Bradenton Marauders Game Recap: 5/10/11

Inman allowed two earned runs in four innings tonight.

First of four games I’ll be attending with the Marauders in Tampa against the hated Yankees. OK, maybe these aren’t THE hated Yankees, but they do have a silly “TY” (Tampa Yankees) on their hats that is a bit annoying. As in the last couple game reports I’ve had, the pitching was much more interesting than the hitting, so let’s start there.

Jeff Inman started tonight and really impressed me. As you may know, Inman was drafted in 2009, signed late, pitched all of 4 innings that year and none at all last year. He’s 23 this season so age-wise, he wasn’t rushed to be in Bradenton, but experience-wise, it seems like it should be a challenge for him. He has been quite successful so far this year, with a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings coming into tonight’s start.

Inman consistently threw in the 91-92 range, getting stronger as the game went on to hit 94 (and I believe 95 once) in the 4th. His fastball has natural downward action — in fact, almost every pitch that was called a ball missed low and he got a ton of ground balls. It did not appear he was throwing a sinker like Morton, it was more of just a fastball that seemed to end up lower than batters were expecting.

The first time through the lineup, Inman threw almost nothing but fastballs. The second time, he unleashed a curve with great drop in the 78-79 range and a changeup that looks exactly like his fastball but hitting about 83 on the gun. He threw all of these pitches effortlessly, with great control.

The results didn’t look as good as his pitches did. The Yankees leadoff hitter hit a hard ground ball up the middle. The 2nd hitter bounced a grounder through the right side. Grossman charged it in an effort to try to get the lead runner as he was going to 3rd but bobbled the ball to allow the batter to reach 2nd. Two batters, two ground balls, and the Yankees had runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs.

A groundout to first plated the first run. The 4th batter hit a medium fly out to Grossman in right, who made a horrible throw to home to allow the 2nd run to score.

The other run came on a home run that was hit like a rocket, but came on an ill-advised low and inside fastball to a lefty. I swear I’ve seen more HR’s from lefties on this kind of pitch, but some baseball folks (the catcher, Cabrera in this case) still think it’s a good idea to call it!

Inman pitched much better than his final line of 5 hits, 3 runs (2 earned) in 4 innings. It also seemed like his pitch count was very low (I’m guessing 50-55) so I was a little surprised to see him leave after 4.

Lorin came in after Inman and threw a dominating 2 innings, striking out the side in the 5th and getting three harmless ground balls in the 6th. I think he got away with a couple flat fastballs, but mostly he avoided the middle of the zone (unlike the last time I saw him pitch). I was as surprised to see him come out after these two innings as I was for Inman to come out after the fourth.

Then came Welker. If you saw the boxscore, I’m sure you thought, “Same old Duke, a walk, a HBP and wild pitch.” I may sound like a Welker apologist, but I saw a different pitcher than that.

Welker did hit 97 a few times, but he was mostly sitting around 94-95. He was missing by inches (not yards) with a pretty tough umpire behind the plate. And the coaches let him stay in the game way too long for a guy who is supposed to throw hard for an inning and then sit down.

In the 7th, the first batter his a solid line drive single on a pitch Duke left up in the zone. The next batter turned to bunt, the pitch came a bit inside (honestly, it almost could have been called a strike), but it was so fast the batter didn’t have time to move away from it since he was committed to bunt. This was not a pitch that got away, it missed the target by inches. Welker actually got out of that jam with a strikeout, a fly out to left and weak ground ball.

After all that, I was sure he wouldn’t come out for the 8th. I was wrong (you get the feeling I wasn’t on the same page as the Marauders’ pitching coach/manager tonight?). The first batter grounded out to first. The 2nd batter struck out on a nice curve in the dirt, but unfortunately the ball bounced away from Cabrera (who also had 2 passed balls on the night — not his best effort) to allow the batter to get to first. After a stolen base, Welker got a ground out to 3rd which should have been the 3rd out. He then walked the next batter on a 3-2 count, in which Cabrera set up on the low outside corner instead of letting Welker just try to blow it past the batter — get the feeling I’m not too high on Cabrera’s defense? The next batter hit a harmless looking ground ball that Cunningham failed to field, then Grossman didn’t even try to throw home to get the runner who hit 3rd base about the time Grossman fielded the ball.

Those runs Welker gave up didn’t really matter since the only runs the Marauders scored were on a two-out line drive RBI by Aaron Baker in the first and a LONG home run by Calvin Anderson in the second. Baker hit the ball just as hard in two other at bats but they were right at the CF and SS. Anderson’s HR came on a 2-2 pitch after he actually fouled off a curve ball (could be the first time I’ve ever seen him make contact with that type of pitch) and then crushed the next fastball. He also walked in a later at bat.

Grossman and Cunningham should pay me to stay away from their games. Grossman’s two hits were a line drive into RF and an infield hit to 3B. He followed both with steal attempts in which he got horrible jumps — he was fortunate on the first one that the catcher threw the ball into center field; he wasn’t so fortunate on the second and was thrown out by about 10 feet. Cunningham just looked lost and during one at bat pulled a “Pedro” — that is, he looked at strike one and two, then swung at strike 3 in the dirt. And both were disappointing in the field as mentioned above.

The only other hit worth mentioning was Cabrera’s double, which was an opposite field line drive over the left fielder’s head — that ball was crushed. He had two hits on the night, but that wasn’t enough to offset his mistakes behind the plate. Those mistakes, combined with Grossman’s error in the first inning and Cunningham’s lack of effort on a ground ball in the 8th, sunk the Marauders on Tuesday.

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