Salt Lake - 7 and 3, half a game out
Brandon Wood - 22 AB's .318/.400/1.000 with 4 HR's, 1 trpl, and 1 dbl against 5 K's
Bradley Coon - 19 AB's .368/.455/.737 with 2 HR, 1 dbl and 1 SB against 1 K
Reggie Willits - 27 AB's .370/.387/.444 with 2 doubles and 1 SB
Terry Evans - 29 AB's .364/.400/.545 with 1 HR, 3 doubles and 2 SB against 9 K's
Brandon Wood picked up right where he left off in Arizona, hitting for outstanding power while maintaining a reasonable strikeout rate. Outfielders Bradley Coon, Reggie Willits, and Terry Evans have also thrown up great numbers, with Coon belting the go-ahead 11th inning homerun last night - he doesn't hit those often, but they always seem to count. On the other hand, infielders not name Wood have been slow to get into the groove and the pitching... well, let's just say that the pain felt in Anaheim is also felt in Salt Lake.
Arkansas - 4 and 6, 2 games out
Arkansas is off to a slow start, which is disappointing given the number of top prospects on the club. Peter Bourjos has lived up to expectations and then some, hitting for average and gap power while showing tremendous improvement in plate discipline. A week and a half into 2009, and he's already accumulated 1/3 of the walks he took in all of 2008. With the exception of organizational soldier Coby Smith, the rest of the offense has been anemic - Trumbo and Mount have just begun to show signs of life, and Conger's been a nonentity at the plate, though he's caught half of the Trav's games so far. Affairs on the mound are little better: O'Sullivan and Bell have been ok, but Jordan Walden was removed from Friday's game for precautionary reasons after banging up his foot. If it weren't for the fine work of relievers Bobby Cassevah, Robert Mosebach and David Herndon, the Trav's would have already slipped further in the standings.
Rancho Cucamonga - 5 and 6, 3.5 games out
Matthew Sweeney - 44 AB's .341/.370/.659 with 3 HR's, 5 dbls and 11 RBI's against 6 K's
Trevor Reckling - 19 IP 0.95 ERA with 16 K's / 3 BB, 1.75 GB/FB .153 avg. against
Alexander Torres - 10 IP 1.80 ERA with 16 K's / 5 BB, .118 avg. against
Tim Kiely - 13 IP 2.08 ERA with 12 K's / 1 BB, .208 avg. against
Despite phenomenal starting pitching from Reckling, Kiely, and Torres, Rancho has struggled out of the gate. The offense has been inconsistent, carried largely by Matthew Sweeney's hot start - he's going to be a monster this year, but it's going to take more than his bat to push the Quakes to the top. Fuller, Navarro, Phillips, and Romine are going to have to step it up soon. The bullpen's also been inconsistent, though on the plus side, left fielder Anthony Norman, who threw an inning and a third in a blowout last week, has a better ERA than anyone currently in the Angels' pen.
Cedar Rapids Kernals -6 and 4, 1.5 games out.
Alexia Amarista - 34 AB's .265/.359/.500 with 2 trpls, 4 dbls, and 4 SB's against 1 K
Jayson Miller - 12 IP 3.00 ERA with11 K's / 1 BB's. 1.27 GO/AO, .234 avg. against
Michael Kohn - 7.2 IP, 0.00 ERA with 2 wins, 9 K's/3 BB's, 0.83 Go/AO, .100 avg. against
The Kernals have found ways to win ballgames despite subpar offensive and pitching performances. Luis Jiminez and Roberto Lopez, two sluggers who had key roles in helping the '08 Owlz beat up on the rest of the Pioneer League, did not advance with their cohort - Jiminez succumbed to shoulder surgery, and Lopez is learning to catch in Arizona. That leaves Gabriel Jacobo and Angel Castillo as the primary power threats, and neither has taken off yet. On the plus side, 5'8" Alexia Amarista has performed the table setter role with flair while leading the offense in slugging percentage. The pitching has also been uneven: top prospect Will Smith appears to be battling some sort of ailment. His second start was delayed a few days and then he was removed before finishing an inning. However, Jayson Miller has looked real good in his two starts and the bullpen has really stepped up when it counted, led by Michael Kohn.
Wish I Had Been There....
April 16, AA: Arkansas Travelers @ Midland
There's a good article summarizing Arkansas' grinding 5 to 4 win, so I won't reinvent the wheel. Points of interest are these: Jordan Walden suffered through control issues and some bad luck on balls in play to yield four runs. He tweaked his foot covering first on one of those hard-luck groundballs, and was removed for precautionary reasons after walking the next batter.
Ryan Mount's first and Mark Trumbo's second homeruns of the year put all of the Travs' runs on the board. Four relievers picked Walden up to gut out 7 and a third shutout innings and secure the win.
April 17, High A: Inland Empire @ Rancho Cucamonga.
The Quakes won a wild one at home on Friday night 13 to 9 against geographical and organizational rival Inland Empire. Altogether, the lead switched hands six times, making the game a far closer affair than the final box score reflects.
Inland Empire kicked off the scoring in the first with a double, bunt, and line drive single. Quakes' lefty Robert Fish labored to escape the inning, whiffing Garrett Green with two outs only to have the ball skip away and allow a second run to score. Fish recovered to whiff the next hitter, gaining the dubious distinction of recording three k‘s in a frame while still not striking out the side.
The Quakes tied the game in the bottom of the first with a Clay Fuller walk and a Matt Sweeney homer. They added three additional runs in the second, only to see Inland Empire roar back to tie the game the next inning. Efran Navarro then knocked an RBI double in the bottom half of the third to put Quakes back in front with the score 6 to 5, which is where the game remained for three more innings.
Reliever Jeremy Haynes took the mound for the Quakes at the top of the seventh and promptly gave up back-to-back singles. A passed ball, wild pitch, and sacrifice fly again yielded the lead to Inland Empire.
The Quakes tacked on three more runs in their half of the inning. Jeremy Moore delivered the big blow with a two-run bases loaded single.
But Inland Empire scored two more in the top of the eighth to tie the game again, knocking Jeremy Haynes from the game. Ryan Brasier entered in relief, survived a regrettable error by PJ Phillips, and got the last two outs.
The Quakes delivered the final blows in the bottom of the eighth, scoring four times off of two singles, a double and two errors. Brasier kept Inland Empire quiet in the ninth, sealing the victory. Fuller, Sweeney and Perez all scored three times, while Sweeney, Perez, and Moore each had two RBI's.
Wish I had been there...