Thursday Night: Savannah Inches Closer to a Playoff Berth; Niesen Wild but Effective

AAA: Indianapolis Indians 2, @ Buffalo Bisons 0

Pat Misch gave up a two-run home run in the sixth, and on a night when the Bisons had three hits, that was pretty much it.  CF Fernando Martinez (1-4, 2B) and LF Lucas Duda (1-3, 2B, BB) and C Josh Thole (1-3, BB) were the only Bisons with knocks.

AA: Binghamton Mets 1, @ Richmond Flying Squirrels 0

The first two B-Mets batters combined to score a run, and Eric Niesen and a pair of relievers made it stand up.
Niesen (2-3, 2.94) gave up four hits and four walks in 5.1 shutout innings with five strikeouts.
The B-Mets scored their run when SS Luis Hernandez singled and CF Sean Ratliff doubled him home.  2B Josh Satin was 2-3 at the bottom of the order, his second-straight multi-hit game.
The Binghamton Press & Sun – Bulletin tweeted that CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis looks like he’ll be out another week.

A+: Off

A: Savannah Sand Gnats 4, @ Augusta GreenJackets 1
The Gnats rolled into Augusta up a game on the GreenJackets for first place with four to play in the first half, in need of a split to win the first half championship and the GreenJackets giftwrapped game one to Savannah.

In a 1-1 game, Savannah scored the go-ahead run on a throwing error, the second ‘Jackets error of the fifth inning.  The Gnats picked up an insurance run in the sixth when SS Wilmer Flores singled, advanced to second on a passed ball, third on a wild pitch and cruised home on a Juan Lagares sac fly.

On the other side, Savannah played better than error-free baseball, making a number of standout plays.  In the fourth inning, Juan Lagares made a nice running catch at the wall for the first out, and then charged a single up the middle and made a nice throw home to nail a runner for the third out to keep the game tied at 1-1.

At the plate, Pedro Zapata (pictured) continued his scorching June (.377/.433/.453) with a 2-4 night with an walk, a run and an RBI.  In the first, he lined a single to center and scored on 1B Michal Fisher’s double into the left-center field gap to put Savannah up 1-0 before ‘Jackets starter Chris Heston retired a batter.  In the ninth, with two runners at the corners, he lined a single up the middle that bounced off the reliever to bring home a run.
For fun, here is Zapata’s OPS by month:
April – .645
May – .728
June – .886
The fleet CF is also 20-for-24 stealing bases this year.  At age 21, he’s not young for the SAL, but he’s making tremendous progress.

Armando Rodriguez worked with runners on base in each of the first four innings.  He found some rhythm and feel for his fastball location and slider in the fifth and sixth innings when he retired the side in order in each frame and struck out a pair in each inning.  He left with the tying runs on base in the seventh, but reliever Erik Turgeon shut the door with a pair of strikeouts and the ‘Jackets never really threatened again.

The Gnats have not made a roster move in 12 days.  In minor league baseball, that’s almost unheard of in the middle of June.  The cause is two-fold: the team has been remarkably healthy, so there has been no need for DL shuffling, and the Mets have post-poned promoting worthy individuals to help the team win the first-half and earn a playoff berth.  The players, given something extra to play for, have responded with their best stretch of ball of  the year.  Savannah has won five in a row and nine of its last ten games.

Zapata photo courtesy Savannah Sand Gnats.

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