Tonight was one hit wonder night at the ball park in State College. Between innings, songs such as “The Macarena” by Los del Rio, and “MmmmBop” by Hanson played over the speakers. The only silver lining for the Spikes tonight was that they didn’t stick to the “one hit wonder” theme, although they came dangerously close. The offense struggled tonight, managing just three hits, with two of those hits coming in the final three innings.
David Trent got the first hit of the game, a broken bat single that fell just out of the reach of the center fielder in shallow left-center field. That came to lead off the second inning, and the Spikes didn’t get another hit until Wes Freeman singled through the hole between shortstop and third base. That followed a Derek Trent walk, although the Spikes didn’t make anything of it, with a pop out and a double play to end the inning. Michaelangel Trinidad got the final hit of the night, a two out double on a hard drive to the right-center gap, with the shot one hopping off the wall. By then, the Spikes were down 9-0.
“They had a kid on the mound that had the ability to cut the fastball,” Spikes manager Kimera Bartee said of the offensive struggles tonight. “I’m not sure how much these kids have seen that, to that extent.”
The offense wasn’t the only thing struggling tonight. The pitching staff was roughed up, allowing nine runs on 13 hits. However, they did manage 11 strikeouts, and it’s always strange when you see double digit hits, double digit strikeouts, and almost double digit runs.
Joely Rodriguez made his debut in the rotation, after pitching two innings on Friday in relief, which served as his normal bullpen work. Rodriguez allowed four runs, three earned, on eight hits, with no walks and two strikeouts in three innings. He was mostly working in the 86-89 MPH range, although he did touch 93 in the first. It wasn’t his best outing, as he sat 88-92 MPH last year, touching 94 at times.
“Obviously he wasn’t as sharp,” Bartee said of Rodriguez’s performance tonight. “It’s his first start of the year. With these kids you never know what you’re going to get. I’ve seen him better. I’ve seen him worse.”
Rodriguez hit 93 in the first, and was working in the upper 80s, and topping 90 a few times. However, in the second he was 86-88 MPH, and in the third he was more in the 86 MPH range, only topping out at 88.
“It could be some early in the season stuff, it could be some timidness, it could be just working on more spotting and just letting it loose, letting it go and maybe aim it a little bit,” Bartee said. “But for whatever reason, it wasn’t his sharpest outing. Like I said, I’ve seen him better, and I’ve seen him worse, so it’s kind of in the middle.”
One issue with Rodriguez is his control. He has a lot of movement on his pitches, making it hard to keep in the strike zone. He didn’t allow any walks tonight, but didn’t have the best command, and was very hittable in the high-80s. He also saw some inconsistencies with his movement. Some pitches would have a tailing motion, fading away from right handers, and cutting in on left handers. Other pitches would run straight in on right handers. The issue is more mechanical for Rodriguez, and something he needs to find some consistency with.
“He had a relief appearance the first day, and he spotted pretty good,” Bartee said of his command. “That right there (speaking of tonight’s performance), almost like he was trying to pace himself. And so the movement moved more because he wasn’t throwing as hard, and when he’s not throwing as hard with as much movement as he has, the ball obviously has more time to move. And that’s what was happening. The ball was trying to fade here and there.”
The Pirates tell pitchers to attack hitters with their best stuff, pound the strike zone, all while not being afraid to go inside. That didn’t happen with Rodriguez tonight.
“For some reason he didn’t have that conviction to go in there like the other outings, and that’s what happens,” Bartee said.
Vincent Payne came on in the fourth inning and didn’t really have his best stuff. Payne allowed just two hits in 2.2 innings, with one walk and five strikeouts. He allowed three runs, mostly because all of the damage came in the sixth inning. Payne was only working in the upper 80s, and was leaving the ball up in the zone, which caught up to him in the sixth. He struck out two in the inning, but hit a batter, then allowed a double and a single, before being removed for Justin Ennis, who allowed two more runs to score.
Joan Montero came on in the eighth inning and had an interesting outing. He led off with two straight walks, then hit a batter to load the bases with no outs. The next batter singled, bringing in a run. Montero then fought back, using his 91-93 MPH fastball to get three straight strikeouts and end the frame. So how does a guy go from loading the bases with no outs to striking out three in a row? And how can he get more of the latter?
“Maturity, maturity, maturity,” Spikes’ manager Bartee said about Montero. “For someone who has that kind of stuff, that electric stuff and then all of a sudden they can be able to dial in with the bases loaded? That’s the difference between here and the upper levels. When they are able to take that mentality with the bases loaded like he did, and apply that from pitch one, instead of pitch 21, then that’s where we need to get him. Great lesson for him. Let’s see if he learns from it.”
The Spikes take on Auburn for game three of their three game series tomorrow at 7:05 PM. I’ll be covering the game, with 2010 4th round pick Nick Kingham on the mound for the Spikes.
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