The State College Spikes lost 5-3 to the Batavia Muckdogs on Monday night, their first home defeat of the season. Starting pitcher Clay Holmes wasn’t as sharp as his previous two scoreless outings, and several sloppy plays cost the Spikes throughout the game. In addition, the team managed only five hits, all singles. On the plus side, once again the bullpen impressed and kept the Spikes in the game.
After beginning his pro career with two victories in ten innings of scoreless work, Holmes labored tonight giving up four runs (three earned), six hits, and two walks, while striking out three and hitting a batter in only 3 2/3 innings pitched. He threw 75 pitches (44 for strikes), and struggled with his location tonight, most notably his fastball, frequently falling behind in the count. The pitch sat 89-92, touching 94 in his final inning of work. Throughout the outing, the pitch was erratic and at times up in the zone. Holmes was not able to induce ground balls and gave up several hard hit balls on the night.
After an 18 pitch first inning with some trouble locating his pitches, Holmes ran into trouble in the second, giving up three hits, including a two-run double to catcher Jesus Montero. He was able to limit the damage by striking out two batters following the double, using both his curve and change-up to get the batters out swinging.
In the 3rd, after getting two quick outs, Holmes walked first baseman David Washington and surrendered a triple to Patrick Wisdom to make the score 3-0 on a 90 MPH fastball out over the plate.
Holmes looked his best in the 4th inning, throwing 12 of his 16 pitches for strikes, including his best fastball of the night at 94 MPH on the outside corner. He gave up an unearned run in the inning, as right fielder Rodarrick Jones dropped a fly ball to start the inning. With the bases loaded, he struck out Anthony Melchionda to end his night, as Lance Breedlove came on to get the third out.
Holmes is most effective when he pitches with confidence and trusts his stuff. Pitching coach Justin Meccage would have liked to have see more aggression from Holmes tonight.
“He wasn’t aggressive at all like his first two outings,” says Meccage. “He was real methodical just trying locate instead of being aggressive in the struck zone. He got more aggressive in the last two innings, and you see increased velocity when he stops trying to locate and just pitches.”
Holmes’ feeling about the outing reiterated his pitching coach’s sentiment.
“I need to work on my mentality and attacking hitters, and getting ahead of hitters, keeping the ball down,” he said following the tough start.
For the second straight night, the Spikes’ bullpen kept them in the game. 2012 23rd round draft pick Lance Breedlove came on in the 4th with two outs and the bases loaded, striking out Washington looking with a good slider. In his subsequent two innings of work, he worked off the slider, which sat 81-82 MPH, giving up two hits and striking out two.
“He gave us a chance. He allowed us to get back in the game,” said manager Dave Turgeon. “When he’s in his zone, [his pitches] have a little life and movement off the barrel.”
2012 12th round draft pick Dalton Friend threw the 7th and 8th, giving up one run on two hits, but also striking out four Muckdogs. He mixed in his change up well, using it as his out-pitch. Each of the strikeouts came off the pitch, at times in the zone, others in the dirt as a chase pitch.
“We’ve been working on his change-up since he’s been here, and he did a nice job tonight,” said Meccage.
**As Turgeon noted after the game, Holmes outing may have been a lot cleaner with more help from his defense. On the night, the Spikes had only one error, but they also misplayed several balls that could have been outs, including a pop-up on the infield that fell to the ground for a double.
**The Spikes continue to struggle to generate power in their lineup. It’s been 35 innings since their last extra base hit.
**Barrett Barnes was substituted in the 8th inning. Turgeon called it “an internal matter,” and there were no signs of Barnes being injured.