Tuesday, April 23, 2013

4/23/2013 Gwinnett Braves 2, Louisville Bats 3

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Game 1 of 4

Getting back to the base, for the second time this month, I'm still buzzing about Tony Cingrani's debut at the Bats' Opening Day April 4th (and also Mike Hessman's, wow).  My friends Bill and Marty are with me this evening, and Pedro VillaERAeal is starting for Louisville.  Also, Corky Miller has been called up to Cincinnati recently, so Konrad Schmidt (who started the opener as well) is behind the dish.
Konrad Schmidt Bobblehead night in Reno on September 1, 2012, shouldn't be considered the apex of his career, but for now it's all he's got.  We jokingly call him "Kid K" but not for good reasons.  Schmidt's glory was spent as a spoke in the Arizona Diamondbacks' Minor League wheel for 4 seasons, with only 4 MLB games in his entire career.  Schmidt signed with Arizona in 2007 as an amateur free agent, so it's safe to say expectations on him were low to begin with.  However, his formidable OPS tore up the Cal League, Southern League, and Pacific Coast League respectively from 2009-2012, seeing slight regression.  The Diamondbacks placed him on waivers nearly 2 months following his Bobblehead Night, the Texas Rangers picked him up, and then summarily released him during Spring Training 2013.  His Fu Manchu and spunky attitude make him a formidable complement to Corky in the Bats lineup, so the Reds signed him and Schmidt has struck out 14 times in 35 AB, with 8 HR and 3 BB.

Could he have a night tonight?  Sure, he could...as only Konrad Schmidt himself could muster it up.

For all the grief I afford Villareal (including the nickname I use for him, that I created, yet that he EARNED...get it?) he has had a smooth start so far this season, and so has his counterpart for the Braves, Tim Corcoran.  Pedro handles himself very well, cruising through 6 innings of work with 1ER and 4K.  Corcoran mirrors his efforts with a clean 7IP, 1ER, 3K and 2BB.  Corcoran's only run was courtesy of Henry Rodriguez, who drove in Mike Hessman in the 2nd inning.  Villareal let Joe Terdoslavich get to him in the 4th with a 2-out solo HR on the first pitch he saw in the AB.

Obligatory Billy Hamilton photo!  Billy did not much of anything tonight, he reached base once on a lead-off walk to start the 1st inning, made it to 3B on a Felix Perez Single, then grounded to 1B twise and struck out swinging.  Here is his first groundout versus Corcoran in the 3rd inning.

Bats reliever Nick Christiani, in relief of Villareal, gives up a 1-out solo shot by Matt Pagnozzi in the 7th, and the Braves have a 2-1 lead over the Bats heading into the bottom of the 9th, Louisville's last chance to close this game out in their favor.

The Braves call on Australian side-armer Andrew Russell to stifle the Bats; he retires the first two batters handily on a groundout and strikeout...with one out left, Henry Rodriguez singles for the third time tonight, followed by pinch-hitter Emmanuel Burriss' first hit of the game, another single, on Russell's first pitch and the tension is electric!  2 out, 2 on, and here comes...oh gawd, here comes Konrad Schmidt.

Schmidt is 0-for-3, with a ground out, flyout, and a FIDP following a bizarre play (more on that later).  Against the side-armer, Schmidt finally finds his patience, working a full count plus one fouled back.
On the 7th pitch, he arcs a deep single to right field, scoring Rodriguez...the game tying RBI.  Right fielder Joe Terdoslavich bobbles the ball for an Error, allowing Burriss to score all the way from first base...and that, friends, is a walk-off unearned run!!  The Bats (somewhat miraculously) win this game!!

Let's review Schmidt's FIDP a little more in depth, or rather, the events that transpired before it.  Henry Rodriguez reaches on a single (his second of the day).  Denis Phipps strikes out (foul-tip-to-mitt: FTM), one out and one on.  Schmidt enters the batter's box, and on the first pitch (a called strike), Rodriguez is heading for second, Braves catcher Matt Pagnozzi fires to second baseman Corey Wimberly and...drops the ball right as he's tagging Rodriguez!!  Rodriguez is safe, Wimberly is charged with an Error, and (here's the strange part)...Rodriguez is saddled with a "Caught Stealing, No Put Out."  Yes, it's a strange one but it happens, and it's legal.

Referring to THE RULES, specifically 10.07 (f), which states:
Ergo, Pagnozzi gets an assist, Rodriguez gets a CS, and Wimberly gets an E; this is all up to the Official Scorer.  In this case, the Error was ruled later in the game...I had ruled it so immediately following the play, perhaps the O.S. at Slugger Field had to consult his "home rules" first.

At any rate, Schmidt's high fly to shallow right field one pitch later would have only been the second out of the inning, but Rodriguez still had his wheels assembled, tagged up and headed to 3B, and was thrown out by Terdoslavich to complete the double play and end the inning.

The "fun guys," doing work in 211:
All 3 of us played the mystery rookie card game.  I was humbled by my pull; Marty accepted his gracefully, and Bill tried to give me his...which is not how the game is played, ha ha!

I sagged to my seat in erstwhile joy at the sight of this lovely 2002 Donruss Hank Blalock RC.  Maybe it's because he has actually played pro ball quite recently (2010, for the Tampa Bay Rays) but how soon do we forget his bestial baseball prowess!!
Four of his 9 MLB seasons (8 of those seasons as a solid Texas Ranger) found him with an OPS+ over 100, most notably his formidable 2004 campaign, with his second consecutive All-Star selection and 18th place finish in the AL MVP voting.  Blalock didn't fade as terribly as he did quietly, sidelined with multiple injuries for most of 2007 and 2008.

Marty pulled this 2006 Upper Deck John Gall RC.  Here's another player who folks might have been asking "where is he now?" if he weren't an 11th round pick to begin with.
Judging from Upper Deck's wherewithal to grant him a Rookie Card in 2006, based upon his 22 games played for the Cardinals in 2005 (including one AB in the NLDS), perhaps expectations were higher for the outfielder, who was actually pretty good in the Minors.  However, Gall only played 8 MLB games in 2006, and was released by the Cardinals in July of that year, finishing the season in the KBO and signing with the Florida Marlins later that year.  Gall continued his admirable Minor League performance, signed with the Houston Astros in late 2008 (where in AAA Round Rock, he was not as admirable).  After his 2009 season, the entirety of it spent in Round Rock, he was never heard from in professional baseball again.

Bill's pull was stranger yet...maybe I should have accepted it, after all!  This 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter featuring Brandon Allen, as a rookie card, was even more premature as Gall's, and perhaps more posthumous in nature.
Allen was a 5th round pick by the Chicago White Sox in 2004, but as of 2009 had barely broken his AAA cherry with the Charlotte Knights before he was traded in July to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Tony Pena. Indeed, after a month in AAA Reno, Allen made it to the Diamondbacks' MLB roster after never having a chance to do so with the White Sox for all those years.  His 116 games that year weren't really enough to pitch a tent over,  he did better in fewer games with the DBacks in 2010 but only after spending most of the season in Reno.  His service time in Arizona was cut down even more in 2011, when in July he was traded along with Jordan Norberto to the Oakland A's for Brad Ziegler (nice move, Arizona).  Waiver deals and free agency bounced him to the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers respectively (like Blalock, in reverse), in Fukuoka with the SoftBank Hawks for a few weeks, and then back to the A's, then back to the Rays through the end of 2012.  He signed with the Padres in April of 2013, where at Tucson he's hitting .270/.351/.474 and playing all over the damn field as a 27-year old.

My scoresheets, using my new pitch-counting method! Read about it HERE, download the scoresheets for free HERE!

Official Program (featuring new Bats manager Jim Riggleman) and Scorecard

Louisville is finally adding some #sparkle to their season tickets, with several players (and a mascot) featured on different dates...I believe I have one of each this season, so here's tonight's ticket with Buddy Bat (the mascot I was speaking of)

Bat Chat and Gameday Stats

If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

4/4/2013 Toledo Mud Hens 3, Louisville Bats 4

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY
Game 1 of 4
MiLB Opening Day

I covered many of the details of this memorable occasion in an article published in the April 30th edition of Big Leagues Magazine, albeit in a different voice (but the same flavor) than that with which I tend to use here.  If you like what I do, and missed this because you weren't a subscriber, I highly recommend that you check it out now.

This is my fourth consecutive Opening Day game in Louisville, my Dad was in town to share the experience with me.  It was also "Joey Votto Commemorative Beer Stein" night; we both scored one.
Dad kept his, I gave mine to my good friend Shawn, a Reds fan, who couldn't make it because he was recovering from brain surgery.  I figured he would love it a hundred more times than I ever could!

Tony Cingrani is making his AAA debut with the Bats against 11-year veteran Shawn Hill.  Reds prospect phenom Billy Hamilton is making his AAA debut for the Bats tonight as well.  With these two guys on board, plus new manager Jim Riggleman (who is not so new to some of us), one would hope that the Bats could make a go at 2013 better than the flat they made in 2012.
Well, if tonight is any indication...the odds are good.  Cingrani flawlessly handcuffs the Mud Hens for 6 innings, allowing no hits, only one walk, and striking out 14 (10 of them swinging).  

Hamilton doesn't steal a bag or really impress with the bat, but he does turn a routine lead-off single to shallow right field into a double on his speed alone.  Here he is in his first AAA plate appearance.  Posterity.

But, Mike Hessman is now a Louisville Bat!!  Mike is an 18-year Minor League veteran who has appeared in 109 Major League games and has served time with the Braves, Tigers, Mets, part of 2011 with the Japanese Orix Buffaloes, and 2012 with the Astros.  
Mike turned 35 a month prior to tonight's game, and his visage upon the jumbotron shows a face that is comprised of worn leather and a skull made out of the finest British steel.  His frame at this age is that of a toned and exultant Greek God, one who wears his pants "stockings up" and for a 8-year stretch in the International League, was a thorn in the side of many pitchers and opposing clubs, including many of the faithful in Louisville who are glad he's finally on "our side" of the dugout.  During that stretch he hit a total of 193 home runs.  For 5 of those 8 seasons, he was a fixture in Toledo, the very same club he faces tonight.

Truly, revenge is a sweet thing.  He pops out unceremoniously to second base in his first plate appearance (an 8-pitch at bat), but launches #WeirdMEAT over the left-center lawn in his second and third plate appearances, cruising along the path towards his 400th professional HR.  He is responsible for two of the Bats' 3 runs off of Shawn Hill, and into the top of the 9th inning the Bats are 3 outs away from a W for Cingrani, a shut out of the Mud Hens, and an opening day WIN for the Bats.

But, this is Baseball, and the Gods are not so anxious to let this one go so easily.  Kevin Whelan gets the ball to close this out, but 3 unearned runs (started off by a Jason Donald error) under his watch bring the Mud Hens and Bats to a tie in the bottom of the home 9th.  Toledo assigns Luis Marte to retire the Bats and force extra innings, but an 0-1 pitch to lead-off batter Felix Perez is lined viciously to the porch in right field and the Bats win it in walk-off fashion...with Whelan earning the W.  SMDH.  #KillTheWin

Another reminder: please take a moment to read the pdf version of "MiLB Opening Day Diary: Anatomy of a Nearly Perfect Inning" for an alternate recap of this game, and more importantly, the events that transpired that evening!

The inaugural mystery rookie card pull of the 2013 season was kind of interesting.  My Dad pulled this 2008 Upper Deck Timeline Justin Masterson...he's off to a great start so far this season for the Indians, so I advised Dad to hang onto this one.  Masterson displays some excellent face in this photo, also I was unaware that he was born in Jamaica, mon.

My pull was a little more exciting in a different way, aside from the $12 price tag (valued so because it's numbered 25 of 75).  Sure, it's an authentic game-worn jersey card; at the time he was a Phillie but later played right here in Louisville as a Red in 2004, 2005 and 2007.  Machado appeared in only 24 MLB games from 2003-2005 (17 of those with the Reds in 2004); after a 2-year stint in the Milwaukee Brewers system from 2010-2011, Machado played in 29 games for the Parma Cariparma of the Italian Baseball League in 2012 and hasn't been heard from since.

My scoresheets, first live IWT game using my new pitch-counting method! Read about it HERE, download the scoresheets for free HERE!

Official Program (featuring new Bats manager Jim Riggleman) and Scorecard

Louisville is finally adding some #sparkle to their season tickets, with several players (and a mascot) featured on different dates...I believe I have one of each this season, so here's tonight's ticket with Corky Miller (and NO, that's not the mascot I was speaking of)

Bat Chat and Gameday Stats (rosters only, OPENING DAY y'know)

If you enjoy my work, I encourage you to spread the word via Twitter
(I am @yoshiki89), and also please leave a comment!

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