Down to their last out, the Greenville Astros came from behind to beat the K-Mets in the decisive third game of the Appalachian League semi-finals eliminating Kingsport from the playoffs before the other three playoff-bound Mets affiliates even played a single game.
The K-Mets built a 2-0 lead behind Rob Whalen, who shutout Greeneville through six innings. However, Whalen could not escape the seventh, giving up a double and an RBI single to make it a one-run game. Reliever Luis Rangel walked one and hit one to load the bases. The Mets brought in hard-throwing Ricky Jacquez with the bases loaded and one out, and after walking in the tying run, he picked up a strikeout and a fly ball to get out of the inning with the game tied. Whalen’s final line: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K. Whalen was 88-89, touching 90 when I saw him in July.
The K-Mets then scored a run in the bottom of the eighth on a walk, a two-base throwing error and a sacrifice fly to take a 3-2 lead going to the ninth.
In the ninth, one out from the Appalachian League Championship Series, Jacquez fell one swing short. With a runner at second and two outs, he gave up a game-tying double. With the game tied, the KMets turned to Robert Coles, who issued an intentional walk and then two singles and a double to account for four runs and a 7-3 KMets deficit.
Jacquez ended up throwing 2.1 innings, his longest outing since June 28 when he threw three innings in his only outing this year longer than 2.1 innings. He had gone two innings just once in his last 14 outings. The Mets were extending him beyond his standard usage pattern to try to get him through the ninth. It was quite reasonable to do so; he has the best arm in the Kingsport bullpen. I saw Jacquez at 92-94 in July. The arm is legit. He should start 2014 in Savannah.
1B Dominic Smith was 0-for-4.
SS Amed Rosario was 0-for-3.
CF Champ Stuart did not start so the Mets could play older Yeixon Ruiz, in center.
R: Greeneville Astros @ Kingsport Mets
Game Three 7:00 ET – RHP Frederick Tiburcio (3-2, 2.43) vs. RHP Robert Whalen (3-2, 1.87)
Frederick Tiburcio was a part of the Astros early season sweep of the Mets with a 7 strikeouts over 5 IP while allowing 2 hits and a walk. He hasn’t faced them since. On August 13th he got tagged by Johnson City, allowing 6 runs on 9 hits over 3 IP (2BB/2K) in his only start in which he allowed more than 2 runs. He rebounded with 12 K, 1 BB, and 10 hits over his last 2 starts against quality teams Elizabethtown and Bluefield. For the year he has struck out 51 and walked 19 over 55.2 IP, holding batters to .213
Robert Whalen was among the best pitchers in the APL this year. He finished second in ERA and whip (0.93) among qualifiers, led the league in IP as one of just two starters to average more than 6 IP/start (Flexen) and finished second in the league with 76 strikeouts. He faced Greeneville three times this year, and didn’t factor in the decision in any of them.
June 26th: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 8 K
July 9th: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 UER, 2 BB, 6 K
Aug 9th: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 4 K
In the first two he left with the lead only to see Greeneville rally for wins, in the last game he left trailing and his teammates would rally for the win. The last game was just the second time he struck out less than 6, and the second time he walked more than 2. As you can see the K/BB numbers in those starts are trending down. Has Greeneville seen him enough to stop swinging at his pitches out of the zone?
A-Sh: Brooklyn Cyclones (37-36) @ Tri-City ValleyCats (43-31) Listen
Tuesday 6:00 ET – RHP John Gant (6-3, 2.33) vs. LHP Evan Grills (6-1, 3.38)
A four game losing streak in the seasons final week has eliminate the Cyclones, who now try to avoid having a losing season. John Gant had probably the best start a Mets farmhand has had this year, striking out 6 and facing the minimum over a complete game shutout. He walked 1 and allowed 1 hit, but both were erased on a double play and a caught stealing.
Evan Grills has struck out 46 and walked 12 over 56 IP working in a tandem starter role with RHP Kevin Comer (2-5, 4.80, 43K/17BB in 45 IP)
Rookie – Appy League
Greenville Astros 7, Kingsport Mets 2
The Greenville Astros evened the best of three game first round series at 1-1 with the Kingsport Mets. The Astros scored four runs in the third inning and a run in the fifth for an insurmountable 5-0 lead against starter Carlos Gomez. Gomez’s line: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HR.
1B Dominic Smith was 2-for-4 with a strikeout. The 2013 first round pick didn’t start game one of the K-Mets’ playoff series, but started, and hit in game two.
Rob Whalen will throw for Kingsport in game three Tuesday night at 7 pm.
R: Greeneville Astros @ Kingsport Mets
Game Two 7:00 ET – LHP Chris Lee (2-2, 3.10) vs. RHP Carlos Gomez (2-0, 0.00)
Chris Lee faced Kingsport three times in the regular season. In each start he failed to complete the 5th inning or record a decision. As a 21 year old in his 3rd year with the Greeneville Astros he has a limited workload. In 13 IP against the K-Mets he gave up 6 runs, 5 earned on 13 hits and 6 walks while striking out 10. While pitching a quarter of his total innings against Kingsport this year he has allowed them a third of his hits and walks, and under 20% of his strikeouts.
Carlos Gomez made 3 starts at the beginning of the year, allowing no runs on 8 hits and 4 walks, striking out 7 over 17.1 IP. He was sidelined for five weeks with shoulder trouble, returning to throw 5.2 IP over two relief appearances. He allowed 6 hits and no walks while striking out 5 after returning. 3 of his 4 walks came against Greeneville in his last start before landing on the DL. He allowed just 2 hits over 5.2 IP that day, and picked up the win.
Pulaski beat Bluefield 2 games to none and will wait for the winner of this series, hosting them in game one.
Appy League Playoffs
Kingsport Mets 3, Greeneville Astros 1
The K-Mets scored twice in the first and that was enough for their pitchers who did not allow a run until the seventh.
Chris Flexen: 5 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
Persio Reyes: 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
I think Flexen has been 90-94 recently, and has improved his fastball command. He seems like a safe bet to begin 2014 in Savannah.
SS Amed Rosario and CF Champ Stuart were each hitless.
Game two is Monday night at 7 pm.
The Mets Rookie affiliate in the Appalachian league finished off their regular season last night and will jump right into the postseason starting tonight. By winning the West division with a hot streak down the stretch the Kingsport team will have the home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They will play game one tonight in Greeneville and then game two Sunday at home, with a game three at home pending for Labor Day.
On July 18th the K-Mets had lost back to back three game series at home series to lowly Princeton and Bristol, and the first game of a series against Burlington. Their hold on a playoff spot was tenuous with Elizabethtown and Johnson City in close pursuit. They would go on to win the next two against Burlington and then go 7-2 against the two playoff teams from the East, Bluefield and Pulaski. Closing out on a hot streak they managed to overtake Greeneville for the division title in the process.
The season series went to the Astros 6-5 with 7 of the games on the Astros home field. In late June the Astros swept the Mets in a three game series in Greeneville, while in July the Mets would win 3 of 4 in Kingsport. In early August they split 4 games in Greeneville,
The Astros batters lead the APL with 304 walks, 80 more than the Mets. As a result they lead the league in OBP with a low team batting average. (.237/ .339/ .337) They struck out the second fewest times in the league and do not feature much of a running game with 31S/28CS on the season. OF Tanner Mathis lead the league in OBP with a .425 mark thanks to league leading 44 walks to go with just 14 strikeouts and just 4 extra base hits. OF Marc Wik has a similar profile with 40 BB / 26 K / 6 XBH.
Kingsport fell 3 doubles shy of the league lead (despite Dom Smith’s best efforts) which was the primary contributor to their second best SLG pct and OPS of .725 (.265 / .338/ .387). Jeff McNiel finished second in the league in BA, hitting .329/ .413/ .409 on the year. Jeff Diehl hit .266/. 320/ .411 as the Mets primary RF.
These two teams were best in the league at limiting base runners as the Astros 1.23 whip and the Mets 1.24 were top two. Both teams allowed 32 home runs. Astros LHP Jordan Mills (5-1, 2.08 ERA, 2 saves) has started and relieved and could be a key long or short reliever. Gonzalo Sanudo had struck out 30 and walked 1 over 21.1 IP on his way to 11 saves, but has been promoted to Tri-City. 17 of the Astros 22 saves have graduated to higher levels so closing out games could be a concern for them.
The Mets bullpen received quality seasons from RHP Ricardo Jacquez, Robert Coles, and Luis Rengel, who each posted an ERA below 2 and struck out a batter an inning or more. LHP Alberto Baldonado contributed 41 K in 29.2 IP. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 5 games, allowing just 5 hits and 2 walks over his last 11.1 IP. LHP Yoan Gonzalez could be an interesting weapon for the Mets. The Astros lineup includes 4 or more lefties on a regular basis, and while Gonzalez has not been particularly effecting against lefties, he did hold the Astros to 1 run over 3 IP in an appearance early in the season.
Game One is tonight at 7 PM. More on this game and the rest of tonight’s affiliates in action coming at 5:00 – NW
SSA: @ Brooklyn Cyclones 1, Tri-City Valley Cats (HOU) 0
Pretty stuff from John Gant who threw the third nine-inning complete game in Cyclones’ history: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. Thanks to a double-play and a caught-stealing, he faced the minimum 27 batters in his nine-inning masterpiece.
Now that bad news. A nine-inning complete game in the NYP is no guarantee of future success: the previous two Cyclones’ complete games were turned in by Miguel Pinango (8/23/02) and Yohan Almonte (8/28/10). I do think it’s interesting too that all three complete games took place in the final eight days of August.
Gant worked exclusively off his fastball and his changeup, he told MiLB.com:
“I didn’t throw a single curveball,” Gant said after his 91-pitch gem. “The fastball and the changeup kept working, and I like to keep a rhythm going if I get in one.”
With the win, the Cyclones slipped one half game ahead of the Aberdeen Ironbirds for first place in the NYP McNamara Division with seven games to play.
The Cyclones had just four hits themselves in a game that was played in 1:54, which makes everyone happy this time of year.
R (APP): @ Kingsport Mets 7, Bluefield Blue Jays 6 (10 innings)
The KMets clinched a playoff berth with a run in the bottom of the 10th after closer Ricardo Jacquez, who has been untouchable up to this point, allowed two runs in the top of the ninth. Dom Smith, who enteres as a pinch-hitter in the 8th, walked in each of his first two Appalachian League plate appearances.
The winning rally: groundout, Yeixon Ruiz single, Jeff McNeil single (first and third), intentional walk to Dom Smith, Jeyckol De Leon RBI single.
With their third straight win, the K-Mets regained first place. They clinched their playoff berth because the top two teams in each division go to the playoffs, and the Mets are 2.5 games ahead of the Elizabethton Twins with two games to play.
The K-Mets become the third Mets affiliate to clinch a trip to the postseason after Savannah and Binghamton. Both Brooklyn and Las Vegas are leading their divisions as well.
Rob Whalen was ok: 6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 7 K.
Ty Bashlor, who throws very hard, fired off a scoreless seventh.
21-year-old Jeff McNeil (.333/.414/.414 – 46 games) had a big game, going 4-for-6 with a stolen base. This is partly how you go to the playoffs with guys who are old for their league, hitting .333.
R (GCL): @ GCL Marlins 3, GCL Mets 2
Craig Missigman, the Mets’ 37th round draft pick from the 2011 draft threw five innings: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 HR.
SSA: Staten Island Yankees 7, @ Brooklyn Cyclones 1
John Gant (5-3, 2.67): 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. The SNY broadcast had the 21-year-old throwing 86-90 with his fastball, which is exactly what I have been told he’s been throwing recently. Some guys can add a little velocity at that age, but most do not.
With the loss, the Cyclones are 1.5 games out of first with 13 to play.
R (APP): Kingsport Mets 7, Bluefield Blue Jays 0
Rob Whalen (3-2, 1.49) turned in the pitching performance of the night in the system: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. I saw Whalen sitting 88-89 in July.
The KMets’ win, combined with the Greeneville Astros loss, moved the Mets into first by one half game.
R (GCL): GCL Marlins 4, GCL Mets 3
Dominic Smith was 1-for-2 with a couple of walks to run his hitting streak to nine games. He’s hit .441 (15-for-34) in his last nine games with two doubles and a homerun. For the year, he’s hit .280/.380/.400 in 44 games.
Christian Montgomery, who was suspended for 50 games earlier this year for the second violation of a drug of abuse, made his second appearance of the year in relief.
R (APP): @ Kingsport Mets 1, Burlington Royals 0
RHP Chris Flexen (7-1, 2.14) turned was the performance of the night in the short-season realm, if not the system as a whole: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K. After a couple of wobbly starts to begin the year, Flexen has been really strong in his last eight contests: 1.64 ERA in 55 innings with 47 strikeouts against nine walks. My preseason #32 prospect, I saw Flexen at his most raw, in his first professional start in 2012. His ranking will certainly rise this year.
Flexen told MiLB.com about his night:
“I felt really good today — a complete-game shutout, can’t complain there. The defense picked me up on all the plays, the offense put up enough.
“Everything was on, my command was very good. I was able to spot up pitches and mix it up well,” said Flexen, who throws four- and two-seam fastballs, a curveball at two different speeds and a changeup.”
The win moved Kingsport within a half game of first. The top two teams in each Appy League division make the playoffs, and the K-Mets hold a 1.5 game lead over Elizabethton for second with nine games to play.
R (GCL): GCL Mets 13, GCL Cardinals 10 (12 innings)
This one went 12 innings, but 1B Dom Smith did not, as Elvis Sanchez pinch-hit for the 2013 first-rounder in the seventh inning.
RF Wuilmer Becerra (.235/.347/.289 – 45 games), the outfielder who was part of the R.A. Dickey package was 3-for-6 with a homer, his first of the year.
On the mound, third round pick Casey Meisner put together one of his best outings as a professional: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. Meisner, a 6’7″ Texan, has now gone five innings or more in each of his last three starts.
SSA: @ Brooklyn Cyclones 2, Staten Island Yankees 0
This is creative: RHP Dario Alvarez: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 6 BB, 6 K. Alvarez is 24 in the New York Penn League. Those are the most salient facts.
SSA: @ Brooklyn Cyclones 3, Staten Island Yankees 2 (7 innings)
Staten Island Yankees 5, @ Brooklyn Cyclones 2 (7 innings)
SS Gavin Cecchini’s 16-game hitting streak came to an end with an 0-for-3 in game one, leaving him one shy of Lucas Duda’s Cyclones’ team record. It amuses me for some reason that Duda holds this record. Duda hit safely in 17 straight games as a 21-year-old in 2007, while Cecchini hit safely in 16 straight as a 19-year-old.
Hard-throwing RHP Akeel Morris got his first start of the year in game one, and it went swimmingly: 5 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 3 BB, 5 K. He now owns a 0.47 ERA and 52 strikeouts agains 17 walks and 23 hits in 38.1 IP in Brooklyn this year. Morris, out of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, is essentially learning to pitch as a professional. His strikeout rate of 34% shows he’s learned well.
R (APP): @ Kingsport Mets 6, Burlington Royals 5
SS Amed Rosario, who’s all of 17 years old, was 1-for-4 with a triple Thursday. He’s hitting .249/.281/.378 with 14 extra-base hits, nine walks and 38 K in 48 games in his first exposure to professional baseball. That’s just fine. He is years, and years away at best.
I got a question about whether 22 year-old utility-man Yeixon Ruiz, who’s 22, can become a “legit” prospect. He’s played nine games at second, 16 games at third, 9 at short and 8 in the outfield, some leftfield and some center while hitting .318/.375/.364 in 43 games. He runs well, and he’s a decent enough athlete – that’s the good stuff. The bad: he’s 22 in the Appalachian League, beating up on younger opponents. That’s pretty much the end of the story, as far as I’m concerned. He’ll be 23 next year before he gets a shot at a full-season team. So, the answer is no: generally big leaguers are not 22 while repeating the Appalachian League.
The guys that matter most to me among position players in Kingsport are Rosario, and Champ Stuart. Stuart, the 20-year-old sixth round draftee has hit .220/.380/.322 in 34 games this year, dragged down by a slow August (.156/.235/.200 in 12 games). He’s an impressive athlete in centerfield as a plus runner with a plus arm.
R (GCL): GCL Cardinals 7, @ GCL Mets 1
Mets’ second-round pick Andrew Church went five innings or longer for his third straight start, that’s the good stuff. The less good: he gave up 12 hits and six runs. He’s now allowed 23 runs on 41 hits for a 6.43 ERA in 28 innings in the GCL.