Glendale came into Wednesday’s game needing victories in their final two regular season games to have a shot at the AFL title game on Saturday. They also needed two losses from first place Peoria for that to happen. Peoria has a night game tonight, so all Glendale had to worry about in today’s afternoon game was beating Salt River and they sent Mitch Keller to the mound for his final fall start. Coming into the game, Keller led all AFL starters with a 1.37 ERA and an 0.76 WHIP. Mitchell Tolman was the only Pittsburgh Pirate in the starting lineup on this day, as Glendale did their part i keeping the playoff hopes alive with a 5-4 win.
Keller started the game off with a grounder to second base for the first out. That was followed by a line drive single to center field, where an error allowed the runner to get into scoring position. That was costly, as the next hitter singled home the first run. That was followed by a strikeout and a ground out to end the inning. Keller threw 15 pitches, 11 for strikes. The run was unearned and Glendale quickly took the lead in the bottom of the first with a three-run homer.
In the second, Keller had his worst stretch in the AFL. The first four batters all reached on singles, one being an infield hit to load the bases, the next being a line drive that was hit hard enough that just one run scored. He did a great job of stopping the rally right there, getting a grounder to first base for an out at the plate, followed by a 6-4-3 double play to get out of the inning with one run allowed.
The third inning started with a single and a steal, but that’s where it ended. Keller recorded two grounders and a pop out to get out of the inning, with that lead-off runner getting stranded at third base. Keller faced just three batters in the fourth inning despite allowing two more singles. The lead-off batter singled, then was caught stealing. That was followed by a single, then a double play. It ended a crazy outing for Keller, who threw 46 of his 68 pitches for strikes. He gave up nine hits in four innings today after allowing ten hits over his first 19.2 innings this fall.
Mitchell Tolman was playing third base for the third time this fall. All of his other starts have been at second base, with one game at DH as well. He lined out to left field in the second inning, then lined out to center field in the fifth. In the sixth inning, he struck out swinging with two runners in scoring position, leaving him 0-for-3 on the day. He handled four plays in the field cleanly, including a line out to him with a 5-4 score and a man on third, which went for the final out.
** Taylor Hearn gets the start in the season finale tomorrow afternoon. We will find out later if it’s another must-win game. Peoria’s contest starts at 8:35 PM tonight.