It’s a long night when the Phillies play on the west coast but Baseball Betsy and I made it to the last pitch early this morning for the 5-2 Phillies win. Earlier before the Phillies-Giants game we traveled across the causeway to Steinbrenner Field to see the Threshers go down 6-2 to the Tampa Yankees. So we had a full night and early morning of baseball.
Roy Halladay and Tyler Cloyd for Reading each won for the third time in three starts last night. With Doc’s win the Phillies reached .500 with a five and five record after the first ten games of the season. On the other hand Cloyd, who picked up a win as an emergency starter for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in his first start, won for the third time in three starts overall. The only difference from Doc’s record is that the two teams Tyler has pitched for this season have a combined 19-5 record, 14 games above .500. The IronPigs at 10-2 have the best record in AAA and the R-Phils are tied for the best record in the Eastern League at 9-3.
The best way to explain the outstanding record and quick start of the IronPigs is that the team is a nice blend of young position players such as catcher Tuffy Gosewisch, first baseman Cody Overbeck and outfielders Domonic Brown and Derrick Mitchell to go along with veterans such as infielders Hector Luna, Joe Thurston and Kevin Frandsen, outfielder Scott Podsednik and catcher Eric Kratz. They have received great pitching led by young arms like starter Austin Hyatt and relievers like Michael Schwimer, Jake Diekman and Phillippe Aumont.
Could it be another reason that the IronPigs have come together so quickly? The other reason might be manager Ryne Sandberg. Near the end of the minor league camp the AAA teams of the Phillies and Pirates found themselves in a series of bean ball incidents. The brush back pitches were making contact in some of the camp games between the two teams. It just so happened that I had my Flip Video camera on when one of these bean ball situations took place. You can watch it HERE . Sandberg had enough of it in this game after Derrick Mitchell was hit again by them after being hit in the ribs the day before. Sandberg told the Pirates coaching staff about in no uncertain terms after Mitchell was hit yet again in this game at Ashburn Field. The next time they met at Pirate City across the Sunshine Skyway bridge in Bradenton, Iron Pigs pitcher Dave Bush just brushed back a Pirate batter. He was thrown out of the game by the umps and then suspended for five games by the league. Nothing ever happened to the Pirate pitchers.
I will never forget Sandberg and the team standing up for each other that day at Ashburn Field. Both benches emptied. Even players who were out of the game like pitchers Michael Schwimer and Austin Hyatt with his pitching arm wrapped in an ice pack came back on to the field with spikes clicking on the macadam to join the fray. It sounded like the charge of the IronPigs brigade. Nothing brings a team together to start the season any quicker than these kind of situations and how they respond to it. In last night’s game against the Buffalo Bisons, Derrick Mitchell paid back Hyatt with two hits and four RBIs to help get him his second win of the season in the 8-2 IronPigs win.
The Reading Phillies are off to one of the best starts in team history. While the IronPigs have been winning up until last night by one run games on great pitching, the R-Phillies have been firing on all cylinders; hitting, pitching, running, defense. They lead the league by far with a .292 team batting average and are third in pitching with a 2.60 team earned run average. No other major league organization has its AAA and AA teams with better records than the 19-5 combined record of the Pigs and R-Phils.
The season is still young. After the first ten game marker at the minor league level it looks like the AAA and AA will be the teams to beat in the International and Eastern League. With Threshers at high A and the BlueClaws at low A it appears they will struggle to stay at .500 most of the season. However nothing is certain in baseball. When Ryan Howard and Chase Utley come back off the disabled list, the Phillies will get a big lift and should be better than a .500 team that they have shown after the first ten games . In the minor leagues rosters will always be in a state of flux and no one expects the IronPigs and R-Phillies to maintain their current torrid pace.