JP Crawford Hits 2 Run Homer in 2015 Clearwater Threshers Debut

JP Crawford, 20 from Lakewood California,  was the DH today in Clearwater as he ended his stint on the DL for an oblique injury.

Crawford, had 3AB, 2 R, 2H, 1HR, 3RBI, 1BB, 1SO and was HBP, giving him a .667 average for the day.

Threshers Struggle to Score Runs in 2-1 Defeat by the Brevard County Manatees

Colin Kleven

Colin Kleven

It was a rough night in Clearwater. It showed the biggest problem with the Threshers this year, they are missing consistent hitting.

photo of box courtesy of MiLB.com

photo of box courtesy of MiLB.com

Colin Kleven (RHP) started and went five innings gave up 6 hits, 2 runs 3 walks and had 3 strike outs. He had little help from the bats, there were only 6 hits the entire game. The lone Threshers run was scored in the bottom of the sixth, when Drew Stankiewicz (2B) scored and Andrew Knapp’s (DH) ground out to short.

Another glaring problem is the number of men left on base, at seven. They were also only 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

While they seem to always try, last night, the bats were largely silent leaving an up hill battle for the pitching staff.

The Threshers and Manatees will go at it again at 1 Wednesday.

 

Road Trip: Watching the Lakewood BlueClaws on the Road in Savannah Georgia

If you have been reading our blogs for a while, you will remember that Baseball Ross and I have become unofficial “American Parents” to a few of the young Dominican players, two of which are currently on the Lakewood BlueClaws roster. The first weekend in May, the BlueClaws made their trip to the most southern team in the South Atlantic League, the Savannah Sand Gnats.

Savannah’s Grayson Stadium is a beautiful, old stadium, reminiscent of the Williamsport Cross Cutters’ Historic Bowman field.

Grayson Stadium

Grayson Stadium

We were in town for three games of the four-game series. We drove seven hours each way to get there, and it was so worth it. The BlueClaws won all three games we attended and only dropped the final game of the series.

Our “baseball son” Ranfi Casimirio, a RHP, pitched the first game.

Ranfi Casimiro

Ranfi Casimiro

Casimiro led the team to a 2-1 win over the Sand Gnats, the Mets Low-A farm team. Casimiro went five shut-out innings to increasing his record in his last two starts to 12 innings of allowing only one run. He executed four strikeouts in this five inning start. When he walked off the field at the end of the fifth, the BlueClaws were ahead 1-0.

The  Sand Gnats tied it up in the sixth when BlueClaws reliever Alexis Rivero gave up a run, but the Threshers would win it with a run in the top eight with the help of a wild pitch after a double by Carlos Tocci. Matt Hockenberry, who has held the opposition scoreless in his five appearances this season, recorded the save.

Saturday night, RHP Chris Oliver pitched the team to a 4-0 victory, striking out seven over seven innings. Carlos Tocci-CF went 3 for 4 and had stolen bases. Rhys Hoskins-1B went 2 for 4 including a double and 2 RBIs. Reliever, RHP Jesson Therrien, pitched the last two innings to preserve the shut out.

Sunday afternoon, our other BlueClaw baseball son, Elniery Garcia, a LHP, pitched.  Garcia surrendered three runs in six innings, still a quality start and he got the win. His Clayton Kershaw-esque curve ball helped him to strike out six including four in the first two innings. Later, he used his sinker to induce two infield ground ball double plays in the outing.

Elniery Garcia

Elniery Garcia

In the nine innings of relief in the three games I saw the bullpen has given up only two runs. Closer Matt Hockenberry got his sixth save of the season on Sunday,  but gave up his first run of the season.

One thing I noticed this weekend, in addition to the BlueClaws games I’ve listened to on “Tune In Radio” is that Carlos Tocci is a target. Unfortunately the opposing teams in the South Atlantic League are “head hunting” Tocci.  Already this season, he has been hit by a pitch three times but that is not the whole story. Friday night in the ninth inning he had to jump out of the way with an up and in pitch.  Saturday, he also dodged a pitch. Sunday in the first inning he had to do duck out of the way with a ball aimed right at his head by Sand Gnat pitcher Martires Arias. The plate umpire then warned both teams that the next hit batter would result in the ejection of the pitcher.

Carlos Tocci dodged a pitch Friday night.

Carlos Tocci dodged a pitch Friday night.

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Carlos Tocci ducks and narrowly misses being struck in the head by a pitch Sunday afternoon

Three games in three days and the BlueClaws won all three. We were lucky that we got to see both of our baseball sons get to pitch–and win. We also were lucky enough that they each were “charting” the game (pitchers will write down the pitches, placement and speed of both their team and the opposing team) so that they were in the stands.

The best part of the entire trip was getting to spend a little time with my “boys”.

Elniery Garcia, me and Ranfi Casimiro in Savannah

Elniery Garcia, me and Ranfi Casimiro in Savannah

It made the 14 hour round trip worth while to see them (as well as many of their teammates) happy to see us. I can’t wait to see them again, hopefully in June in Lakewood.

 

 

Kleven Takes Down Dunedin, Threshers Trounce Jays 8-1

Colin Kleven put together his best performance of the season so far as he lead the Threshers to an 8-1 win over the rival Dunedin Blue Jays.

Colin Kleven

Colin Kleven

Willians Astudillo, who caught tonight, and first baseman Zachary Green each had two RBIs to aid in the run total. Also key to the win were three base hit for both second baseman Drew Staniewicz and center fielder Chase Harris.

The key to the game was the stellar performance of Kleven. Kleven was solid over his six innings and had a no hitter going for 4 2/3 of those six innings. He also held the Jays to a run on three hits over six innings while striking out six.

Coming in the seventh was LHP Harold Guerrero, who pitched two innings with two strike outs, two hits no runs. Will Morris, LHP,  came in to close in the ninth giving up one hit and had one strike out.

 

Three Weeks In, Phillies Minor League Teams Shaping Up

We are three weeks into the minor league season and the Phillies’ Pharm teams are shaping up. In some respects, it’s what one would expect, in others, a bit of a surprise.

The most pleasant surprise is the Reading Fightins. Reading is 10-7 and are in second place, only a game and a half behind the New Britain Rock Cats. The biggest disappointment has been the Lehigh Valley IronPigs who have the worst record in ALL of of the International League at 5-14. In-between, are the Clearwater Threshers who are a game and half out of first in the Florida State League Northern Division, trailing the Daytona Tortugas. Their 10-9 record is a great improvement over last year at this time where they were 3-16! The Lakewood BlueClaws are 8-10, two games under .500 in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League.

Reading Fightins

As expected they have been lead by outstanding starting pitching. Lead by newcomer Zach Eflin, who has yet to give up an earned run in his first three starts. He is 2-0, in his first three starts. Also, going 2-0 is prospect Jesse Biddle. Biddle, who is coming off of a very challenging 2014 season, has an impressive 2.76 ERA and averages a strike out an inning. Ben Lively is equally impressive with a 1.42 ERA and 1-0 in his first three starts. Aaron Nola, last years’ number one draft pick from LSU, has gone 1-2 with a 3.06 ERA.

Hitting-wise Reading is lead by 1B Brock Stassi, with a .357 batting average, 3 home runs and 19 RBIs. Phenom Roman Quinn, is off to a strong start, hitting .348, 4 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs. He is currently 3rd in steals with 8 steals and leads the league with runs scored with 18.

The one disappointing event was the injury to former Golden Glove winner, 2B Carlos Alonso, who was injured by a Harrisburg Senator’s “take out slide” and is currently sidelined with a knee injury. He is currently on the 7-day disabled list.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs

Packed with veteran free agents that were released by other organizations, Lehigh Valley is off to a difficult start. The highpoint of the offense is the play of Maikel Franco, who is hitting .338 and leads the International league in doubles with 10 so far this season, while playing outstanding defense at third base.Conversely, rehabbing MLBer, Domonic Brown continuing to struggle, hitting only .139 in nine games for the IronPigs.

On the mound, the highlight is Severino Gonzalez, with a .357 ERA which earned him his first MLB start with the Phillies. The biggest surprise on the mound, however, is Phillippe Aumont. Aumont, who was dropped from the 40-man roster this spring, is 1-0 with 1.06 ERA in 17 innings. Even more surprising, he was moved from the bullpen to starter and is proving to be much more successful as a starter.

Clearwater Threshers

The Threshers are the team that never seems to say die. Last year, was one of the most difficult years I have ever witnessed in professional sport. It seemed like they always found a way to LOSE. Even if they managed to push a game into extra innings, they always seemed to come up short. This year, is very different. Four of their ten wins have been in extra innings, including an impressive win at home in SEVENTEEN innings.

Threshers Celebrate Their 17 Inning Win

Threshers Celebrate Their 17 Inning Win

Offensively, Dylan Cozens (RF) has driven in 13 runs to lead the team in RBIs. The fans in Clearwater have taken to calling him “Clutch” Cozens because he has gone 4-6 with 3 RBIs in extra innings. Leading the team in doubles are Willians Astudillo (3-6 with a walk off in extra innings) and Andrew Pullin with 5 each.

Threshers’ pitching is another great surprise with strong starting and relief pitchers. The tops starters are Brandon Leibrant (1-1, 1.80 ERA in 4 starts) and David Whitehead (1-2, 3.04 ERA in 4 starts). The bullpen has been exceptionally strong, led by Ulises Joaquin 1-0 with three saves, Edubray Ramos 1-1 with 1 save and Mark Leiter, Jr. who is 1-0 with one save and struck out TWENTY in 15 innings out of the pen. The top left handed reliever is Cody Forsythe, 1-0 and has struck out 13 in nine innings of work.

Lakewood BlueClaws

While the BlueClaws have been hanging around .500, there have been early flashes of brilliance. After completing what looks to be a successful weight training program in the off season, Carlos Tocci is hitting .338 and leads the team with 11 RBIs. Malquin Canelo is second hitting .333. First basemen Rhys Hoskins has supplied the power with 3 home runs, hitting .290.

Regarding pitchers, they are led by Tyler Viza, 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his first three starts, all of last season, Viza went 3-17. Ricardo Pinto, 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA, leads the team in strike outs with 18 in 19 innings of pitching. The bullpen is good as well, Matt Hockenberry has picked up three saves and has yet to give up a run in nine innings of work. Left handed reliever Austin Davis has yet to give up a run in ten innings of relief as the “set-up” man.

 

 

 

Walk This Way, Another Saturday, Another Threshers Walk-Off

I mentioned on opening night how special this team feels, so different from last years’ team. The 2015 Threshers feel like there might be lightning caught in a bottle. 

The first game of the season they turned a triple play. Last Saturday they were down and summed up the energy to walk off and win on a single by Willians Astudillo. Last night, it was something special, again.

Two weeks into the season and this team is playing with more heart than all of last season. I’m gobsmacked.

No longer do they fold when they are down, they keep fighting to the end and it’s playing off in spades.

Last night, Andrew Pullin tied the game at 3 in the bottom of the 8th with a home run that was well over the right-center field fence. It amazes me how much fight these guys have. 

It would remain tied at 3 for NINE more innings. Yes, NINE

They played an entire game in order to win and win they did. 

The game was started by Miguel Nuñez, who had a solid start of 5 innings. Threshers were trailing 3-2, but this is NOT last year’s hang-dog team, you know they will fight until the end.

Miguel Nuñez

Then in was Lino Martinez. He held it together for two innings. Next up was Lee “Rocket Arm” Ridenhour–who warmed up to Elton John’s “Rocket Man”.

 

Lee “Rocket Arm” Ridenhour

Ridenhour had three sharp, shut-out innings, keeping the Threshers in the mix as Andrew Pullin tied it up in the 8th. At the end of 10, it was still tied.

Next in was Edubray (Ed-ooo-bray) Ramos.

 

Edoubray Ramos

Ramos has been near-perfect this season and  contributed 3 innings, 2 hits, 1 walk and 4 strike outs.

Cody Forsythe came in at the top of the 14th. He was a champ. So impressive. 

Cody Forsythe

Forsythe would go on to pitch four innings in relief. Manager Greg Legg has confidence in Forsythe and didn’t even start to have some one up in the pen until midway through the 17th.

Forsythe would go on to: 4 innings, 2 hits, no runs, no walks and 6 strike outs. An amazing performance by any standards!

Bottom of the 17th, with one out, Brodie Greene singled then was “balked” to second. The Tigers then intentionally walked Pullin. Jose Mayorga then walked to load the bases. Next up, Dylan Cozens hit a single into the hole between first and second scoring Greene to win the game!

Dylan Cozens hits it to the hole

The ball zooms into the outfield past the Lakeland defender

 

The Threshers storm the field to celebrate

   

The Threshers win! What a game! It was finally over at 11:30. I was so glad that we had stayed until the end, though my little car looked lonely in the parking lot.

  

It’s All About The Chemistry 

When I wrote about the introduction of the Clearwater Threshers earlier this week, I mentioned how this year’s team has character. Then on opening night, they turned a triple play, playing as if they had been together for years. It’s not an easy task, but they did it.

I was talking with one of my player friends and he agreed that this year’s locker room is good, that everyone is getting along and they have fun together. To me, this is key.

You can have a talented team but if they players do not get along, they could have all the talent in the world but they still won’t win. Conversely, you can have a team that may not be as talented but they will win simply because the chemistry will give them the extra “oomph” they need to win.

That being said, I think this year’s Threshers might be the rarest kind of team-the one with the talent AND chemistry…time will tell if my feeling about this team will pan out.

Brandon Leibrant only gave up one run to the Dunedin Jays in the first.

Andrew Knapp tied the game in the third and the game remained knotted at one until the bottom of the 11th.

Dylan Cozens hit a single but the Jays short stop overthrew first and Cozens took advantage and made it to second.  He was almost stranded as Zach Green struck out and Aaron Brown popped out.

With two outs, catcher Willians Astudillo stepped to the plate.

He smacked the ball…EXACTLY where it needed to be, right into the gap between the second and first basemen, allowing Dylan Cozens to score from second.

Not only did the crowd go wild, the team stormed the field to celebrate!

It was an amazing night.

Baseball Ross has video of the winning play and celebration. You can see it HERE.

The Threshers never seemed like they were going to give up. There was never a feeling that they wouldn’t win, it was just a matter of time. It was a very different feeling from last season.

Wawa (the convenience store) gives out free coffee coupons for extra innings and dollar off “Shorti Sub” coupons for wins…last season (the Threshers ended the season 40 games under .500) we sadly got more coffee coupons than sub coupons and I don’t believe we ever got both for an extra innings win. So lunch today is lunch is courtesy of the Threshers! Cheers!