The High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks finished up their season opening homestand with a 3-2 loss in ten innings to Carolina (with their largest crowd of the season on hand). They dropped to 2-4, with five of the games being decided by one run (two went into extra inning). They have lost both extra inning games this season.
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when Anderson Miller beat out a potential double play ball to drive in a run. It was the first time they had scored first.
The 1-0 lead held until manager Jamie Quirk went to his bullpen in the seventh.
Lefty Colin Rodgers, who dominated on Saturday, wasn’t as great this afternoon. Though he struck out two of the first three batters he faced, he also allowed a single and then an RBI triple to tie the game. A wild pitch followed to give Carolina the lead. Granted the triple was a ball hit over right fielder Roman Collins’ head, a ball Quirk said “should have been caught”. Remember, Collins has converted to first base and was playing his first full game in the outfield since winter ball in Australia.
The Blue Rocks came back in the bottom of the eighth on one swing of the bat, a one out solo home run over the right field wall by Travis Maezes. It came on an 0-2 pitch. In three previous games, Maezes had just one hit and seven strikeouts.
The Blue Rocks had runners on the corners with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Collins grounded out to first base to send the game into extra innings.
Right-hander Franco Terrero was called on for relief and he allowed a leadoff single. A wild pitch and a sac bunt followed, putting the go ahead run on third base. Mudcats leadoff hitter Troy Stokes Jr. flied out to right, but the throw from Collins was just late and the Mudcats took the lead.
In the bottom of the tenth, the Blue Rocks had the tying and winning run in scoring position with two outs after back-to-back walks, but DJ Burt struck out to end the game.
The Blue Rocks had six hits, though five were singles. They grounded into two double plays and struck out 11 times. Their 4-5-6 hitters (Miller, Chase Vallot, and Collins) struck out seven times.
Once again, Blue Rocks starter Foster Griffin was dominant. If he keeps pitching like this, the returnee will not be in Wilmington long. In his second start of the season, he once again did not walk a batter. Griffin struck out six and allowed three singles. Gone is the scared pitcher from last season. He looks completely confident and “was outstanding,” said Quirk. “He’s getting ahead of hitters…and he’s pounding the strike zone.” In his two starts, Griffin has allowed a run on five hits over 11 innings while striking out 14.
The Blue Rocks now head out on the road for a week, with stops in both Potomac and Salem.
*There were also some more roster moves, besides the two at the big league level: congrats to Jake Junis and Scott Alexander! It will be Junis’ first time in the big leagues and I can’t wait to see him pitch.
On the minor league side, lefty Luis Rico was promoted from Wilmington to Double-A NW Arkansas. Right-handed reliever Jacob Bodner took his spot in Wilmington.
Outfielder Brandon Downes was placed on the DL with a broken hamate bone in his left hand. He will have surgery in Kansas City and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. Fellow outfielder Tanner Stanley somehow made it to Wilmington from extended spring training in Arizona to pinch-hit in the 10th inning this afternoon. He worked a two out walk, but was left stranded on third base when the game ended.
Losing Downes could be huge, as he seemed to be settling in at the plate, but as Quirk said after the game “it gives someone else an opportunity”.
Good luck with surgery and rehab Brandon!