The Gnats kept pace with the first place Charleston RiverDogs to remain one game out of first with 16 to play in the first half.
RF Maikis De La Cruz had a big night from the top of the order, going 3-for-5 with a homer, two RBI and two runs scored. The 22-year old is hitting .312/.376/.455 in 20 games in 20 games in Savannah with six extra-base hits, seven walks and 13 strikeouts. It was his second game in a row with a homer. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by De La Cruz’s overall approach and productivity, but I thought that he was faster. At 22, 5’11, 175 lbs, in the SAL, he’ll need to keep hitting in a big way, to profile, even as a fouth outfielder, at a corner spot.
Conversion project Jake Kuebler started, and lasted four innings, allowing two runs on four hits.
Again, I want to point out the good work out of the bullpen of Julian Hilario who did not allow a run on three hits while fanning four. In his last 10 innings, he’s unscored upon, while fanning 12 and issuing just one walk. There’s arm strength here (low-mid 90s) and a an improving change-up. At 6’1″ and thickly built, I think he’s a reliever all the way, but he’s getting better. As long as we’re doing A-ball relievers, Bret Mitchell struck out two more batters in a perfect ninth. He’s now fanned 34 of the 92 guys he’s faced and walked just five. He’s 92-94 with a curveball at 81-83 that looks like it really could be a MLB weapon. He missed all of last year with a torn hip labrum, so he’s now 24. At the latest, he’ll start the second half in Port St. Lucie, or perhaps move up the day the Gnats clinch or are mathematically eliminated from first half contention.
The top four teams in the Southern Division (Charleston, Savannah, Asheville and Rome) are separated by only three games, so the Division race remains wide open. In fact, six of the seven teams in the SAL Southern Division are above .500, while only three teams on the Northern Side can make that claim.
Brandon Nimmo (.302/.400/.396 – 27 gms) was 1-for-4 with an RBI and two strikeouts.
St. Lucie was rained out. They’ll play two today.