Blue Rocks lose heartbreaker to Hillcats

Star Wars Night in Wilmington was a LONG one, with the game taking just about four hours to complete (considering the first two innings took an hour to play and it went ten innings).

The Blue Rocks lost 16-11 in ten innings to first place Lynchburg, thus losing the three-game series. The two teams combined for 29 hits and 13 walks.

Humberto Arteaga swings

Humberto Arteaga at the plate in the first inning on April 10, 2016 (Jen Nevius).

After Foster Griffin allowed a first inning home run, the Blue Rocks came right back with three runs of their own. The top of the order did most of the damage.

Alfredo Escalera got it started with a single and Humberto Arteaga laid down a perfect push bunt past the pitcher for the second time this series for a hit. Wander Franco followed with a single to load the bases. After Brandon Downes struck out, Austin Bailey came to the plate and took a strike. However, it was Elier Hernandez‘ spot in the order. So they switched and Hernandez cleared the bases with a triple.

Then the 2nd inning happened.

Griffin completely fell apart. He was throwing like he was just trying to get something over the plate (his release point seemed way off). He walked five in the inning, including once with the bases loaded. Griffin was finally pulled with the bases loaded and one out. He has now walked 13 batters in just 17.2 innings with the Blue Rocks.

In came Kyle Kubat, who allowed two of the three inherited runs to score (a wild pitch and a ground out), but then settled in. He threw 3.2 innings and allowed just one run (that came in the fifth after a triple and a wild pitch).

Back to the Blue Rocks offense. They scored a run in the second on an Arteaga single and then four in the third to take the 8-6 lead. Nine hole hitter Chad Johnson had the big hit, a two-run double.

The Blue Rocks added two more runs in the sixth, as Arteaga tripled to start the inning and scored on a Franco sac fly. Downes followed with a walk and scored on Hernandez’ double.

But then the Hillcats chipped away. They got that run off Kubat in the fifth and scored two in the seventh off Jake Newberry (3IP, H, BB, 2K). Those two runs scored on a left field home run from Sicnarf Loopstock.

Bobby Bradley

Hillcats first baseman Bobby Bradley on June 1, 2016 (Jen Nevius).

Fast forward to the ninth with the Blue Rocks clinging to a 10-9 lead and Jacob Bodner in for the save. He struck out the first batter he faced, but then that brought up Bobby Bradley, the Carolina League’s top home run and RBI guy (he now has 13 homers and 47 RBIs). If you are a Hillcats fan, he did not disappoint on the 3-2 pitch. Bradley hit an absolute bomb to dead center that landed in the parking lot beyond the double wall.

Things were worse in the tenth for Bodner, as he walked the first batter (who was sacrificed to second) and hit the third batter. An RBI single and two straight RBI doubles followed (one by Bradley off the right field wall). Up came Yu-Cheng Chang, who hit a two-run homer to left (6-for-10 in the series with two doubles, a triple, and a homer).

That was all for Bodner, but with no one else available in the bullpen (apparently Matt Alvarez was promoted to Triple-A, though not told to us in the press box), manager Jamie Quirk went to infielder Brian Bien. Bien struck out the first batter he faced and induced a ground out to end the inning.

Meanwhile, the Blue Rocks hadn’t had a base runner since the seventh until Escalera led off the tenth with a single. Unfortunately, Arteaga’s perfect night came to an end, as he struck out (5-for-6 still isn’t bad). Franco followed with an RBI double, but that was all for the Blue Rocks.

I know they lost, but let’s talk about the Blue Rocks offense. It has been bad all season long (second worst in the league), but it came alive in this series against Lynchburg. I was at the game on Wednesday night and they scored nine runs. Tonight, it was 11 on 16 hits. Every hitter in their lineup reached base at least once (Bailey walked twice and Downes walked once). The top three in the order (Escalera, Arteaga, and Franco) went a combined 11-for-16 with three RBIs and five runs scored.

“You wish when you have a day like that you win the game but we didn’t,” Quirk said after the game. “Guys are starting to swing the bat better. Arteaga has been doing outstanding. Escalera has been doing great. It was nice to see Elier get a couple pull side hits…Hitting is contagious. Today we swung the bats well and hopefully we build on it and keep it going.”

If they can keep it rolling and get some consistency from their pitching staff, they could be dangerous in the second half.

They now head out to Winston-Salem for four games over the weekend.


How did the rest of the Royals organization do? They all lost.

Since it is late, I will just give a quick rundown.

omahaTriple-A Omaha lost their finale in Colorado Springs, 6-1. Christian Binford took the loss (6IP, 7H, 6R, 4ER, 0BB, 3K). Matt Murray returned from his drug suspension and threw two hitless innings of relief.

Balbino Fuenmayor and Hunter Dozier each had two hits in the loss. Ramon Torres now has four errors, three in the last two games.

Double-A NW Arkansas lost their series opener to Corpus Christi, 3-2. The Hooks scored all of their runs via the long ball.

Starter Matt Strahm allowed a two-run homer in the second (6P, 6H, BB, 2K) and reliever Evan Beal allowed a solo homer in the eighth with the score tied at 2-2 (3IP, 3H, BB, 3K).

Cam Gallagher had three hits and drove in the tying run in the fourth.

legends logoLow-A Lexington lost their doubleheader to Rome. The Legends lost the first game, 7-0.

Scott Blewett took the loss, allowing six runs (five earned) on eight hits and four walks over 4.1 innings. He struck out six and left with the bases loaded (two runs scored). Second baseman DJ Burt committed his 11th error.

The Legends collected just four hits, including two doubles from Amalani Fukofuka.

The Legends lost the second game, 6-2.

Gerson Garabito took the loss, as he allowed four runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks over three innings. Shortstop Marten Gasparini committed his 27th error (though he walked twice) and new catcher Nick Dini committed his first (though he went 1-for-3 with a run scored in his first game).

Fukofuka added two more hits in Game 2.


About Jen Nevius

I first became a KC Royals fan way back in 1995 when I attended my first Wilmington Blue Rocks game. I fell in love with minor league baseball then and began following the Royals as former Blue Rocks clawed their way to the big leagues. 3+ years ago I started covering the Royals for Aerys Sports, but since the site has been shut down, I am going out on my own.
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