Just read that Phillies top pitching prospect Aaron Nola had to skip his previous scheduled start and last night lasted only last five innings for AA Reading despite an overtaxed pitching staff suffering from back to back extra innings games. On the other hand, about the same time, Baseball Betsy and I settled in to listen to our good friend Elniery Garcia pitch six innings to pick up his fourth win of the season for the Lakewood BlueClaws in Hagerstown Maryland.
We tuned in the Lakewood game and hung on Elniery’s every pitch. He may not have had his best stuff but twice he pitched a shutout inning even though the Hagerstown Suns had the lead off batter in the inning on third with no outs.
His sixth inning was his best inning pitching in a high leverage situation. With the BlueClaws leading 5-1, the Nationals farm team’s first three batters loaded the bases with singles. Elniery then went 3 and 1 on the next batter who represented the tying run and I yelled at my laptop, “throw strikes”. On the next pitch he got the batter to pop up for the first out and then he induced a double play ball hit to second baseman Grenny Cumana to get out of the inning with no runs scored.
I should have never doubted the young 20-year old Dominican lefty. He keeps getting better and better in each start. In recent games he has brought his ERA down each game. He finished April with a 4.41 ERA, then May with a 3.30 ERA and now going 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in June so far. He finished last night’s win giving up only one run over six innings though he did pitch with runners in scoring position several times. Sometimes you can tell more about a pitcher when the going gets tough than when he has his best stuff.
Under pitching coach Aaron Fultz the Lakewood pitching staff has been impressive. The staff is second in both ERA and WHIP in the Sally League. After 60 games, the six starters have started ten games in turn and have taken the ball for every scheduled start. They have answered the “Bell” every time!
The BlueClaws are now three games over .500 for the first time this season, not only because of the pitching but helped by the hitting in part by first baseman Rhys Hoskins. He put the game out of reach with a grand slam in the top of the seventh after Garcia pitched out of the jam in the bottom of the sixth. Hoskins now leads all of low A baseball with an OPS of .957. The BlueClaw went on to win the game 9-1.
It’s players like pitcher Elniery Garcia and first baseman Rhys Hoskins who make minor league baseball so worthwhile to follow and why we keep back going back for more, game after game.