The first game of the Rice/ECU series just ended, with Rice winning 2-1, thanks to some strong pitching from Austin Kubitza. The Rice offense managed 11 hits today, and scored the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh, on an RBI single by center fielder Michael Furda, who is now hitting .271 on the season.
The two players I was focused on were Anthony Rendon, who was the designated hitter again today, and Austin Kubitza, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ seventh round pick in the 2010 draft.
-Kubitza made the start for Rice, pitching 5.2 innings, allowing an unearned run on two hits, with three walks and eleven strikeouts. The lone run came in the bottom of the sixth. Kubitza started off the inning with two groundouts. He followed that up with a single and two walks to load the bases. Kubitza got a grounder up the middle against ECU shortstop Jack Reinheimer. Rice second baseman Michael Ratterree made a nice ranging play, and a great throw, which would have been in time to get the runner. However, first baseman J.T. Chargois dropped the ball, allowing the inning to continue, with East Carolina’s lone run scoring. That was all for Kubitza, as Tony Cingrani came on to close out the inning and pitch the rest of the game.
Kubitza’s stuff wasn’t dominant. He worked mostly in the 88-90 MPH range, sitting mostly 88-89 MPH. He also threw a low 80s slider, which was effective. He did manage to strike out eleven batters, which is mostly due to his command. Kubitza displayed great command of his fastball, and mostly worked in the strike zone, outside of the walks in the sixth inning. He’s got strong numbers, with a 1.32 ERA this year, although I wouldn’t put him ahead of guys like Zack Von Rosenberg, despite the great results in his freshman year. They’re both pretty much at the same talent level, after seeing both pitch in the last few weeks. That speaks well for Kubitza, but is just a disclaimer in case you’re looking at his numbers, looking at the numbers of someone like Von Rosenberg, and trying to make an apples to apples comparison. It’s apples to oranges.
-The main focus was on Rendon, although there wasn’t much to focus on. He had an infield single in the first, which I missed, as I was late arriving to the game. He was intentionally walked in his third and fourth plate appearances. In both cases, first base was open, with a runner in scoring position. Rice had one out when Rendon was walked in the fifth, and two outs when he was walked in the seventh.
East Carolina finally pitched to him in the ninth inning, when Rendon led off the frame. He had a few pitches to hit, and was pitched inside a bit. On a full count he hit a hard liner to center field, although the ball went right to the center fielder. Rendon has now walked in 30% of his plate appearances on the season, including 41% of his plate appearances since Jeremy Rathjen has gone down with an injury.
I got video of the last at-bat, and a few innings from Kubitza, although I won’t be able to upload anything until Monday. I will be interviewing Rendon and Kubitza at some point this weekend, likely tomorrow. I’ll be back here tomorrow to cover game two of the three game series, and with no Kubitza this time around, my focus will be entirely on Rendon.