The big news of the West Virginia/Lakewood game tonight was when Alen Hanson got hit in the helmet with a pick-off attempt in the sixth inning as he slid headfirst back into second base. Hanson was down face flat for about two minutes, then slowly got up and walked off under his own power. He was replaced on the base paths by Eric Avila, who went to third, shifting Ashley Ponce to shortstop. West Virginia won the game 7-2, scoring five runs in the sixth inning, as Rowland and two relievers named Kilcrease, kept the Blueclaws off the board after the first inning. On to the player reports for the night, starting with Robby Rowland
Rowland had an outing very similar to Zack Dodson yesterday, in that they both gave up two runs in the first inning, then kept the other team off the board for the last 5 1/3 innings. That is where the similarities ended. Rowland was more efficient with his pitches, throwing 76 through six innings, because he was getting swing and misses, as opposed to lots of foul balls. He was also throwing more off-speed pitches than Dodson in fewer pitches (19 total), so that helped his cause as it was keeping hitters off-balance. Rowland was throwing 88-90 with his sinker almost the entire night. Of the 56 fastballs (one didn’t register on the gun) 52 of them were 88-90 with two at 87 and hitting 91 and 92 once apiece. Those last two were in the last inning, both high in the zone, with the 91 MPH pitch being a swinging miss for the last out. That came on his four seam fastball, which was the only one of the night.
Rowland works quick, throws strikes, used both sides of the plate and for the most part, kept the ball down. He had a long delay between the fifth and sixth due to the Hanson injury, a pitching change and a Lakewood pitcher getting hit with a ball off the bat that caused two injury delays. It was in the sixth that Rowland started missing high and issued his only walk. He really only gave up two hard hit balls all night and one was a sharp ground out to first in the first inning. A very impressive outing from Rowland, who picked up the win and struck out four on the night.
Hanson was having a very good night until his injury and it wasn’t just because of his bat. He was batting lefty all game and his lead-off at-bat saw him take all five pitches for a strikeout looking. His next time up he swung at the first pitch and lined it into center field, hustling all the way into second as the CF bobbled the ball. In his next at-bat, Hanson worked a six pitch walk. That was how he got on base when the injury occurred. In the field, his throws still looked tentative on the easy plays, but he turned two 6-3 double plays and looked good on both. The kid has amazing range up the middle, and looked good going to his right the other night. I was a bit worried about his strikeouts before seeing him but it seems like they are more a product of being too selective rather than swing and misses because he doesn’t do that much. So far I really like the tools I’ve seen from him, range, arm strength, speed, power and patience. For a 19-year-old, that is a special combination.
Polanco didn’t have much going on this game. He didn’t really hit any ball hard like he did three times yesterday and he didn’t have a chance to show off any speed, on offense or defense, so there isn’t much to say about the game. He drew a walk but the first three pitches of the AB were nowhere near the plate and he let the 3-0 pitch go for ball four.
Garcia struck out looking in his first at-bat and I thought I was in for another long night (3 K’s last night, many bad swings). He quickly turned things around and did it in a good way to see, by lining a curveball into left field for a single during his second at-bat. He was definitely having trouble with the off-speed stuff his first two games. He then added another single to left during the five run sixth and he flew out to left field in his last at-bat. It was a good night for him after a rough game yesterday. More on him in the notes below.
Osuna didn’t get any hits tonight but he showed very good patience at the plate. Twice he worked the count to 3-1 before making an out and in the sixth inning he drew a bases loaded walk. He also saw five pitches in his last plate appearance. Never really connected with anything good like he did a few times during the first two games.
**The team took extended fielding practice again before the game and as a group they look pretty good. Defense hasn’t been the team’s strong suit this season but as of right now, it isn’t for a lack of effort. Manager Rick Sofield works them hard, he’s very vocal and watches the practices closely, really encouraging them when they do well. They have been working with Willy Garcia the past two days at keeping his throws towards home plate and third base down so they can be cutoff if need be. He has a great arm but tends to miss cut-off men airing it out towards home plate or third, which has caused runners to move up from first, eliminating double plays.
**It was a typical big ballpark night in Lakewood, a park that doesn’t give up any cheap homers. Catcher Elias Diaz really connected with one in the ninth that looked well gone off the bat, but fell just shy of the warning track in left field.
**Most of the damage in the sixth inning was done off of reliever Kenneth Giles, a 21 year old righty, who was a seventh round draft pick of the Phillies last year. Giles was 95-98 MPH on the gun, with his first pitch coming in at 97.
**Taylor Lewis hit a triple into the left-center gap and showed off his speed, making it rather easily into third. That was his only hit of the night.