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Down on the Farm – Jays MILB Thoughts – September 17, 2011

September 18, 2011

And that’s it. Within the span of a few Saturday evening hours, the Blue Jays’ minor league affiliates put a bow on their 2011 season, the final two standing ending their runs with mixed success.

Lansing Lugnuts – First the bad news. The Lugnuts actually began the game well, DH Michael Crouse doubling to lead off the game. RF Markus Brisker bunted him over to third and he scored on a left-side ground out by CF Jake Marsinick. And that would the last time Lansing would hold the lead. In the bottom of that same inning, the River Bandits responded with two, as both 2B Kolten Wong and RF Oscar Tavares singled and came around to score. Wong drove in a 3rd for the Bandits in the 2nd and they were well on their way to claiming the Midwest League title. Starting for Lansing, RHP Marcus Walden had only one clean inning in the four he pitched, departing with his team trailing by 3-1. On the other hand, Bandits’ RHP Trevor Rosenthal stayed in control, pitching into the 7th, allowing eight baserunners and striking out seven. As he tired, the Lugnuts had a last-gasp rally, leading off the 7th with a single by C Carlos Perez, followed by a run-scoring double from playoff hero, 2B Matthew Nuzzo. As the River Bandits went to their bullpen, 3B Oliver Dominguez moved Perez to 3rd with a single and a ground out by pinch hitter Jonathan Jones plated the backstop. That brought our heros to within a single run, with the potential equalizer on second and only one out. But Crouse went down swinging and Marisnick flied out to CF after Brisker moved Dominguez to 3rd with a single. They would never get closer. In the bottom half of that inning, thankful at the averted crisis, the River Bandits held their own impromptu rally. As in the first, both runs were scored by Wong and Tavares, each having walked his way on board (Tavares being intentionally walked). Shortly down to their final three outs, facing River Bandit closer, LHP Dean Kiekhefer, who allowed only 13 lefthanded batters to reach base in 19.1 innings against them over the regular season, came in to finish things up. Even thought the Lugnuts only had 1 true lefthander due up (substitute SS Peter Mooney) Kiekhefer was more than proficient against righties as well. In fact, of those first three batters faced, it was the lefty-swinging Mooney who was the only one to reach base, walking. One out away from becoming bridesmaids, Brisker earned his way to 1B on balls, an ability that he has patiently cultivated all season, one which will prolong his professional career. Marisnick, following, had been having a gruesome playoffs. His post-season batting average was scarcely over .100. A home run would have knotted the game. Kiekhefer had surrendered only a single blast all season in 57 innings. Although Marisnick could not double that count, he prolonged the inning with a sharp line drive that dropped in front of Tavares in RF. Bases loaded. Two outs. Down by three. Something would have to give. LF Marcus Knecht, one of the Lugnuts most consistent batters stepped to the plate. He lifted a Kiekhefer offering high into the air, to the pull side. Not high enough, not far enough, not enough. Bandits’ LF Colin Walsh settled under the ball and caught a league title. In winning the game by a final line of 6-3, the River Bandits of Quad Cities won their first championship since 1990, preventing the Lugnuts from winning their first as a Blue Jay affiliate.

A full recap of the Lansing Lugnuts’ season will follow this week.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – And now the good news. Even though the Flying Squirrels’ starting pitcher, RHP Justin Fitzgerald (6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 HR), an unheralded former 11th round pick vastly outpitched his counterpart on the Fisher Cats, RHP Deck McGuire (3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 K), the Cats’ bullpen allowed only one run in six innings of work. After Fitzgerald left the game, his replacement, RHP Hector Correa, was solid, but in the top of the 9th, with two outs and CF Anthony Gose on 1st base, RF Moises Sierra singled on a fly ball towards RF Francisco Peguero. On a hit like that you would normally expect the baserunner to end up on 2B, sometimes on 3B when he has wheels like Gose. But Peguero misplayed the ball. The ball went under Peguero’s feet and rolled to the wall. Gose, not one to wait around, ran. And ran. And scored the winning run. RHP Bobby Korecky came in, and retired each of the three batters he faced. The final two both grounded out, with the final out of the game coming on a ground ball to 2B Callix Crabbe. He fielded it cleanly and fired the ball to 1B Mike McDade, who had scored two of the Fisher Cats’ first three runs, first after being hit by a pitch and then after walking. His first run opened the scoring for the F-Cats. After being struck, he moved to 2B on a single by LF Danny Perales and scored on a two out single by SS Jonathan Diaz. The Flying Squirrels equalized in short order in the home half of the 2nd, as DH Johnny Monell doubled and scored on a single by 3B Chris Dominguez. The Squirrels went ahead in the 3rd, as defensive C Jackson Williams doubled and scored on a single by Peguero. The 3rd was the only inning in the game that would see New Hampshire trailing at its conclusion. McDade walked to lead off the 4th. The following batter, 3B Kevin Howard turned on a pitch, pulling the ball over the fence in right to restore the advantage for the Cats, now at 3-2. McGuire’s night (and season) done, Sal Fasano brought in RHP Reidier Gonzalez, who kept the opposition at bay for two innings, before unraveling in the 6th. And single and wild pitch, with an intentional walk sandwiching a fly out, put the ball in Wes Etheridge‘s right hand. He got the first batter to ground into a force play, after which CF Juan Perez singled on a ball that did not leave the infield, scoring the tying run. Other than a leadoff double by Monell in the bottom of the 8th that never advanced past 2B, the Flying Squirrel’s failed to threaten the Fisher Cats’ bullpen again. The Fisher Cats’ championship is the 3rd in team history, and their first since 2004. Their first title, won in 2000, came before the team began an affiliation with the Blue Jays, featuring Seattle Mariners prospects.

As with the Lugnuts, a full recap of the Fisher Cats season will follow this week.

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