Video Friday! Enjoy Tanner Scheppers' funky windup (http://bit.ly/pIuKJd) and Johan Yan's funky delivery (http://bit.ly/piRKU8).
Stars of the Day:
AAA: Michael Kirkman / Joey Butler, Val Majewski
AA: Ben Snyder, Johan Yan, Justin Miller / Tommy Mendonca, Jonathan Greene
Hi-A: Ryan Kelly, Zach Osborne, Jimmy Reyes / Mike Olt, Chris McGuiness, Zach Zaneski
AAA: at Round Rock 2, Omaha 7
Omaha leads series 2-0 (best of five)
Ugly. Round Rock was outscored 7-2 and outhit 13-5, yet the game was winnable.
Perez worked around a Nick Green error in the 1st. After 11 straight fastballs to open the frame, Perez threw three changeups in his next five pitches, all of which glided by the helpless bat of slugger Clint Robinson.
The 2nd was a disaster. Following a medium-hard grounded single by Kila Ka'aihue, Irving Falu bunted almost straight back to Perez. Perez could have retired the plodding Ka'aihue at second with ease, but he instead turned toward first and… ate the ball because 1B Jose Ruiz was standing slack-jawed twenty feet from the bag. A clearly flustered Perez immediately received a pep talk from catcher Kevin Cash. Still, he began his sequence to Joaquin Arias with two balls and received another talk from pitching coach Terry Clark. Arias then hit a soft grounder off the glove of Perez, who recovered and threw to first. Ruiz dropped it.
With the bases loaded, Perez started 3-0 to ex-Ranger Manny Pina (who has developed impressive patience as a Royal). After two called strikes and two fouls, Pina drew an RBI walk. Perez also went 3-0 to light-hitting 2B Kurt Mertens before inducing a can of corn to RF Val Majewski, who dropped it. Majewski badly overthrew second in an attempt to force out Pina, but Pina was running so slowly or was so confused that Round Rock ended up turning an extremely unlikely 9-5-4 forceout. Essentially, the sequence worked like a sacrifice fly with the out at second. Next, Jerrod Dyson bunted up the first base line. Ruiz quickly snagged the ball before it could roll foul, gaining the second out but allowing the third run of the inning. A 3-1 groundout finally ended the carnage.
Technically, the inning was error-free. I suppose the scorekeeper decided Arias would have beaten the dropped throw from Perez, and Majewski's drop did result in a force out. Still, the half-inning was an eyesore, exacerbated Perez's loss of command of his emotions and his pitches.
Perez looked best in a scoreless 3rd and 4th. He walked two batters, partly because of a creative strike zone, but he also struck out three and displayed the best command of his fastball, curve and changeup. His 5th was also scoreless, if not as impressive. Perez elevated several pitches, allowing two hard singles before Ka'aihue lined a change into a 4-3 double play. The final line: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO, 89 pitches.
In the 6th, Tanner Scheppers gave up a run on a seeing eye grounder, a squibber that traveled about 40 feet, and a bloop to short right. Scheppers' command was better than I've seen lately, if not exactly sharp.
Michael Kirkman retired five batters on just 15 pitches and struck out two. He even delivered one rare mid-70s curve that resulted in a check-swing strike. Given the situation and low pitch count, I thought he might pitch into the 9th. Instead, he was pulled with two out in the 8th for Tim Wood, who promptly allowed a hard single and homer on exceptionally meaty pitches. Wood gave up a 9th-inning run on one hard hit and two more defensive miscues: Ruiz stepped over first base receiving a throw from 2B Matt Kata , and shortstop Nick Green mishandled a sharp grounder.
Vin Mazzaro, he of the 14-run outing for the Royals in May, allowed two baserunners through his first six innings. A walk and Val Majewski homer cut Omaha's lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the second, after which Mazzaro retired 15 straight with the help of a sharp slider. Mazzaro finally faltered and loaded the bases on singles in the 7th, but Luiz Cruz bounced into an inning-ending double play against Willy Lebron to end that threat. Round Rock also loaded the bases in the 9th and didn't score.
Majewski singled in addition to his homer, and CF Joey Butler had another terrific night with two singles and a walk. He's reached safely six times in two playoff games.
AA: at Frisco 2, San Antonio 1
Series tied 1-1 (best of five)
After striking out in his first four at-bats of the series, Tommy Mendonca (2-4) led off the 4th with a double against Simon Castro (7 IP, 2 R). Mike Bianucci singled him to third, and Jonathan Greene (2-4, double) singled him home. After a sac bunt by Elio Sarmiento, Engel Beltre plated Bianucci on a groundout. Until that outburst, Frisco had only four hits in the first 12 innings of the series.
Ben Snyder and three relievers managed to strand ten Missions. Snyder himself stranded seven in his first three innings. He walked five and threw only 56 of 100 pitches for strikes, but he carried a shutout through six innings. In the 7th, Richard Bleier gave up a double and RBI single to halve the lead, but he induced a double-play grounder to prevent further damage. Pitching on consecutive days, Johan Yan retired four in order, two via strikeout. Justin Miller walked two with two out before Jaff Decker popped out.
As for last night's game, Scout.com's Jason Cole learned that Robbie Ross actually threw many more changeups than I realized. I had "H?" written down for several of his offspeed pitches from Wednesday, "H" being my shorthand for change and "?" meaning "I'm confused." I incorrectly decided that most of them were sliders. So, give some credit for his career-best 12 strikeouts to his change, which comes in just a hair slower than his slider.
High-A: at Myrtle Beach 6, Kinston 8 (11)
Series tied 1-1 (best of five)
The Pelicans chased the opposing starter with a five-run 1st. Ryan Strausborger began by singling but was caught stealing second. Two walks and an error loaded the bases, and another Kinston error plated two. 1B Chris McGuiness followed those antics with a three-run homer.
Given a huge lead and the sturdy Chad Bell facing one of the league's weakest offenses, a 2-0 series lead was within grasp. Unfortunately, Bell had his worst outing as a professional, at least in terms of runs allowed. After surviving a walk and double in the 1st, Bell allowed two runs on four hits and a sac fly in the 2nd. In the 3rd, Bell loaded the bases on a walk, single and hit-by-pitch, then surrendered his first homer as a starter and only his third all season. After allowing two more baserunners, he was pulled. His line: 2.2 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs, 2 walks, HBP, 0 strikeouts.
Kinston led 6-5 entering the bottom of the 3rd. Myrtle Beach quickly tied the game but couldn't fully take advantage of a bases-loaded, no-out situation. The combatants wouldn't score again until the 11th, when three singles and two walks (one intentional, eventually scoring) off Trevor Hurley gave Kinston the lead.
The Myrtle Beach bullpen shut out the Indians for 7.1 innings before succumbing. Ryan Kelly struck out three in 2.1 innings, Zach Osborne pitched the 6th, and Jimmy Reyes fanned four in 1.2 innings. Hurley retired seven of eight batters preceding the 11th. The foursome allowed just one hit and walked five in that span.
Mike Olt was 2-4 with a walk. McGuiness added a single to his homer, and Zach Zaneski singled and doubled.
Greensboro leads series 1-0 (best of three)
Hickory and Greensboro are only 100 miles apart, but the league mandates a travel day in case of a lengthier road trip. The Crawdads bussed to Lakewood, New Jersey, last year. Given that Wednesday's game ran 15 innings, everyone needed the break.
AAA: Neil Ramirez vs. Mike Montgomery
AA: Carlos Pimentel vs. Casey Kelly
Hi-A: Miguel de los Santos
Lo-A: Will Lamb vs. James Leverton