Nothing could stop GCL Phillies ace starter Felix Paulino from picking up his fourth win of the season to go 4-2. Not the GCL Blue Jays or a driving rainstorm as the young 20-year old Dominican struck out nine over five innings of shutout pitching including seven in row at one point to get the win in the battle for first place in the Gulf Coast League’s Northwest Division at Robin Roberts Field.
It was a big game with the winner holding first place in the division and Paulino responded by giving up only two hits, no walks and nine strikeouts. The GCL bullpen held the Blue Jays to only one run over the last four innings in the 7-2 victory. The Phillies now lead the division by one and half games as they meet agains tomorrow morning in Dunedin.
Paulino who reminds me of a young Pedro Martinez was throwing strikes at the knees with well located fastballs and sliders and those pitches were too much for the Blue Jays batters to handle. When they did manage to get runners in scoring position on two occasions Paulino simply pitched out the jams.
Paulino was at his best when he record his first strikeout in the first inning to strand a runner on third and then did something I have never seen before. He struck out the side in order in the top of the second and then the rains came resulting in a 54 minute delay.
Thanks to quick thinking by the Phillies ground crew the tarp was quickly pulled before the heaviest of the rain would come and the field remained playable once it stopped. Just as the rain could not stop the game on Roberts Field, it could not stop Paulino who came back out and struck out the side after the delay in the top of the third.
In what probably took almost an hour and half, Paulino managed to strikeout seven Blue Jays in a row. It is rare when a pitcher, especially a young one, is allowed to wait over an hour between pitches but it did not bother Paulino. He racked up two more strikeouts over the next two innings before coming out after five innings with a 7-0 lead and turning the game over to the bullpen.
This was the third straight game Paulino has been involved in a rain game. In two previous suspended games he pitched 1.1 innings back on July 27th and pitched 2.1 innings striking out three in a suspended game on August 1st to be complete on August 17th.
Today’s game was remarkable for someone like me who really started watching baseball around the time of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Today it was truly an amazing experience to watch a starting pitcher strikeout four in a row before the rains came and then come back and strikeout three more in a row after play resumed an hour later. It was our good buddy Felix Paulino who did that today at Roberts Field at the Carpenter Complex.
Just as with Don Larsen’s perfect game at the highest level of baseball in the World Series, Paulino’s seven strickouts in a row today at one of the the lowest levels of baseball in the GCL will be a game I will not forget.