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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
After only two games, I walked away from tonight’s Threshers game with a quote from one of my favorite movies, “Major League” stuck in my head. I quote Manager Lou Brown, “it’s starting to come together, Pepper, it’s starting to come together!”
Last night, we had a triple play, (Walding to Stankiewicz to Green) today a sharp double play (Lohman to Stankiewicz to Green).
This team really has some spirit, when things have gotten tough, they seem to dig deep and push through, something last year’s team could not do. Last year the Threshers ended the season 40 games under .500.
Tonight, David Whitehead started on the mound. He would go on 6IP, 4H, 0R, 1W 8Ks. He looked really sharp as he collected the win.
Also of note, Domonic Brown made his second rehab appearance. First at bat, he flies out and he struck out during the second.
The first scoring play came when Mitch Walding was caught in a rundown. Drew Stankiewicz hit a screamer right at the pitcher, who lost his glove trying to field the ball. He threw the ball home, cutting off Walding. The catcher threw the ball to third and Walding started for home…the pitcher, now without his glove failed to cover home, so Walding was able to score as the Jays tied unsuccessfully to get the out at second.
Lee “Rocket Arm” came in in relief of Whitehead. Ridenhour went 2IP, 0H, 0R, 0W and 2Ks to hold the game. He hit 93 on the gun and struck out both on his curve.
Ulises Joaquin came in to close. He struggled a little, but buckeled down to secure the win.
It was another beautiful night in Clearwater. Perfect weather and everyone was excite to start the season on a good note after last year’s fiasco of a season.
While the final score was not what the crowd wanted, a 5-2 loss to the rival Dunedin Blue Jays, there was a lot of good to take away, a little bad, and some ugly.
The highlight of the night and likely of the year, was a rare (first I’ve ever seen in person) TRIPLE PLAY! Mitch Walding to Drew Stankiewicz to Zack Green, a 5-4-3 triple play. To see this on the first night really gives me hope. For this to come together on the first night is even more amazing than if it was at the end of a season
Andrew Knapp went 3 for 4, including an RBI single.
Aaron Brown and Andrew Pullin both had hard-hit doubles.
Mark Leiter, Jr., making his debut as a reliever with two strike outs, including rehabbing Toronto Blue Jay, Michael Saunders.
Edubray Ramos got Michael Saunders on a broken bat ground out to Mitch Walding, who threw out Saunders at first.
The game was lost on three home runs, with each pitcher, Matt Imhoff, Mark Leiter, Jr. and Edubray Ramos giving up one home run.
The Threshers were 1-8 with runners in scoring position.
Domonic Brown striking out during both of his plate appearances.
Here is Matt Imhoff:
Mark Leiter, Jr.
I’d also like to give a shout out to Threshers’ General Manager John Timberlake for a moving rendition of “God Bless America” in dedication to Chuck Murphy, former Florida State League President who passed away a month ago. It was a truly heartfelt tribute.
It was a news-filled day with the additions of Koyie Hill to the coaching staff and Brodie Green to the roster.
The annual Season Ticket Holders’ Party was held tonight at Brighthouse Field. It was the best weather we have had in a week as the heat has seemed to abate a bit.
I was happily surprised to find that my ID has been issued in my nom de plume! I’ve had a name plate on my seat for two years, but I had to specially request it…so I was really happy to get this card!
Now, onto the team…
You can watch the video of the introductionsHERE–and I really recommend you do as this years’ team has a lot of personality. They were a lot of fun to watch.
Greg Legg, Manager
Rob Ducey, Hitting Coach
Steve Schrenk, Pitching Coach
Koyie Hill is a surprise. He isn’t given any specific coaching duty, just a member of the coaching “staff”.
Mark Leiter, Jr
Lee “Rocket Arm” Ridenhour
Brodie Green (Just added to the Threshers Roster today)
I really have a good feeling about this year’s team. I know quite a few of these guys and have a lot of faith in their talents. I think we will be very competitive this year and I am excited for the season to start!