Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Midland sweeps, Sacramento streaking, Snappers sputtering

     (Photo Courtesy of: Chris Lockard) 

With a flurry of roster transactions having taken place, Oakland's affiliates are somewhat topsided through the two week marker of the campaign as Sacramento possesses the best record cumulatively within the organization (9-5) while Midland, Stockton, Beloit follow suit as the winning percentages of each are correspondent in descending order to their level of competition, with Midland in second (8-4) followed by Stockton (6-8) and Beloit (4-9) as the Kittens have demolished fellow competition upon their initial homestand en route to six consecutive victories while the Snappers have dropped seven straight after a four game winning streak. Sacramento specifically, after an abysmal 3-5 opening road stint, have rampaged for a sweep of Salt Lake and two consecutive over Fresno to lead their division and challenge Oklahoma City and Las Vegas for overall PCL supremacy through this initial phase of the lengthy season. The Kitty Cats benefitted from Sean Murphy during his third Sacramento outing as the imposing righty thwarted Fresno's attempts despite some questionable sequences with a 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 94 pitch (61 strike), 6 GB/5 FB line that complemented the sensational offensive performance of Tyler Ladendorf, who capitalized entirely upon his opportunity versus a southpaw with a 2-2 (2 2B/2 BB) performance that extended his on-base streak to six consecutive plate appearances following a 1-1 (BB) doubleheader finale stint. Peterson (2-4), Freiman (2-5), Carrithers (1-3, 2B, 2 BB) and Matthes (2-5) each contributed to the Rivercat victory as well as the felines transitioned onward in an attempt to take their sixth contest within Raley Field and opted for Zach Neal in his AAA debut to try and seize at least a split versus the central Californian adversary. Neal was stellar throughout his appearance, going 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 9 GB/5 FB while another showstopping performance at the plate spurned the Kittens to another win as Alden Carrithers' 2-2 (HR/BB) outing was the difference. For Carrithers, hitting 16-38 with a 10:5 BB/K (.421/.540/.553), it was his 8th career dinger lifetime within his 497th MiLB contest as the 5'9" utility specialist and predominant third baseman for Sacramento has nestled into his fourth career organization with remarkable initial production that has him eligible for A's MiLB player of the month honors. Sacramento figures to utilize either Jeremy McBryde or newly acquired Marcus Walden for Thursday's potential seventh straight victory as the Kittend intend to become the first Oakland affiliate to double digit victories. 

Midland, while successful within their doubleheader effort over lowly Northwest Arkansas (Now 6-0 against NWA in 2014), suffered a litany of casualties throughout this recent stretch that have the Rockhounds reeling after already relinquishing Addison Russell following a hamstring tear. Jefry Marte, who fouled a pitch off his ankle, did not participate within the festivities and was ineligible while Miles Head figured to be absent after grappling with food poisoning as D'Arby Myers would join the hobbled bunch following a HBP in his first plate appearance and then injuring his wrist upon making an attempted diving defensive play in the opening sequence of Midland's first contest of the day. Unfortunately, D'Arby would be removed from the contest with discomfort and later be diagnosed with a fractured wrist, likely sidelining the MiLB re-signee until June after the former Philadelphia farmhand was just beginning to ignite following two consecutive outings having accumulated a 7-9 (HR/3B/BB) résumé prior to his HBP and departure. His streak of six consecutive plate appearances having reached on-base does remain active however, through was surpassed by Tyler Ladendorf with seven straight for Sacramento. With D'Arby now unable to participate, the Rockhounds were forcibly made to utilize Miles Head, who played in excess of 19 innings with food poisoning as Midland struggled vehemently offensively through the first contest, claiming a narrow 1-0 win as Drew Granier orchestrated a 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 4 K performance while Seth Frankoff clamped down the seventh favorable Rockhound result of the 2014 campaign en route to an attempted sweep in the second outing. It was another painfully sluggish offensive ballgame through the second game, with Midland and Northwest Arkansas failing to muster any runs until the 11th inning of a seven inning contest, with Midland eventually breaking through for five runs in the T13th as NWA was made to opt for a positional player to pitch as Midland won 6-1. Max Muncy, playing third base for the first instance since October in the AZFL due to Miles Head being restricted to DH duties, went 2-4 (2 BB) as the Midland offense generated 11 walks and went 10-43 as they were essentially dependent upon Northwest Arkansas' inability to locate the strike zone. Despite the Hounds' untimely performance and a vicious injury bug, they were still able to abscond with two consecutive as they limp onward to tackle San Antonio with Tanner Peters, Raul Alcantara and Chris Jensen. Blake Forsythe joins Midland while Santiago Chavez has since been transported to Beloit prior to Stephen Vogt's reactivation and Phil Pohl reassignment while Blake Hassebrock arrives from the DL. 

Stockton struggled with a potent Bakersfield ballclub as they were bested prior to their Inland Empire excursion as Tim Atherton and Bobby Crocker assisted Stockton their lone victory of the set, with Crocker now currently pertaining to an 11 game hitting streak after a 6-11 (3B/2 BB) series against Bakersfield as he made a worthy effort to usurp D'Arby Myers' Midland roster vacancy. Stockton was derailed by a horrendous outing from Manaurys Correa (4 IP, 11 H, 8 ER [2 HR], 1 BB, 1 K) as Jeremy Barfield's exemplary relief attempt couldn't supplant the stagnant Ports offense that unfortunately transitioned into the finale as well with the Ports only acquiring a mere two baserunners through the initial seven innings of a 8-3 defeat despite Matt Olson's 2-4 (HR/2B) evening. It'll be Seth Streich administered with the task of righting Stockton with a victory over Inland Empire following a lackluster conclusion to a thrilling opening defense at Banner Island. Hunter Adkins also was assigned to the Ports from extended spring training and becomes the fifth (Ryan Gorton, Billy McKinney, Chad Pinder, Ryon Healy) to bypass Beloit entirely and receive a Ports assignment with no prior Midwest League experience.

The Snappers dropped three more consecutive to Great Lakes following a doubleheader sweep and extra innings as it was once again a difficulty to produce offensively despite scoring more than one run in a defeat for the first time all season in each unsuccessful bout (Outscored 26-12). Bobby Wahl's erratic performance began their initially optimistic set with a disappointing 3 1/3 IP, 4 H, 6 ER (1 HR), 6 BB, 2 K result while Andy Paz went 0-6 on attempts at throwing out baserunners from behind the plate as the Snappers were overwhelmed despite a cumulative 5-8 (2B) effort from Boogie Powell and Bijon Boyd. Trevor Bayless would be demolished in relief as well unfortunately with a pair of dingers surrendered to fall 11-4 before their second bout. Brent Powers, Stuart Pudenz and Chris Lamb each found it difficult to grapple with Great Lakes in a prolonged and uncharacteristic pitching struggle for the Snappers while the Wisconsin affiliate went a cumulative 3-21 offensively despite striking out a mere two times; thus ensuring a 8-2 lashing before the finale. Beloit held the advantage for the majority of the contest, claiming an 5-4 edge entering the 9th; however the Snappers would succumb to another dinger as Dominique Vattuone permitted a HR in an otherwise plus debut as the Snappers were faced with another deficit. Ryan Mathews, who finished his contest at 3-5 with a HR (The third for Beloit and the second for Mathews) reached upon an error and witnessed Ryan Huck plate him with a double, tying the contest in one of the first instances of situational offense for the turtles during this campaign. With Andres Avila permitting another run in the 10th though, they would have to respond once more as Sam Roberts and Boogie Powell each reached base with one out for Boyd and Marincov. Unfortunately, both were unsuccessful in that sequence as Beloit dropped their seventh straight as they approach their skirmish with Lansing, with Tyler Marincov seeming mortal for the first game of his 2014 full season debut with a 0-5 (4 K) sombrero. Kyle Finnegan, Dylan Covey and Ronald Herrera represent the Snappers heading forward, still towards the extremely early portions a lengthy campaign. Alongside Vattuone's addition, Junior Mendez replenishes a depleted pitching contingent while Santiago Chavez usurps Iolana Akau's post. 

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