Timely hitting, shutdown pitching and good defense usually guarantee victory and it did for the Lakewood BlueClaws over the weekend. They outscored the hometown Savannah Sand Gnats 12-5 to win the first three games of the four game series which concluded Monday. The Gnats are the South Atlantic farm team of the New York Mets.
It was development baseball at its best. We were so glad we made the seven hour drive to see the three games which Shawn Williams’ team won 2-1, Friday night, 4-0, Saturday night and 6-4, Sunday afternoon Though we had to head back to the Clearwater area after Sunday’s game, the three games we watched at historic Grayson Field told us what we needed to know about the Lakewood BlueClaws.
In the field the Blueclaws are about two players, centerfielder Carlos Tocci and first baseman Rhys Hoskins. After the first three games of the four game series Tocci is 8 for 12 with 4 runs scored, two rbi’s, a walk and two stolen bases. Hoskins is 6 for 13 with a run scored, five rbi’s with two doubles and a triple. One of them were involved in either scoring or driving in all 12 BlueClaws runs. Even several of their outs were hard hit balls.
I have seen this type of play before when a player is deemed too good for a certain level of minor league baseball, he gets thrown at. Ryan Howard kept getting hit when he was at AAA back in 2005. The other teams were simple telling the Phillies that Howard belonged in the major leagues. The same thing is happening to Tocci. He needs to play at a higher level. Though he turns just 20- years old in August, he is playing in his third season in the South Atlantic League.
Unfortunately, the opposing teams in the South Atlantic League are going head hunting on Tocci. He has already been hit three times but that is not the whole story. Friday night in the ninth inning he had to jump out of the way with an up and in pitch. Yesterday in the first inning he had to do duck out of the way with a ball aimed right at his head by Sand Gnat pitcher Martires Arias as the pitcher tried to back him off the plate. The plate umpire then warned both teams the next batter hit would result in the ejection of the pitcher.
Tocci would get back at the Sand Gnats time and again with his bat and on the bases. Especially, he would rubbed it in when he singled in the ninth inning on Sunday to become the only batter in Class A to be hitting .400 at this stage of the season. He would steal second and score on a Hoskins double to add an important tack on run in the inning.
Lakewood’s pitching has been impressive in the series to date. They have only allowed five runs in 27 innings. The starters in the first two games Ranfi Casimiro and Chris Oliver pitched five and seven shutout innings respectively.
Yesterday, Lakewood’s starter Elniery Garcia gave up three runs in six innings to get a quality start and the win. His Clayton Kershaw type curve ball allowed him to strike out six including four in the first two innings. Then he used his sinker to induce two infield ground ball double plays later in his outing.
In nine innings in relief the bullpen has given up only two runs. Closer Matt Hockenberry got his sixth save of the season yesterday but did give up his first run of the season.
After the game Baseball Betsy and I were on the road again for the seven hour drive back to Clearwater. The drive actually went quickly as we listened to the Tampa Bay Stanley Cup playoff game on I Heart radio and we talked back and forth about the outstanding baseball we had just watched over the three days in Savannah, Georgia.
After watching Tocci and Hoskins play we wondered if we should have asked the Phillies if we could have brought both of them back with us to suit up with the Threshers in the High A Florida State League. That’s the level where they are proving they both belong.