After a six-game road trip to Tri-Cities and Vermont, the Spikes returned home with a 3-2 victory over the Staten Island Yankees on Wednesday night. Joely Rodriguez got the win, giving up two runs (one earned) and showing good overall command. 2012 5th round draft pick Adrian Sampson came on to the throw three scoreless innings, getting a huge strikeout in the 8th with runners on second and third. Kyle Haynes saved his second game with a 1-2-3 ninth. D.J. Crumlich had three hits and Ryan Hornback went two for four, both registering an RBI each.
Rodriguez picked up his second win of the season and had a good outing. He threw five innings, giving up four hits, two runs (one earned) while striking out three to move his ERA to 2.25 on the season. One positive for the young Dominican lefty was his control, as he surrendered no walks in five innings and threw 52 of 74 pitches for strikes (70.3%).
Pounding the zone was a priority for Rodriguez. By throwing so many strikes, Rodriguez was able to consistently work from ahead in the count.
“I attacked the hitter early in the count and tried to stay focused on my game plan,” Rodriguez commented after the game.
His fastball showed good life, sitting 88-92 most of the night, and up to 93-94 in his final two innings. He also mixed in about 20 change-ups and a few sliders, showing some sinking action on the change-up. He also got a few swings and misses with the slider, particularly when facing left-handed batters, as the pitch moved well away off the outside part of the plate. This was most clear with his first inning strikeout of Yankee left fielder Tyler Dugas, who struck out waving at a slider well off the plate.
In spite of this success, Rodriguez’s pitch execution was spotty, throwing his non-fastballs consistently “firm” on the night. Both the change-up and the slider were sitting 85-87, and pitching coach Justin Meccage mentioned he would like to see a greater speed differential between the change-up and fastball to more easily fool hitters.
“The change-up is a good pitch for him, I just thought it was a little overthrown tonight,” Meccage said.
By keeping the same arm action on the change-up but lowering the speed a few MPH, the offering will work much better as an out pitch and potentially increase Rodriguez’s strikeout rate, which is a modest 4.5 K/9 on the season.
Rodriguez also struggled to command his fastball when he cranked it up to 93-94 mph. At this speed, the pitch was flattening out more and he was leaving it up. While it didn’t hurt him much in the stat line, his trouble commanding the heavier fastball led to more fly balls and harder hit line drives.
The 2012 fifth round draft pick out of Bellevue Community College rebounded from his previous two outings (when he gave up three earned runs in five innings) throwing three scoreless innings, surrendering two hits, no runs, a walk, and striking out three Yankees. Both his 82-85 MPH curveball and 91-94 MPH fastball were effective on the night and he mixed the pitches well. He also threw several change-ups, but the curve is clearly his out pitch.
“His curveball is a nice pitch. It’s got some sharp depth. It’s a little bit firmer for a breaking ball, but it stays in the fastball plane for a long time,” Meccage said. “And the change-up is coming along. He didn’t need to throw that in college, but a threw a few tonight.”
Meccage likes what he sees in Sampson’s stuff, and believes he’s most effective when he throws the fastball with confidence. Sampson did just that during the key at bat of the night in the 8th inning. Protecting a one-run lead, the Yankee clean-up hitter Saxon Butler stood in with two outs and runners on second and third. After a mound visit by Meccage, Sampson started Butler out with a 92 MPH fastball that painted the outside corner for a called strike. After a ball low, he got Butler to swing and miss at a low curve, and then he struck him out looking with another fastball on the outside edge to extinguish the Yankees last scoring chance.
“The plan was to not leave anything out over the plate,” Sampson said of the crucial at bat. “We thought he might be expecting [the curveball] so we went back to the fastball on the outside and it was on the black.”
D.J. Crumlich and Ryan Hornback lead offense on the night
2012 ninth-round draft pick D.J. Crumlich continued his hot hitting tonight, raising his average to .328 on the season going 3-4 with an RBI and stolen base. After a line drive single in the first, in the third he battled back from an 0-2 count and punched another single to the opposite field to drive in Ryan Hornback for the Spikes second run. He also gave the Spikes a chance to add an insurance run in the 8th, ripping a double to left field with two outs. Crumlich was stranded, but his line drive ability is promising.
“When I’m hitting the ball the other way well, that’s when I know I’m pretty locked in,” he says.
In addition, Crumlich has been moved around the infield and can play second, shortstop, and third. He also has hit at various slots in the line-up, including clean-up tonight.
2011 27th round draftee Ryan Hornback added two hits and an RBI raising his batting average to .318. Although he hasn’t contributed a lot of power, Hornback continues to hit line drives in the top of the order including 4 doubles and a triple on the year so far.
**Kyle Haynes got his second save of the year, in what Meccage called, “a nice bounceback outing.” He got the final three outs without allowing a baserunner.
**Barrett Barnes went 1-4 with his 11th RBI of the year coming in the 3rd on a swinging bunt down the third base line.
**Sampson commended the pitch-calling of catcher Jacob Stallings after the game. In particular, he stressed how easy it is for him to work with the 2012 7th round pick even though tonight was only their second outing as battery mates, noting that Stallings helps him stick to his game plan while he’s on the mound.
**Despite the victory, the Spikes hurt themselves with several base-running mistakes. In the 3rd inning Tyler Gaffney was thrown out trying to go from first-to-third on a wild pitch, and Barnes was thrown out at home after Crumlich’s steal when the ball scooted away from the second baseman. In both cases, each runner was out by several steps. Twice Spikes runners were picked off trying to steal second, although the Yankees failed to execute the put out on the first occasion.