I do not like small ball. I am not big on bunting or the sacrifice bunt. Forget about manufacturing runs. I grew up not far from old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Earl Weaver’s managing strategy of the three run homer. It seemed that the Orioles never lost during the Weaver years with that strategy. For the Phillies farm teams in Allentown and Clearwater last night, it was more like a bloop and a blast. The old two run homer was the margin of error for a 6-4 Lehigh Valley win and a two run walk off homer did it in a 10 inning win for Clearwater. If a team has a good back end of the bullpen with a set up man and closer and a little pop in the lineup everything will be all right in the end.
Last night Baseball Betsy and I wandered over to Bright House Field to watch the Threshers take on the Daytona Cubs. Jesse Biddle was on the bump as they now call it and he toughed out six innings without his best pitch, the knee buckling curve ball. It was hanging last night and as Sarge Matthews always reminds us ” if you hang it, they will bang it”. Jesse hung one to the Cubs Nelson Perez and it left the park over the second fence behind the flag polls in right center.
I was impressed with Jesse because even without his best pitch he made it through six innings giving up two runs, only one earned. Still he walked too many, four, and now has walked nine in 17.1 innings in his first four starts. His problems are mainly coming from right handed batters who are hitting him hard at a .327 pace and eight of his nine walks are against the them. Jesse is still a work in progress. I remember watching Trevor May pitch in Clearwater two years ago and struggle. Later that season he was sent back to Lakewood for a second year. It was the best thing for him and now May is one of the best pitchers in AA with the R-Phillies.
Biddle kept the Threshers in the game but it was was closer Lisalverto Bonilla who almost won the game and Anthony Hewitt who hit the walk off home run in the tenth inning to win it. After the Threshers went ahead 3-2 on an RBI infield single by Cody Asche in the seventh, Bonilla came in to work on a two inning save. He is being converted into a closer and has great stuff. His slider moves from just off the inside corner to just off the outside corner of the plate to a right handed hitter. He is virtually unhitable. Five of his six outs were on swinging strikes. The problem was he gave up back to back triples in the top of the ninth on 93 mph and a 94 mph fastballs to tie the game at 3-3.
Then to start the bottom of the tenth inning and with a runner on first came the blast of the night. With one powerful stoke Anthony Hewitt drove one far into the bullpen area high over the left center-field wall for a walk off 5-3 win. Hewitt is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. You can see why he was a number one draft pick with that much raw talent but has holes in his game. Earlier in the game he dropped an easy pop fly in right. Later on a similar play he caught a fly ball that was snow coning in his glove. The guy in his last four games has hit two homers and a double, has shown a plus arm and speed on the bases but has struck out four times. He needs to be hit more fungo fly balls and keep working on putting the ball in play in pre-game workouts. If he can catch the ball and put it in play more often he will be a super star some day. After all he turns just 23 years of age today.
As we were watching the Threshers we were keeping tabs on the IronPigs on our cellphones. Like the big team the Pigs have been having trouble scoring runs. Finally manager Ryne Sandberg put Erik Kratz into the lineup as the DH when Tuffy Gosewisch is catching. It paid off big last night. Kratz hit a two run homer that provided the insurance runs in the 6-4 win over the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees. New closer Jake Diekman pitched out of a jam with runners on third and second with no outs in the ninth for his third save of the season. This is the first time the tall, lean, lefty is closing in his career. After two more strike outs last night, Jake now has struck out 14 in 9.2 innings in eight games giving up only one earned run. I got a kick out of ESPN.Com’s Buster Olney posting today that at the major league level Toronto Blue Jays Luis Perez is the best left-handed reliever in the majors with 14 strike outs in 12.2 score less innings. That must mean Diekman is the best left-handed reliever in the minor leagues with his numbers.
Give me the long ball and a good back end of the bullpen and your team will win a lot of games. The Phillies had some pop in the lineup and strong power arms in the bullpen last night at AAA and high A with Kratz and Diekman and Hewitt and Bonilla.