The next to the last weekend of the minor league season is wrapping up. It has been a poor season for the Phillies minor league teams in general. All of them except the rookie ball, short-season GCL Phillies will finish under .500. Most of them well under the break even point and far out of playoff contention.
Still we go to the games and find interesting play and players down here in Clearwater and Dunedin. On Friday I saw one of the best middle relief appearances of the season from an undrafted free agent, big 6’5”, 225 lbs. left hander Josh Taylor. Throwing a 92-94 fastball on the guns at the game and a sharp breaking slider to go with control, Taylor pitched 4.1 innings striking out five to pick up his first professional win in only second appearance out of the pen. Two of his strikeouts came in his fifth inning of pitching. SEE HERE, SEE HERE. And see his big curve ball HERE to the final batter he faced.
Later on Friday night, Baseball Betsy and I headed off to Bright House to see the Threshers. There, designated hitter Art Charles hit a “no doubt about it” three run homer in the first game of a doubleheader. See HERE.
Charles would hit a second homer of the night in the second game to add to his career high 18th of the season for second place overall in the Florida State League. It was his seventh homer in the month of August.
That is where I thought the Art Charles weekend story would end. But Sunday afternoon was another game against the Brevard County Manatees. And Art Charles was there playing in the field for the first time in the series at first base. The first time up Art almost went yard for the first time all season against a lefty. The ball was caught at the base of the wall just to the right field side of the 401 ft. sign in center.
Then with the score knotted at 1-1 in the bottom of the eight, Art did go yard against the same lefty Hobbs Johnson; his first homer of the year against a southpaw. It was a majestic towering shot that wound up on the berm in right center to give the Threshers what turned out to be a short 2-1 lead going into the ninth. SEE HERE.
Charles is second among all Phillies minor league players in homers with 19 and ties Ryan Howard for third place in homers in the organization. Only Marlon Byrd with 23 and Reading Jake Fox with 21 have more homers as a Phillies organization player this season.
The problem is up until today Art had hit all 18 homers off of right handed pitchers. The Phillies really do not have a great need for a left handed hitting designated hitter. He has seen his playing time decrease at first base once Chris Serratelli joined the team at mid-season. This will be a weekend he will never forget with five hits in three games including three home runs a double and a single.
The real reason I went to the Threshers game today was to watch big right hander Miguel Nunez. He has pitched well the second half and perhaps threw his best game of the year this afternoon. He went eight innings and gave up only one run on an infield fielders choice with the infield in, striking out five and walking only one.
Nunez got two strikeouts with his low 90’s fast ball. He had a great breaking ball early in the game which he used to strikeout three batters in the game and relied on two double plays to keep his pitch count down in the later innings to go deep into the game. See his curve ball strike outs HERE, HERE, HERE.
Nunez was simply brilliant having to pitch from the second inning on protecting a one-run lead which which J.P. Crawford gave him with a line drive home run over the championship billboard in right. Crawford would homer for his eight homer in the ninth inning in a futile effort to get back into the game after Lee Ridenhour came in out of the pen to give up four runs in the top of the ninth.
The Threshers would lose 5-4, negating the unbelievable efforts of Art Charles, Miguel Nunez and J.P. Crawford and one of the best played games of year except for the top of the ninth.
Saturday morning we watched another great game as the GCL Phillies came back from a one-run deficit with a run in the eight inning and a walk off run in the ninth for the 2-1 win over the GCL Blue Jays.
The bottom of the ninth was perfect fundamental baseball as third baseman Damek Thomscha work a walk to lead off the inning. Jesus Posso bunted him to second and Gustavo Martinez lined a 3-2 pitch up the middle for a base hit scoring Thomscha who just beat the throw from center on a slide at the plate for the win.
The clutch win kept the GCL Phillies within one game of first place GCL Yankees setting up the two big games with them Monday at the Carpenter Complex and Tuesday at the Yankees minor league complex over by Raymond James Stadium. With only four games remaining in the season these two games will likely determine who will win the Northwest division and make the GCL playoffs.
Lefty Elniery Garcia is slated to start Monday’s game. Lean, lanky, 6’5″, undrafted free agent, right handed Jason Zgardowki will be making his third appearance and second start of the season for the GCL Phillies on Tuesday.
What a weekend of baseball it has been starting at noon on Friday. The GCL Phillies, Art Charles, J.P.Crawford and Miguel Nunez put on shows that will be forever remembered. The season will be over by next weekend but this weekend will be one to remember thanks to those guys.