“It’s seven o’clock and I want to rock…”
Introduction: It was a close battle. Both sides had moments when it seemed like victory was possible. It was back and forth. And then, back again. Every time I checked my phone, the lead would change. Right up until the last moment.
And that’s when the part of my brain that wanted to go to the game won. Never mind the rain and the lake in right field. I was going down there, and I’m glad I did: The Fightins took down the B-Mets 4-2 as I made the rainy trip to Baseballtown all by myself.
Big Ben Lively got the start and pitched better than I’d seen in my last two times watching him. His control of the fastball to the inside and outside corners of the plate was excellent, even if he had difficulty commanding the fade on the inside to right handers. But no matter, the real difference was the curve: The first time through the lineup he used the 77-80MPH breaking pitch as his “out” pitch to freeze batters or get them flailing. Later, he started to mix in more change-ups and sliders, and gained velocity to 94-95 T96 on the hot Reading gun–where he previously had been 90-91 earlier in the evening. In previous outings I’d seen, his comfort with the curve was almost nothing. What an improvement!
He got unlucky on the 2-run home run as the batter was late on his swing and just ran into a 95-MPH fastball on the outside corner which dropped over the fence to the opposite field. After this outing and the last good one down in Richmond, I have good confidence heading into the championship series with Lively as the #3 starter after Eflin and Thompson.
What can you say about JP Crawford? He’s good at baseball. I think that’s it. First, go watch this play where he makes the tag on a questionable throw from catcher Andrew Knapp:
Now take a look at these great Cheryl photos of Crawford’s first-inning “no-doubt” home run:
Nicky Williams also had a “no-doubt” HR, and Mora chipped in with a sac fly. Cozens had a couple of doubles. The Fightin Phils could have had many more runs than 4.
It’s a tight team. You can tell by watching them interact with each other and watching their celebrations each time they achieve their next team goal. Just as Chase d’Arnaud was the heart and soul of the 2015 IronPigs, Brock Stassi is the heart and soul of the 2015 Fightins–and Eastern League MVP to boot.
Riobal, Ryan O’Sullivan, and the fireballer Cordero all chipped in to get the Fightins to the ninth. The “Wild Thing” Shackleford came on to close it out. He’s struggled lately, so I remained in my seat to see how he’d get through the ninth. Closers often come into the game pumped up–but you could see that Shack was “extra-juiced” for this opportunity: It was his first appearance in the series and the chance to close out the sweep of the B-Mets. With a long drive to center field, caught at the wall, he did it.
The Championship Series for the AA Eastern League will bring the Bowie Baysox to Baseballtown for game 1 and 2 Tuesday and Wednesday. They’ll then head down to the beltway for the remaining three games, as needed. I expect Zach Eflin on Tuesday and Jake Thompson on Wednesday.
The Orioles affiliate will allow the Fightins to feature a DH in the lineup, which I think is key. They left a ton of baserunners in the Mets series, often getting bogged down at the bottom of the lineup. Depending on any further weather difficulties, they may also give Knapp a day off behind the plate and use him as a DH to keep his bat in the lineup. Hitters like Charles, Pointer, and Serna may get some additional at-bats. Veteran Rene Garcia may get some time behind the plate. I’m optimistic.
The Fightins were 5-2 versus the Baysox this season, going 2-1 in Maryland (Zach Eflin took the loss) and 3-1 in Reading (Nick Pivetta–now injured–took the loss). Knapp, Stassi and Crawford had multiple-hit games in almost all of the matchups.
I may have a preview for you Tuesday or Wednesday as I’ll likely make it to one or more games–and one more time I’ll…
…see you at the park,
PS: I might have gone down by myself, but I wasn’t alone when I got there: Steve, Cheryl and Kyle all spent time visiting me in Blue 3–great friends about.