You may say, Opening Night in Wilmington was not worth staying around for. A scheduled 6:35pm start turned into first pitch being thrown at 8:19pm due to rain showers passing through on and off (with several tarp pulls).
With the late start, player introductions were canceled (my favorite part). Temperatures dropped into the 40s.
Then the Blue Rocks lost, 6-1 while recording just three hits. The hitters struck out 15 times, with every hitter going down at least once.
“I anticipate everything will be fine tomorrow,” said Blue Rocks manager Jamie Quirk following the loss. “We got Opening Day out of the way and can go from here.””
Leadoff hitter Corey Toups struck out three times, with Ryan O’Hearn, Brandon Downes, Chad Johnson, and Robert Pehl going down twice.
Blue Rocks starter Zach Lovvorn struggled with his command in the first, throwing 27 pitches, but escaped without allowing a run. He then had perfect second and third innings, before falling behind once again in the fourth.
That proved costly, as Potomac catcher Raudy Read hit a two-run home run on a 3-1 pitch (after a leadoff walk). “You’ve got to make a pitch there,” Quirk said on Lovvorn giving up the homer to the number four hitter. “You can’t just throw the ball over the plate…He’ll learn from that. You’ve got to make pitches to good hitters.”
Lovvorn was pulled with one out in the fourth after back-to-back singles.
In came Derek Gordon, who allowed an RBI ground out, but escaped further damage. Gordon did allow a solo home run in the sixth (2.2IP, 2H, R, 0BB, 3K).
Meanwhile, P-Nats starter Phillips Valdez threw just eight pitches in the first and did not allow a hit until a push bunt single by Humberto Arteaga in the fourth. Arteaga took off on O’Hearn’s ground out to second and then stole third base. That led to the Blue Rocks’ only run when Downes singled off Valdez’ glove.
The Blue Rocks third and final hit came to lead off the fifth, a single by Chad Johnson. P-Nats pitching went on to retire 15 of the final 16 hitters (reliever Andrew Robinson walked Elier Hernandez in the sixth).
“You have to give them credit [the P-Nats pitchers],” Quirk said. “Valdez was throwing mid-90s, he had a lot of movement on it. The ball had some good life to it.”
The Blue Rocks and P-Nats continue the series tomorrow night as Pedro Fernandez gets the start for Wilmington against Wirkin Estevez (who is coming back from his second Tommy John surgery).
*Lexington was the lone KC Royals affiliate to be victorious on Opening Night, winning 7-4 over Lakewood. Amalani Fukofuka hit a three-run home run. Triple-A Omaha lost to New Orleans, 6-3, as Miguel Almonte allowed five runs on two hits and four walks in the first while recording just one out. Double-A NW Arkansas lost, 2-0 despite a solid start from Alec Mills (5IP, 4H, R, 0BB, 7K).