A couple of wild back-and-forth affairs in Salt Lake and Rocket City and an late rally in the Inland Empire highlighted what was an eventful Thursday night for the Angels’ minor league affiliates.
Player of the Day
Michael Stefanic has been no stranger to the player of the day section of these articles in recent months, and his performance on Thursday night earned him yet another mention in this one as well. Stefanic reached base in all five of his plate appearances in the Bees’ loss to the Oklahoma City Dodgers, going 4-4 with a home run, a double and a walk with two RBI.
Michael Stefanic with a solo HR for AAA Salt Lake pic.twitter.com/Iph57YTomt— Angels MiLB (@AngelsMiLB) September 10, 2021
This was just the latest in what has been a seemingly endless run of great games for Stefanic in Salt Lake, as his effort last night helped raise his slashline since joining the Bees to a robust .346/.421/.527 with 14 home runs in 83 games. Stefanic has been knocking at the door of a major-league callup for a while now, and performances like this one will only help his cause in that regard.
Triple-A Salt Lake
For pretty much the entirety of the Bees’ game against the Oklahoma City Dodgers on Thursday, it seemed like neither team wanted any part of being in front, as there were lead changes found everywhere you might look. This game of tug of war started from the outset, with the Dodgers striking first in the opening frame on a home run by Sheldon Neuse off of the debuting Ryan Smith before the Bees took the lead right back in the next two innings with a Mitch Walding RBI single and Stefanic’s home run. This didn’t last long, though, as consecutive RBI triples by Zach Reks and Zach McKinstry as well as a sacrifice fly by Cristian Santana brought Oklahoma City back in front once again.
Things cooled off for a bit in the fifth and sixth innings, but once the seventh rolled around, all hell broke loose. In the top half of the frame, Oklahoma City caught fire once again, bringing home four more runs on doubles by Neuse and Matt Davidson and a single by McKinstry to increase their lead to 8-2. Like they did earlier in the game, however, the Bees’ bats managed to answer back, this time at a record pace. A leadoff walk to Brendon Davis and a base hit by Jose Rojas put the first two runners of the inning on base, and from there it was time for the line to keep moving. Stefanic came up next and doubled in Davis, Matt Thaiss and Chad Wallach followed that up by singling in runs of their own, and Preston Palmeiro capped off the rally with a dramatic three-run home run that brought the Bees all the way back level at eight.
YOU BETTER BEE-LIEVE IT!— Salt Lake Bees (@SaltLakeBees) September 10, 2021
A 6 run 7th inning capped off by a three-run home run by Preston Palmeiro pic.twitter.com/7oTM8D9nHw
This was a six-run inning for the Bees, all of which came with no outs in the inning. As had happened earlier in the game, though, they weren’t able to hold the Dodgers off of the scoreboard after their incredible comeback. Oklahoma City tacked on three runs on another home run by Neuse in the eighth and one more in the ninth on an error from Brennon Lund, and the Salt Lake bats ran out of gas shortly thereafter, falling by a final of 12-8 as a result.
Double-A Rocket City
In a similar fashion to their counterparts in Salt Lake, the Trash Pandas also came up on the losing end of a back-and-forth affair in their game against the Birmingham Barons.
Also like the Bees, Rocket City fell into an early deficit right off the bat, with the Barons striking for three runs in the first off of starter Cristopher Molina with an RBI single by Carlos Perez and a two-run home run from Craig Dedelow. The Trash Pandas answered back with a three spot of their own in the second, though, with RBIs by Livan Soto, Luis Aviles Jr. and Orlando Martinez bringing things level once again.
Orlando Martinez with an RBI single for AA Rocket City pic.twitter.com/imD9fl2lOL— Angels MiLB (@AngelsMiLB) September 10, 2021
The Trash Pandas weren’t done here, though, as the bats put together another big inning in the fourth. After consecutive singles by Aviles, Mitch Nay and Martinez quickly loaded the bases with no outs, David MacKinnon gave the team its first lead of the day with a bases-loaded walk. Michael Cruz followed that up with a walk of his own to bring home another run, and Christian Molfetta kept the line moving with a double that scored two and brought the Rocket City lead up to 7-3.
The Trash Pandas were riding high at this point, but it didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off. In the fifth, Molina got himself into trouble once again, allowing three straight walks with two outs to bring home a run for Birmingham. He was mercifully lifted at this point, but reliever Matthias Dietz didn’t fare much better, allowing back-to-back two-RBI singles to Dedelow and Yoelqui Cespedes to give the Barons an 8-7 lead. This is where the score would end as well, as Rocket City only managed two baserunners in the final four innings and couldn’t push either of them across.
The Dust Devils were off once again on Thursday as they deal with COVID issues going around the team at the moment. They’ll be out of action through at least the 13th, where they will then decide if their upcoming series against the Eugene Emeralds can be played.
Low-A Inland Empire
The 66ers’ game against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes wasn’t as wild as the other two, but it did manage to feature some drama of its own.
Like the Bees and Trash Pandas, Inland Empire found themselves in an early hole, as the Quakes jumped on starter Coleman Crow right out of the gates. Rancho Cucamonga got its first five hitters on base in the first off of Crow, tacking on four runs before the innings came to an end. The 66ers had to start chipping away at their deficit from here, and they got started early thanks to three consecutive walks to Arol Vera, Jose Guzman and Kevin Watson to lead off the bottom of the first. Jose Reyes brought home Vera with a sacrifice fly to get Inland Empire on the board, but the threat ended without any more damage.
The 66ers kept at it from here, adding on two more runs in the following frames. Guzman singled home Edwin Yon to make it 4-2 in the bottom of the second, and one inning later, Alexander Ramirez scored on a wild pitch to bring them within one. The Quakes woke back up in the fifth, though, with back-to-back RBI base hits by Yeiner Fernandez and Luis Yanel Diaz off of Crow bringing their lead back up to three. Inland Empire started to claw their way back once again in the seventh, with another sacrifice fly by Reyes bringing the score up to 6-4.
Jose Guzman with an RBI single for Low-A Inland Empire pic.twitter.com/OZqDa4d8Up— Angels MiLB (@AngelsMiLB) September 10, 2021
The final frame is where things started to take a turn for the dramatic, as the 66ers had a prime opportunity to tie the game up and potentially win it. Watson doubled home Vera with one out in the ninth to cut their deficit to just a single run, and he got to third as the tying run on a groundout by Ramirez. Reyes walked to put runners on the corners with two outs, but Starlin Gill grounded out to end the threat and the game, with the 66ers falling by a final of 6-5.
Triple-A: The Bees recalled first baseman Gabe Matthews all the way up from Low-A Inland Empire. They also activated pitcher Jake Buchanan off of the injured list.
Double-A: The Trash Pandas recalled both pitcher Brett Kerry and shortstop Carson Matthews from Inland Empire
Low-A: The 66ers recalled shortstop Starlin Gill from the Arizona Complex League
5:05 PM PST: Rocket City Trash Pandas (Brett Kerry) @ Birmingham Barons (TBD)
5:35 PM PST: Salt Lake Bees (Davis Daniel) vs Oklahoma City Dodgers (Yefry Ramirez)
7:05 PM PST: Inland Empire 66ers (Jack Kochanowicz) vs Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (TBD)