hancock wasn’t quite as sharp as he was in July when he earned Texas League Pitcher of the Month honors, but he battled his way through five innings and only allowed three runs on the day.

Game Three: Kolek roughed up in 7-1 loss

I know what the answer is, but are we absolutely like 100% sure you wouldn’t rather give up a two-run home run than two triples in the same inning? Yes, the home run is automatically two runs, and the two triples only result in one run (we’re assuming the bases are empty in this scenario), but one is so much rarer than the other that it becomes a legitimate question. We don’t have Texas League stats, but at the MLB level, approximately 12.05% of hits were home runs from 2001 through 2020. That number shrunk to just 2.05 for triples. Plus, triples seem much more chaotic, especially when it is two in the span of three at-bats. Plus, your fielders probably don’t love it because you know things aren’t going great when the batter is standing on third. Anyway, that’s what happened to Stephen Kolek on Thursday night on his way to allowing ten hits and six earned runs over five innings. Luckily the Travs picked a good night to not show up offensively as they could only manage one run.

Game Four: Dollard and company hang on for a 3-2 win

As we’ll discuss when we get to the series finale, the Arkansas bullpen is not quite as much of a sure thing as it was last week with Michael Stryffeler still on the team. Yes, Arkansas added Isaiah Campbell. Add Yes, for the most part, he has looked outstanding this season but losing the league-leader in saves still hurts.

Fortunately, the bullpen was put in an advantageous position thanks to another excellent outing from Taylor Dollard. He allowed just two runs (a lot for Dollard, I know) over his 5.2 innings of work and struck out four. He has the nicest (and lowest) ERA in the Texas League at 1.69.

Please call him to Tacoma, so I can watch him pitch in person. Thank you.

Similar to how they treated Bryce Miller earlier in the series, the Travs offense refused to do enough for Taylor Dollard until after he exited the game. Kaden Polcovich tried to help out Dollard with a two-run double in the fourth inning, but Midland knotted it up in the sixth off of Kaminsky after inheriting the runner from Dollard.

After Kaminsky got out of the frame allowing just one run, the rest of the bullpen was nearly perfect on Friday night. Kuhn, Shipley, and Kober allowed just one walk and no hits between them over their three innings of work. Kuhn drew the lucky card and happened to be the pitcher of record when Patrick Frick drove in Matt Scheffler on a Sac Fly in the bottom of the seventh. That also meant that the 27-year-old Kober picked up his first save of the season.

Game Five: Offense can’t keep up in 5-1 loss

The numbers haven’t been ideal for Prelander Berroa. Four walks over 2.1 innings on Friday isn’t exactly what you want. And I am not in love with his 8.44 ERA, albeit in a tiny sample size since getting called up. I don’t really care about any of those things because I am officially claiming Berroa as a name to watch in the Ms system going forward.

The return on a Donovan Walton trade does not exactly scream “name to watch.” Still, Berroa is 22 years old, and his stuff is nasty, as was evidenced by his fastball on Saturday.

The control is a problem, and he struggled to sustain his early performance in both of his outings with Arkansas so far, but just file him away and remember this if he is able to get that under control and turns into someone who can contribute out of the Ms bullpen down the stretch in 2023.

Berroa wasn’t even really the problem on Saturday. The bullpen wasn’t too bad, but allowing four more runs was far too many for a struggling Travs offense that could only score one run on a Jack Larsen home run.

Game Six: Travs can’t hold onto the lead in series finale

Remember how I was warning you about the new-look bullpen after losing Michael Stryffeler? Yeah, this game was why. The Travs survived a bit of a shaky start for Bryce Miller, who allowed three runs over 3.2 innings. Despite that, they still led 5-3 entering the sixth inning. Kaden Polcovich opened up the scoring with his fourth triple of the season. Riley Unroe and Patrick Frick also had big days offensively.

Still, the two-run lead with 12 outs remaining was not enough for the Travs. Braden Shipley allowed a solo shot to the first batter he faced to make it 5-4. Travis Kuhn struck out the first two batters he faced, but in the words of Mom Jeans, things eventually fall apart, and that’s what happened for Kuhn as the next three batters reached to tie things up. Isaiah Campbell recorded the final out of the seventh and went back out there to try to keep things square after eight.

The otherwise reliable Campbell struggled in the eighth, allowing three singles to give the RockHounds a 6-5 lead that they would not vanquish to split the series.

Up Next: Arkansas continues their extended homestand with a six-game set against the NW Arkansas Naturals.

Tacoma Rainiers (47-57) outfox Sacramento River Cats (44-61)

Rehabbing big leaguers were a primary focus for this week’s Rainiers, as the club’s most notable youngsters like OF Jarred Kelenic are in large part departed for the Seattle Mariners or other clubs. Of note, OF Taylor Trammell, OF Mitch Haniger, and new acquisition C Curt Casali made appearances, while 3B/1B Kevin Padlo and LHP Danny Young were bid adieu on waivers.

Game One: Sheff’s Kitchen - Rainiers win 5-2

In one of his best outings of the season, LHP Justus Sheffield wove a 6-inning gem, yielding just a solo home run to OF Austin Dean and nothing more. The southpaw struck out seven and walked just two, giving Tacoma more than enough room to take a lead in the top of the 7th they would hold through the finish. A different star arose most days for Tacoma in this series, and the first hero was OF Forrest Wall, whose three-run shot cracked the game wide open for the R Squad.

Game Two: Cat-like reflexes win pitcher’s duel, Rainiers lose 1-0

Three hits typically won’t get you far, even if two of them are doubles. Taylor Trammell and Marcus Wilson each snagged extra-base hits and… that was about it for either side offensively. Sacramento 2B Isan Diaz went 3-for-3 but Rainiers starter RHP Konner Wade kept the River Cats off the board for five frames, and both LHP Roenis Elías and RHP Drew Steckenrider worked scoreless innings, but LHP Nick Margevicius was tagged for a run in the bottom of the seventh to send Tacoma back to the hotel humbled.

Game Three: Bullpen’s big day out, Rainiers win 8-5

Tacoma used seven pitchers. Sacramento used eight. Neither starter made it through the second inning. If you liked battles of the bullpen, you were in the right place, assuming you were at Sutter Health Park in Sacramento, CA on Thursday night. Tacoma’s offense was powered by veterans, with SS Erick Mejia, 2B Jonathan Villar, and 3B Drew Ellis joining Padlo for a combined 10-18 with a double, a triple, and two home runs. Every reliever that came in behind RHP Chris Mazza was unblemished, with RHP Riley O’Brien, LHP Brennan Bernardino, and RHPs Kyle Bird, Taylor Williams, Patrick Weigel, and Nick Ramirez shutting things down for the final 7.2 innings.

Game Four: McCaughan outduels the Hjelle, Rainiers win 4-2

For much of the evening, 6’10 RHP Sean Hjelle had Tacoma’s offense stymied. Sacramento carried a 2-0 lead into the top of the 6th courtesy of a two-run shot in the 3rd by Bremerton native SS Shane Matheny. The R Squad roared back, however, with Taylor Trammell utterly unloading on a ball before Hjelle let out his frustration by hitting his former catcher, new Mariners backstop Curt Casali. A Jonathan Villar double and a pair of singles from Mejia and C/DH Brian O’Keefe brought things to their final score, as once again the bullpen was sharp. Steckenrider in particular had one of his better showings since being sent down and spending time on the injured list to boot, striking out the side to notch the save in the 9th.

Game Five: The score so nice they won it twice, Rainiers win 4-2

If you’re an avid reader of the Rainiers sections of these roundups, firstly, bless you, and secondly, you’ll know I’ve lavished praise on Tacoma’s bullpen this year. It’s been their most exceptional facet, and don’t let what happens in Sunday’s game besmirch it. What this club lacks in young and prized talent at most positions it makes up for in stellar play from veterans throughout its relief corps. Once again, Tacoma fell behind 2-0, this time letting the RCs take that lead into the top of the 8th unchallenged, but entering the 9th still in a hole at 2-1. They would not leave it that way, as SS Mason McCoy slugged a three-run go-ahead blast to stun Sacramento.

The comeback was made possible by the bullpen once again, highlighted by season-long stalwart Nick Ramirez.

Game Six: Slugfest no hugfest, Rainiers lose 10-8

Even the best fall down sometimes. Even the wrong words seem too right. Out of the doubt that fills my mind, sometimes we find, the bullpen has… a bad night.

Going against Sacramento a second time in the series, Sheffield’s second start was far less fruitful than his first. Bounced before the end of the fourth inning with four runs to his name, he’d nonetheless be let off the hook as three Rainiers launched big flies into the California night. Tyler Heineman, McCoy, and Zach Green all went large, and putting up eight runs between the 5th and 8th inning seemed like surely enough. Yet Sacramento’s bats burned brighter, including a gutting walkoff blast by Giants 29-year-old 2B Drew Jackson, who longtime M’s farmers may recall as a one-time top prospect for Seattle. Heartbreak, but still a 4-2 series win for the Rainiers to push themselves more comfortably out of the cellar of the Pacific Coast League, and pushing Sacramento further down into it.