The following game report is from John Dreker, who was in attendance for the West Virginia Power/Lakewood Blueclaws series this past week.
I was able to see all four games (7/28-7/31) of the West Virginia series in Lakewood vs the first place Blueclaws. First, I’ll say that the stadium at Lakewood is a pitcher’s ballpark. Home runs are rare at the rate of probably one every other game. The Blueclaws are a very good team, 2nd in the SAL in ERA, 2nd in OPS, and from what I’ve seen, they’re average defensively.
I’ll start with the pitchers, and honestly the team has a lot of filler types here, so I’m not going to go in depth on guys like Marc Baca, Mike Williams, Melkin Laureano and Gabriel Alvarado who changed his pitching motion from last time I saw him. His velocity was also down. Zachary Foster had a good pitching line Saturday night, but at 23 without good velocity or stats and in the back of the pen, I don’t see any reason right now to follow him closely. On Wednesday night the only pitcher of note was Ryan Kelly. I could see him as a potential bullpen arm down the road. It was the 2nd time I’ve seen him pitch in person (back in May I also saw a 4 game series) and he can get it up to 95 mph with good control.
On Thursday I saw Philip Irwin for the first time and he very much impressed me. He was sitting at 93 mph all game, very consistent with his fastball, and he was attacking hitters all game. In the 6th inning he reached his pitch limit (9 K’s will do that to you) after a booted groundball and a walk put two runners on. Marc Baca came in with his 86 mph fastballs and got crushed giving Irwin his only earned run on the game. Maurice Bankston came in next. His progress from last year has impressed me. He was 87-89 mph last year and getting hit pretty good, but for the 2nd time this year I’ve seen him, he’s been at 93-94 and throwing more strikes. That’s a pretty significant addition in velocity while improving control. When I saw him last year I would’ve said his major league chances were a little below 1%, but he’s definitely improved on that.
I was glad to get a chance to see Eliecer Navarro for the first time besides his work during the WBC but he didn’t last long and his team didn’t help him. He threw just 6 pitches but he got his fastball up to 88-89 in his limited time, which was slightly higher than I’d previously heard. I have no idea how he got charged with 2 earned runs but I disagree with the Lakewood official scorer every single game I go. The first “hit” Navarro gave up was a groundball Benji Gonzalez got to, but lost the handle on momentarily. Gonzalez still almost got the runner at first on a flatfooted throw from the hole. The sacrifice was a bad bunt that Elevys Gonzalez threw away trying to get the runner at 2b. The throw beat the runner by a good 15 feet but was bounced and off-target. Next batter hit a soft liner right down the LF line with the runner from 1b in motion, and he scored easily. So the final line of 6 pitches, 2 hits, 2 earned runs for Navarro wasn’t half as bad as it looks in the boxscore.
On Friday night Brett Lorin pitched,4ip and 5 earned runs on 7 hits all look bad and in the 4th inning he got hit hard but there is a huge caveat. He threw about 65 pitches, and 64 were fastballs. The only non-fastball was the first pitch after a hard hit double in the 4th (when he really got hit hard) and it was probably just a show me pitch because every batter that inning was sitting fastball. Lorin was 89-91 all game with a long stretch of pitches all hitting 91. When a hitter knows he’s getting a fastball on every pitch, by his 2nd time through the lineup the pitcher is going to get hit hard, especially against a good hitting team and I think that’s what happened against Lorin. I really don’t think he’s working with his full arsenal yet, basically still leaving him in rehab mode. Kyle McPherson came in for the last two innings and looked very good getting the six outs he got quickly (one walk mixed in) and throwing all of his pitches including a 93 mph fastball and a 75-76 mph curve.
Saturday was the most impressive night for the starting pitcher because I didn’t expect much from Quinton Miller who got hit hard his last game and like Lorin,he missed most of this season. He came out on the first pitch and threw just 88 mph followed by 90, 89 and then nothing under 91 until the 5th inning when it looked like he tired a little late. He reached 93 numerous times and looked very good going through the order, pretty easy throwing mainly fastballs thru 3 innings,with just two curveballs mixed in. As the other team saw him for the 2nd time thru he started mixing in more off-speed pitches and it worked well. His line says he allowed 4 hits but there were just three with one ruled an error even by the home field friendly scorer and the final linescore still had it as three hits and an error when the I left. The only problem I saw with Miller was that he had trouble throwing off-speed pitches for strikes. They served their purpose of keeping the hitters from loading up like they did against Lorin, but I only saw two thrown for strikes and one was a hanger that got hit to deep CF on a day the ball wasn’t carrying.
Check back tomorrow for Omar’s report on the hitters.