High-A Wilmington started out so well, but settled for a split in their Sunday doubleheader with Carolina.
Foster Griffin struggled with his command throughout, but still carried a no-hitter into the fifth (91 pitches, 54 for strikes). Mudcats third baseman Jordan Edgerton led off the 5th inning with a perfect bunt towards third base. Then the wheels fell off for the Blue Rocks.
After a wild pitch and a strikeout (Griffin’s 6th), Griffin induced a ground ball to third baseman Wander Franco. Franco booted it for his second error of the game. A hit batter with two strikes on a guy who had already struck out twice loaded the bases. Griffin then got another ground ball to Franco, who once again bobbled it for his third error. That allowed the tying run to score.
A wild pitch gave the Mudcats the lead before an RBI single drove in another. A sac fly scored the final run.
Griffin pitched well enough to win, but his teammates let him down (5IP, 2H, 4R, 0ER, 2BB, 6K). Manager Jamie Quirk said as much after the game.
“He didn’t get much help in that first game. He didn’t give up an earned run. I thought he did fine. You have to get a little help. He could’ve gotten out of that inning two or three times and he had to throw extra pitches. Things didn’t happen the way we would have liked it to happen, but I thought he pitched fine and I told him that. Unfortunately, starting pitches get that L or W behind their name, but I told him you did your job, but you didn’t get much help today.”
Franco committed his fourth error of the game with reliever Jacob Bodner on the mound in the sixth to give him ten on the season. Bodner allowed an unearned run on two hits and three walks over two innings.
The Blue Rocks had a 1-0 lead after Robert Pehl doubled in the third, went to third base on Alfredo Escalera‘s single, and scored when the throw went down to second base as Escalera was stealing. Pehl won out over Mudcats catcher Tanner Murphy in the collision at the plate.
The Blue Rocks won the second game 6-4.
It looked bad to start, as the Mudcats scored two runs in the first on three straight hard hits off starter Derek Gordon. A sac fly scored the second run. Gordon, like Griffin in the first game, struggled with his command (58 pitches, 35 strikes).
However, the Blue Rocks offense went right to work in the bottom of the first. Escalera led off with a double and moved to third base on a ground out. After a walk to Corey Toups, Brandon Downes (who struck out three times in Game 1) drove in a run with a single up the middle. Franco followed with an RBI single back up the middle. After Elier Hernandez walked to load the bases, Austin Bailey (3-for-3) drove in two with a double.
“I’m just trying to get out there and help the team win and do anything I can to produce out there so I’m trying to get a good pitch and do something good with it,” Bailey said after the game about his four hit day.
Gordon got into trouble in the third and with three left-handed batters coming up, the Blue Rocks went to lefty Luis Rico to make his season debut. Rico just came from extended spring after recovering from a broken hand. He looked rusty to start, but ended up striking out four, one with the bases loaded in the 3rd inning and the side in his final inning, the fifth.
Rico earned the victory and Matt Alvarez earned his first save of the year, though it wasn’t without some great defense in the seventh. After a leadoff walk, Alvarez allowed a DEEP fly ball to center. Downes just kept running and made a great over the shoulder catch on the warning track. That saved the game.
Quirk admitted after the game that today was the first time he had seen Rico pitch (he didn’t start throwing in Arizona until after camp broke at the end of March). “I’d never seen Rico pitch before and it was great. Obviously he was hurt to begin the season. I know he pitched here last season and guys were familiar with him. He did a great job for us and he did exactly what we needed…they had the lefties coming up and we brought Rico in and he went two plus and that was huge.”
How did the rest of the Royals minor league teams fair?
Triple-A Omaha shut out Reno in their final game of the series, 3-0. The Storm Chasers now return home for eight games.
Christian Binford earned the victory, allowing just four hits and walking two over eight innings. He struck out two, which came in his final inning. Andrew Edwards earned his second save by striking out the side around a single and a walk.
The Storm Chasers scored single runs in the third, fifth, and ninth. Jorge Bonifacio drove in two of them with two outs.
Double-A NW Arkansas lost in 11 innings to Tulsa, 6-4. The Drillers scored four runs in the top of the ninth and two more in the 11th.
In his third inning of work, Yender Caramo allowed a bunt single to start the ninth and then center fielder Terrance Gore misplayed a ball for a two-base error. A ground ball off of Caramo drove in the inning’s first run.
In came lefty Tim Hill, who allowed back-to-back hits (the last driving in a run). Another Naturals error allowed the tying run to score. It could have been worse, as the next hitter collected a hit off Hill, but left fielder Carlos Garcia threw a runner out at the plate.
Hill was still in the game in the 11th and he allowed a two-run homer. The Naturals had their chance in the bottom of the 11th, but Mauricio Ramos hit into a double play with two on and nobody out.
Alec Mills took the no decision despite allowing just two hits and three walks over six scoreless innings. He struck out five.
The Naturals hit three home runs, two by Zane Evans and one by Ramon Torres.
Low-A Lexington lost their series finale in Greenville, 8-3. The Drive scored in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. The Legends now return home for three games against Kannapolis.
Scott Blewett took the no decision, as he allowed four hits and walked three over five scoreless innings. He struck out five. The Legends bullpen duo of Gabriel Cramer and Nik Stephenson allowed all eight runs on nine hits and four walks over 2.2 innings.
On offense, Jeckson Flores went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs.