The West Virginia Power have dominated the Lakewood BlueClaws this year and tonight was no different. Behind strong pitching from Luis Heredia and some sloppy play by the BlueClaws defense, the Power won 6-0 in game one of a four game series. Through eight innings, Lakewood had just two hits, both coming off Heredia in the second inning. They had two hits in the ninth, but couldn’t get on the scoreboard. The Power had 12 hits on the night, drew four walks and had a hit batter. They were just 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position, but the BlueClaws pitchers helped them out with a couple wild pitches and an error.
Just like the first two times I’ve covered the West Virginia Power in Lakewood, I’ll recap the starting pitching and the better/interesting hitters daily, along with some game notes, then give a full recap of the series afterwards. Tonight, I went with the top of the order and a new face in the lineup.
Shortstop Max Moroff started the game with a double the opposite way on the second pitch of the game. In his second at-bat, he hit a hard ground ball single up the middle. His night at the plate was the opposite of Dilson Herrera, who started his own night off slow. Moroff grounded out to first base to lead off the fifth, then struck out his fourth time up to lead off the sixth inning. He struck out again in the eighth, this time on a check swing at a ball up and out of the zone. Moroff made a couple of nice plays in the field, nothing spectacular, but they weren’t easy plays.
In his first at-bat, Dilson Herrera struck out swinging after fouling a couple of pitches off. Herrera then grounded into a double play in his second time up. His third at-bat looked like it would also end up bad after a weak swing at an 0-1 pitch, but Herrera lined a hard single into left field. He hit the ball well his fourth at-bat, a line drive that was caught in the left/center gap. In the bottom of the seventh, Herrera looked good on a quick turn on a double play to end the inning. He was recently named the best defensive second baseman in the SAL, a well deserved honor. In his fifth at-bat, Herrera hit the ball hard again to left field, collecting his second hit. All three of his final at-bats were similar, a well struck ball into left field.
Batting third and playing DH tonight, Josh Bell struck out in his first at-bat. I noticed a little less movement in his swing, specifically the leg kick, which now looked more like a toe tap. He looked good in his second plate appearances, hitting a hard grounder the other way, getting by a diving shortstop. He scored the first run of the game on a double by Eric Wood. Bell hit the ball hard his third at-bat, lining a single into the right/center gap. In the sixth, he grounded out to shortstop to end the inning. Bell grounded out to first base to end the eight inning. He looked better at the plate than he did the first two times (eight games) I saw him, more under control. It will be something I watch as the series progresses.
Today was the first time I’ve seen Luis Urena play, a young kid with a great baseball body and no plate patience. On the second pitch he saw, Urena lined a single into left field. He swung at both pitches in his second at-bat, fouling off the first, followed by a high drive that was caught in medium center field. Urena reached on an infield single in the fifth inning, a tough play the third baseman couldn’t complete. In his fourth at-bat, he grounded out to shortstop. Urena was thrown out in the ninth on a ball hit nearly identical to his infield hit in the fifth. The last out drove in Eric Wood with the Powers’ sixth run. Urena looked exactly like I’ve heard, free swinging, although he didn’t really look bad at any point tonight.
Heredia Throws Shutout Ball
Luis Heredia started tonight for the fourth time against Lakewood, second time on the road. The first batter he faced grounded out on a 3-2 pitch to second base, the seventh pitch of the at-bat. He got another 3-2 groundout against the second batter he faced, this time an eight pitch at-bat. He only needed three pitches to get the final out, his third groundball of the inning. He was throwing 90-92 early, then picked it up a little later in the inning.
In the second inning, Heredia faced the middle of the order and gave up a hard line drive single to right field on the first pitch. He picked up the first out on a swinging strikeout, then gave up a hard single through the left side, putting runners on first and second. The next batter also hit the ball hard, but right at Walker Gourley in right field. One pitch later, the inning ended on a line drive nearly identical to the second out. Through two innings, he had some command issues early, followed by giving up four hard hit balls in one inning.
The third inning started with a first pitch groundout to shortstop. The stadium radar game finally came on and the pitch registered at 93 MPH. Heredia walked the next batter on four pitches, missing twice with his changeup. That runner was quickly erased on a caught stealing, with a nice strong throw from Francisco Diaz. Herrera retired the side on a swinging strikeout, a 79 MPH curve ball.
Heredia faced the middle of the order again in fourth inning. The first batter grounded out softly to second base on a change-up. Heredia went full to the second hitter, getting him swinging on a fastball. He used all three of his pitches effectively in that at-bat, just missing on the called balls. He lost his command to the next hitting, walking him on four pitches. He jammed the next hitter, getting him to pop softly to first base for the third out. Heredia hit 94 MPH in that last at-bat.
In the fifth, Heredia came out with a 5-0 lead and struck out the first batter swinging. The next batter was down 0-2 quickly and grounded out weakly to shortstop. Heredia quickly ended the inning with another grounder to first base. A very quick frame as he neared his pitch count.
That was the end of the game for Heredia, two hits, two walks and four strikeouts. He started off throwing a lot of pitches to the first two batters and occasionally lost his command after that. His second inning was pretty bad, four hard hit balls, two right at Gourley in right field, so there was no damage. Heredia was using all three of his pitches regularly and they all looked good at times. The fastball was sitting 91-93 and he held his velocity to the end, unlike the last time I saw him. His command wasn’t great, but the results were as good as you can ask for from him. He was able to keep the BlueClaws hitters off-balance the last three innings by working quickly, mixing his pitches and the results were five weakly hit balls, three strikeouts and the caught stealing. Overall it was a strong outing, his last as an 18-year-old. Heredia turns 19 on Saturday.
*The Power got on the board first in the third inning with a Josh Bell single, followed by Jordan Steranka striking out, but reaching on a passed ball. That was followed by an Eric Wood double.
*The Power scored two more times in the fifth inning, getting a bases loaded single from Wood on a soft grounder up the middle. The shortstop actually dove past the ball, negating a chance to get the force at second base that would have ended the inning.
*They scored two more runs in that fifth inning on a wild pitch with runners on first and third. The runner from third (Wood) scored, while Walker Gourley tried to go first to third on it and the throw to third base sailed into left field, allowing him to score.
*Thomas Harlan came in for the sixth and struck out the side. He walked the lead-off batter in the seventh, then got a strikeout and double play to end the inning.
*The seventh Power run also scored on a passed ball and again it was Gourley scoring the run. He went 2-for-4, with two RBIs and a walk.
*Jhondaniel Medina closed out the game for the Power. He has looked good each time I saw him, showing excellent 93-94 MPH velocity.