SAL Championship Series: Ynoa and Friends Take Gnats One Win from SAL Championship

@ Savannah Sand Gnats 6, Hagerstown Suns (WAS) 0

gabriel-ynoa-240x135Gabriel Ynoa labored early on Thursday, but found his groove and, combined with plenty of offense, carried the Gnats to within one win of a South Atlantic League Championship.

Ynoa was a little bit tentative early, poking around the edges of the strike zone. In the first inning, he threw first pitch strikes to only one of five batters and after a double and a walk, needed a strikeout to strand two runners. He needed 33 pitches to finish the frame. Then, after a leadoff double in the second, he really started to settle in. He needed just 63 pitches or less than twice his first inning total, to shut out the Suns,┬áin innings two through seven while retiring 14 of the final 15 batters he faced. After the first inning, he threw first pitch strikes to 15 of 21 batters. His final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K – 96 pitches. He spotted his fastball beautifully, working down in the zone and to both edges of the plate. He threw his changeup and then followed with his heat to make the pitch play up for weak contact or strikeouts. He froze batters or induced weak contact with his slider.

Ynoa only turned 20 in May, but really displays an impressive feel for working both individual batters and the game itself. He did not give up a run in the first six innings of his first playoff start in Augusta, only yielding runs in that one with the Gnats up big and his pitch count climbing. His combined playoff line: 14.2 IP, 11 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K; 1.23 ERA. That’s the stuff that wins titles.

The Gnats’ offense came from the middle of the order as the 5-7 hitters, 1B Cole Frenzel, LF Stefan Sabol and 3B Jeff Reynolds were a combined 6-for-8, with a triple, three walks, four runs scored and five RBI.

Frenzel was 2-for-3 with a walk and scored twice. Sabol used a sacrifice fly and a blast of a triple to right-center for his two RBI. It was a Grayson Stadium triple in that it would have been out of most other yards, and in some cases, way out. Sabol finished the regular season at .203/.298/.345 in 105 games, during which time 33 of his 74 hits went for extra-bases.

Reynolds’ night was remarkable for its consistency. In each of his first three plate appearances, he batted with a runner – either Frenzel or Sabol – at second or third. Each time he drove a hard single up the middle to plate the run. Twice he did it with two outs, and twice he did it on two-strike counts. It was Reynolds’ first three-hit game since June 2 after a regular season in which he hit .242/.312/.303 in 96 games.

 

Other Notes

Rehabbing Jeurys Familia worked around a Philip Evans error in an easy eighth inning with two strikeouts. I thought his fastball location was sharper than on Tuesday in Hagerstown and he threw one filthy slider for a strikeout.

CF Brandon Nimmo had a quiet night, and was 1-for-4 with all four his plate appearances coming against left-handed pitchers. I’ve written it before and I’ll say it again: he’s been hanging in much better against southpaws recently.

2B Dilson Herrera was 0-for-3 with a walk and is still looking for his first hit of the Championship Series, but at least he’s drawn three walks.

The Gnats send Steven Matz, who shutout Augusta through seven sensation innings in the first round to the hill on Friday against the Whitewall Ninja.