I ventured to my first game in about two months on Sunday, making the short trek south to Wilmington for the Blue Rocks final home game of the season. I hadn’t watched much baseball in that time period (really just parts of three games on TV) and I was curious to see what I missed and if I would enjoy the game.
Well, the Blue Rocks lost, so I didn’t miss much (they were eliminated from the postseason earlier in the week) and have now lost six in a row. They ended the second half just 16-18 at Frawley Stadium (though they are just 6-22 on the road in the second half with a week left of games).
Foster Griffin got the start for the Blue Rocks and I had not seen him pitch well before. It started off good for him (he retired six of the first seven batters he faced), but then he allowed four runs in the third.
Over four-plus innings, Griffin allowed seven runs (four earned) on ten hits. But he didn’t pitch as bad as his line might suggest.
The up-the-middle defense for the Blue Rocks wasn’t very good. Twice they failed to turn a potential double play. Maybe two of the hits against him were hard hit. Most were bloopers or ground balls through the infield. Also, Griffin only walked two, which has been an issue for him since his promotion to Wilmington (43 walks in 90.1 innings, compared to just 35 walks during his entire 2015 season with Lexington).
Manager Jamie Quirk thought Griffin left too many pitches up, which got him into trouble. “I thought he threw some real good changeups,” Quirk said. “His curveball was rolling today; he didn’t get a lot of swings and misses on it.
Another component that hasn’t changed was the Blue Rocks bullpen. It was once again really good.
Jacob Bodner entered in the top of the fifth with no outs and runners at the corners. Two runs had already scored. Bodey struck out the first batter and got a pop up for the second out. A wild pitch scored one run, but Bodey came back with another strike out.
Bodner pitched three innings, allowing one run on on three hits with five strikeouts. Jake Newberry followed with two scoreless, allowing a hit and a walk.
The Blue Rocks offense normally leaves a lot to be desired (dead-last in the Carolina League with a .242 batting average and just 487 runs scored), but they did collect 13 hits and score seven runs. They had runners at second and third base with one out in the ninth, but a dribbler to first base and a liner back to the pitcher ended the game.
After the game, everyone in the lineup was batting at or over .200 (outfielder Anderson Miller went 1-for-3 to raise his average to .200).
The bottom half of the order did most of the damage. Austin Bailey, batting in the sixth spot, went 3-for-5 with a double. Catcher Luis Villegas (eighth) also went 3-for-5, though he drove in two and scored three runs. Robert Pehl (seventh) and Carlos Diaz (ninth) each had two hits.
Outfielder Brandon Downes, who was the DH on Sunday afternoon, is now one strike out away from a not wanted record: the all-time strikeout leader in Blue Rocks history. Right now, fellow outfielder Brett Eibner (now with Oakland) has the record of 165, which he set back in 2012.
Downes struck out twice, though he did drive in runs in his final two at-bats with sac flies. He has cut back on the strikeouts in the second half, something he was leading the Carolina League in before I took my hiatus (though he is still averaging a strikeout a game in August).
I can’t be sure if I am completely back, but if I am, it won’t be every day right now.
Let me know what you want to see from me. I’m always looking for ideas, especially with the offseason looming.