Koch Chases Perfection in Savannah Saturday

A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 3, Augusta GreenJackets 2 (7 innings) 
@ Savannah Sand Gnats 3, Augusta GreenJackets 1 (7 innings)

Koch Delivery (Devyatkin)Matt Koch had a great Saturday night, but was three outs from perfect. Pitching the second game of the doubleheader, he retired the first 18 GreenJackets in a row. However, leading off the top of the seventh, on a full count fastball, Koch’s first three-ball count all night, Augusta LF Rashawn Payne tripled up the left-centerfield gap on an elevated heater to halt Koch’s effort at a perfect game. Koch then retired the next three batters in a row on a sac fly, a groundout and a fly out to face one over the minimum 21 for the seven inning game.

His reaction after recording the final out, and coming oh so close to a perfect game was classic. As the final out settled in third baseman Jeff Reynolds’ glove, Koch walked off the mound towards catcher Albert Cordero and gave a big shrug with his hands skyward.

How did he do it? Fastball mostly. Koch was 90-93 early and touched 95. By the later innings, he was 89-91, and touching 92. He threw a few good changeups, which is a departure, and an improvement from where he was early in the year when there were outings when he only threw his fastball. (I figured some of Augusta’s lousy swings against him were based on mixing speeds. Koch told me it was more about fastball, and he did not throw a single changeup). He tried a few curve balls (five) too as the night went on, and while one induced a ground ball out, it was not a major weapon for him. In fact, he threw 78 fastballs and five curves, and that was it.

Koch told MiLB.com, the same, “Tonight it was all about fastball command,” the 22-year-old right-hander said. “Throwing a few off-speed in here and there but not too often. The plan going into the game was trying to reestablish my fastball and being able to command it. Just happened tonight I was able to do it.”

How else did he do it? Defense. CF Brandon Nimmo made a smooth catch in deep centerfield in the second outrunning a drive over his head on the warning track. Against the very next batter, LF Stefan Sabol made a diving catch in shallow left to take a hit away on a bloop. SS Philip Evans preserved the perfecto a few innings later tracking down a grounder up the middle, spinning, and firing a strike to first in one of his better plays of the year. A pair of line drives found the gloves of corner infielders in the fifth and seventh inning that on some other night might have been hits.

 

In game one, the Gnats scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh for a comeback win that would ordinarily have been the lead story from a day of baseball. In the seventh, Nimmo and Sabol walked and then Eudy Pina and Cole Frenzel delivered RBI singles first to tie and then put the Gnats ahead.

Nimmo was 1-for-5 with two walks and two strikeouts between the two games.

Evans, who has been much better in the second half, was 0-for-5.

Full-Season Ball Friday: Double-Headers All Over

AA: Trenton Thunder (NYY) 4, @ Binghamton Mets 1 (7 innings)
@ Binghamton Mets 4, Trenton Thunder 1 (7 innings)

This was a pretty quiet doubleheader for the BMets offense which collected eight hits over 14 innings. One of the hits in game two was a grand slam from 3B Richard Lucas, his 7th of the year. The 24-year-old is hitting .207/.268/.326 in 76 games for AA Binghamton this year.

Erik Goeddel (9-4, 3.99) again struggled with his control in game one: L, 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 2 WP.

RF Cesar Puello was 1-for-5 with an infield single that drove home a run and two more walks. He’s drawn a walk in four straight games and is up to 11 in his last 17 games. It’s almost as though someone told him he needed to learn to walk to get to AAA. The 22-year-old is up to .328/.405/.557 overall and .438/.494/.877 (!!) in 73 AB vs. LHP.

 

A+: St. Lucie Mets 5, @ Lakeland Flying Tigers (DET) 1 (7 innings)
St. Lucie Mets 2, @ Lakeland Flying Tigers 0 (9 innings)

St. Lucie picked up a pair of nice starts and enough late offense to sweep a doubleheader.
Game 1, Matt Bowman: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K 10/3 GB/FB
Game 2, Hansel Robles: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

Both guys attack the strike zone at 89-91 and can throw a breaking ball for a strike, or in Bowman’s case, a  variety of breaking balls for strikes.

Tim Byrdak made his 12th (!) rehab appearances with St. Lucie. Of course, in that time he’s mustered just 10.2 IP total.

Cory Vaughn, whose rehab has moved from the GCL to the FSL had a hit in game one, and two in game two and is 4-for-10 in the advanced-A portion of his rehab.

 

A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 9, Augusta GreenJackets (SF) 4 

The Gnats used three two-run doubles to score nine runs in the first three innings and give Gabriel Ynoa plenty of support.

Ynoa was not close to at his best. His command was wobbly, and he was up in the zone regularly. His line: 5 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K. After 76.2 innings last year in Brooklyn, Ynoa has tossed 104 in Savannah this year, a new career-high. I wonder at age 20, how many starts the Mets will have him make.

SS Philip Evans was 3-for-5 with three singles, two to right field. He’s hitting .315/.398/.452 in 23 games in the second half with seven walks and nine strikeouts.

This game took 3:15 to play thanks to a first four innings that approached two hours.

Tuesday in A-Ball: That is Not Pretty Pitching

A+: St. Lucie Mets 5, @ Daytona Cubs 3 (7 innings)
@ Daytona Cubs 7, St. Lucie Mets 0 (7 innings)

Game 1, Rainy Lara was fine: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. He’s fanned 18% of his opponents in advanced-A, while walking 7% on his way to a 2.92 ERA. He gets his outs with his slider and has a chance to be a slider heavy middle reliever if he can tighten the pitch.

Game 2, Domingo Tapia was wild: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 0 K. It’s the third time in 17 starts this year that he has failed to finish the first inning with four walks. It’s the second straight start in which he has not finished the second. He’s up to 43 walks in 73.2 innings, a 13% walk rate. Major, major uh-ohs here.

Kevin Plawecki (.323/.406/.419 – 27 gms in A+) caught game one and moved out from behind the dish to play first in game two, going 1-for-6 between the two contests.

 

A: @ Delmarva Shorebirds (BAL)  9, Savannah Sand Gnats 2 

Nimmo Stance (Devyatkin)The Shorebirds pounded out 19 (!) hits against Luis Cessa and three relievers. Cessa, a strikethrower for whom I have a soft spot was roughed up: 5 IP, 13 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. At Historic Grayson Stadium, he owns a 2.36 ERA, but that hops up to 4.18 on the road. He has walked more batters on the road (4.8% to 2.6%) and given up more homers (3% to 1.1%).

CF Brandon Nimmo (pictured) was 2-for-3 with a strikeout before he was ejected in the fifth inning. Signs of life from Nimmo? He’s 8-for-20 (.400) in his last five games with a triple, three walks and eight strikeouts.

By the way, SS Philip Evans was officially placed on the Savannah DL with a lower back strain, retroactive to July 18.

Wednesday in A-Ball: Pitching on the Road is Tougher than Home

A+: St. Lucie Mets 9, @ Brevard County Manatees (MIL) 3 

Hansel Robles(4-2, 4.04): 5.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. That’s 27 hits allowed in his last 14.1 innings since coming off the DL.

C Kevin Plawecki took an 0-for-3, but at least he walked twice.

 

A: @ West Virginia Power (PIT) 8, Savannah Sand Gnats 1 

Ynoa Delivery (Devyatkin)Gabriel Ynoa (10-4, 2.82) took this one on the chin: 5 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K.

Ynoa has some significant home/road splits driven in part by pitcher-friendly Historic Grayson Stadium:
Home: a 1.99 ERA in 49.2 innings in which opponents hit .196/.224/.293 with a .239 BABIP
Road: a 3.65 ERA in 49.1 innings in which opponents hit .268/.287/.384 with a .308 BABIP

 

CF Brandon Nimmo: 0-for-4, BB, K. The 20-year-old is down to .252/.358/.339 with 84 strikeouts against 34 walks in 64 games. In 22 games in the second half, he’s hit .150/.261/.175 with 11 walks and 36 whiffs.

A-Ball Monday: Hey, 3-for-4 Is Pretty Good

A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 4, Dunedin Blue Jays 3 (7 innings – Continued from Sunday)
@ St. Lucie Mets 4, Dunedin Blue Jays 2 (7 innings)

Game 1 was the suspended game from Sunday. Rainy Lara came on to replace Michael Fulmer and was ok (4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K). Fulmer, who threw on Sunday (3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K).

Oh, Domingo Tapia: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 1 K. That’s now 39 walks in 73 innings, a walk rate of 12.4%.

Kevin Plawecki (.365/.427/.486 – 21 gms; A+) caught game one and played first in game two.

 

A: Greenville Drive 2, @ Savannah Sand Gnats 1 (Continued from Saturday)
@ Savannah Sand Gnats 7, Greenville Drive (BOS) 4 

The Greenville Drive scored in the top of the ninth off Jake Kuebler to win game one. I wasn’t on air (waiting for Hannity to finish on the terrestrial station), so I sat behind home plate for the first few innings of the resumption, six through eight. Kuebler was throwing 91-92 and touching 93. He was using his changeup (at 83) as his primary offspeed weapon. A converted infielder, he’s a big guy with an average arm and not much breaking ball at age 23. It’s sort of generic. Not generic? Francellis Montas who finished the game for the Drive. He has an electric arm. He was 94-98 mph with his fastball with a slider at 85-87. His line: 4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. Listed at 6’2″, he has a sturdy frame and a big arm. Color me impressed.

Game two was odd. The Gnats were no-hit through five innings, and then took the lead with a three-run sixth before adding runs in the seventh and eighth.

Cessa Delivery (Devyatkin)The story for me however was Luis Cessa: 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K. All three runs he allowed came in the third inning that began with a bouncing ball over 1B Cole Frenzel’s shoulder for a hit and a bloop just beyond Philip Evans’ reach at short stop. Cessa (pictured) then got himself in trouble by fielding a bunt and throwing late, and wildly down the first base line for an error to allow an extra baserunner and a run to score. On another night, there are two outs and nobody on in the inning, and no runs score. Cessa was sitting 92-93 and held his velocity all the way into the seventh. He has feel for both a slider and a changeup. The fact that he’s the third-best prospect in the Gnats’ starting rotation right now, behind Steven Matz (who is LHP, and sitting 92-94) and Gabriel Ynoa (who is 20, and has a little more velocity than Cessa), speaks more to the other two’s strengths than anything else. The 21-year-old Cessa’s last eight starts: 53.2 innings, a 1.68 ERA and 54 strikeouts against eight walks and just one home run allowed while allowing a .232/.262/.288 opponents’ batting line.

Daily Nimmo
CF Brandon Nimmo was 0-for-4 with a strikeout in his return from the Futures Game. The first three AB were against a LHP. He hit one ball sharply, to near 2B, that Drive 2B kicked for an error.

A-AA Sunday: Goeddel and the B-Mets Shut Out Dogs; Still Raining in the South

AA: @ Binghamton Mets 4, Portland Sea Dogs (BOS) 0 

Goeddel Delivery (Donovan Gordon)The Binghamton Mets improved to 58-34 behind six shutout inning from RHP Erik Goeddel Sunday.

Goedel’s (8-3, 3.94) line: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K. Goeddel is working on a 10% walk rate and a 22.6% strikeout rate for the year in AA Binghamton. I’m skeptical he will have the command to be a good starter, but he might well slot into a middle relief role.

RF Cesar Puello was 0-for-3 with a walk (!) that helped load up the bases.

 

A+: Dunedin Blue Jays 1, @ St. Lucie Mets 1 (suspended after three innings)

The rain curtailed a great prospect pitching matchup as Michael Fulmer took on a rehabbing Sergio Santos and then Aaron Sanchez, the Jays #1 prospect per BA heading into this year.

Fulmer’s line: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR

 

A: Greenville Drive @ Savannah Sand Gnats – ppd by rain

The Gnats and Drive were rained out Friday and Sunday, and suspended mid-game on Saturday, so the two team have completed one half of their scheduled three games to this point in the series. They’ll complete the suspended game on Monday and then play the regularly scheduled game. The two missing games will be made up as part of back-to-back doubleheaders August 30 and 31, during the final week of the regular season, which, I promise, will be brutal.

On the plus side, all the rain gave me a chance to watch the first few innings of the Futures Game (more on that in a bit) and work on a musical mix for the ballpark about sunshine, which has been in short supply the last few days. Obviously, we will take songs that use sunshine as a metaphor and are not strictly about sunshine.

 

Selected Songs: 

Bob Marley – The Sun is Shining
Katrina & the Waves – Walking on Sunshine
Violent Femmes – Blister in the Sun
Cream – Sunshine of Your Love
Beattles – Here Comes the Sun
Beatles – Good Day Sunshine
Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine when She’s Gone
Leslie Gore – Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows
Len – Steal My Sunshine
Matisyahu – Sunshine
Nirvana – Jesus Doesn’t Want me for a Sunbeam

Feel free to help with this project in the comments.

A-Ball Saturday: No Completed Games; Matz Still Shines

A+: Dunedin @ St. Lucie – ppd by rain.

 

A: Greenville Drive 1, @ Savannah Sand Gnats 1

Matz Leg KickThis one started a half hour late to allow a storm to clear, and then was interupted by pouring rain twice more until it was called after the fifth inning with standing water on the warning track all the way around the field.

Before the game was called, Steven Matz and Luis Diaz hooked up in a nice pitchers’ duel.

Matz: 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K. The run he allowed came in the second. He gave up a chopper up the first base line that looked like it kicked foul – Gnats manager Luis Rojas discussed it at length with the umps – but it was ruled fair, and a double. Then he walked the next two batters, leaving pitches up and out of the zone. A sac fly gave the Drive a 1-0 lead before Matz recorded a strikeout to end the threat. Matz was mostly fastball/changeup and the changeup was keeping poor SAL hitters completely off-balance. That pitch has come a long, long way for Matz this year.

Matz’s last five starts: 30.1 IP, 13 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 11 BB, 37 K. That’s an opponents’ batting average of .129/.224/.158, a 32% strikeout rate and a 0.86 ERA. The only blemish, his control sometimes goes as he’s walked batters at a 9.5% rate.

A-AA Friday: Innings Management

AA: Portland Sea Dogs (BOS) 8, Binghamton Mets 5 (15 innings)

Considering these two are scheduled for a double-header and 14 innings on Saturday, 15 innings was a bad start to the weekend for the bullpens as position players finished the game for both teams.

RF Cesar Puello (.335/.397/.570 – 71 games): 4-for-7 with a walk, SB, CS

CF Alonzo Harris, (.242/.293/.336 – 59 g) who had been on the disabled list since a collision on June 21 returned with a 2-for-6 effort with a double. He took Cory Mazzoni’s spot on the roster after Mazzoni was placed on the Binghamton DL with a strained hamstring.

LHP Pedro Feliciano fanned three over a scoreless two-inning relief effort. He’s up to 11.1 innings in AA in which he’s fanned nine and walked one.

 

A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 3, Dunedin Blue Jays 0 

LHP Alex Panteliodis (4-3, 4.11) put together his best start of 2013: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HPB, 0 BB, 3 K. It was his longest outing and his first without allowing a run. I wonder if he bought himself some more time in the St. Lucie rotation and kept Steven Matz and Gabriel Ynoa in Savannah just a little longer.

Kevin Plawecki played first base again, for the second time in three games and the third time in the last seven games and was 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI and a run-scored. He’s hitting a batting-average powered .371/.421/.500 with seven extra-base hits and two walks in 19 games in advanced-A. I think Plawecki is a more aggressive than Mets’ fans generally understand. Even though he strikes out very little (10.5% in A+ in 76 PA), he’ll need to adjust his approach against higher-level pitchers.

Tim Byrdak worked the ninth for his third FSL save of the year.

Kyle Drabek, who I once had high hopes for, and owned in a Scoresheet fantasy format, started and went two innings for Dunedin in a rehab start.

 

A: Greenville @ Savannah – ppd by rain

There was an epic storm in Savannah on Friday afternoon that lasted nearly all evening. They’ll play two on Sunday beginning at noon. The Saturday forecast looks a little shaky by gametime too.

 

Thursday in A-Ball: Breaking: Kevin Plawecki Can Hit

A+: St. Lucie Mets 7, @ Charlotte Stone Crabs (TB) 6 

C Kevin Plawecki: 3-for-4 with a double and 2 RBI. The 22-year-old is now hitting .358/.403/.493 in 18 games in the FSL.

Matt Bowman: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 4 K. I wonder if he’s getting tired. After walking 9 batters in his first 50 innings in the FSL, he’s walked 11 in his last 18.2.

 

A: Augusta GreenJackets (SF) 9, @ Savannah Sand Gnats 1

The ‘Jackets scored seven times off RHP Matt Koch in the second, and the game was pretty much over from there. Koch’s line in his shortest start of the year: 1.2 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 2 HBP. He hadn’t hit a batter all year (69.2 IP), and then plunked two in the same inning on Thursday night.

Daily Nimmo
The 20-year-old was 1-for-4 with two strikeouts and a bloop basehit to leftfield off a left-handed reliever. The basehit moved his batting average vs. lefties over .200 for the year to .208/.296/.229 in (10-for-48) vs. southpaws.

Full-Season Monday: That’s a Lot of Rain

A – Hickory Crawdads (TEX) 5, @ Savannah Sand Gnats 0

This Hickory team is amazing and unusual. At the plate, they are young, athletic and they lead the SAL in strikeouts and homeruns, by a lot.

Jake Kuebler allowed a runner to at least second base in every single one of his innings. He had little to keep Hickory off his fastball: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K.

The Gnats’ offense had just four hits in the game, all singles, against tough lefty Luis Parra who fired eight shutout innings. No Gnat had more than one hit. SS Philip Evans was 1-for-3 with a strikeout and is up to .314/.415/.486 in his 11 games after the All-Star Break and .205/.274/.267 in 76 games.

 

AA – Ppd by rain

Erik Goeddel threw one inning before this was was called in the bottom of the first inning. They’ll finish today.

 

A+ – St. Lucie Mets @ Fort Myers Miracle – Ppd by rain