Pregame Meal: Friday, August 3rd

Ciao, ValleyCats faithful! I’m greeting you in Italian because tonight is Italian Night at The Joe. Very large crowd expected here in attendance tonight for the finale of this three game set against the Muckdogs of Batavia. No batting practice today, as the ‘Cats players took the first part of the day to make a pilgrimage to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. But don’t worry, still plenty of news, notes, and nuggets to pass along:

-The ‘Cats, as you probably already know, snapped out of their mini-slide last night with a strong 6-2 victory, led of course by the sensational Aaron “Kanye” West (no one actually calls him that, fyi). It was West’s 6th victory of the season, which leads the NYPL, and the 5th straight start in which he walked away with the win. Here’s proof of how good the former Washington Huskie has been in 2012: by allowing only one run in 6 innings of two-hit ball, his era actually rose, from 0.97 to 1.05. West has been the most consistent hurler for Tri-City this year, and is beyond deserving of an All-Star nod. Like I mentioned yesterday, I think he should wind up starting the AL-NL matchup August 14th at Mahoning Valley.

-Catfish Elkins got the ‘Cats on the scoreboard last night with a solo blast in the third. That home run also accounted for the ValleyCats first run of the series. But did you know that it was the first home run Elkins had hit right-handed this year? Well, now you do. The switch-hitting second baseman had three previous homers, all from the left side. Catfish said after the game, “I hadn’t squared up a ball well from the right side in a while, so that one felt good.”

-Tonight’s game is the rubber match of the series, as these teams split the first two games. The ValleyCats, as you might expect from a team with the best record in all of Minor League Baseball, have an incredible record in series’ this year. Tri-City 10-1-5 in series play this season, with their only series loss coming during the three-game sweep at home versus State College. Winning series after series is a good way to compile the kind of record the ‘Cats have this year, so we shall see if they can continue their torrid series-winning pace with a victory tonight.

-I’m definitely stating the obvious here, but the ValleyCats, like most teams, play better when they play good defense. Last night’s ballgame was the 16th game that the ‘Cats did not make an error, and have a 15-1 record in those contests. On the contrary, Tri-City is only 16-12 when the commit an error.

-How much can change in a year? Well, on this date in 2011, the ValleyCats were in the midst of a losing streak, and found themselves at 17-27. 365 days later, they are 31-13, an improvement of 14 games. Good news for not only the ValleyCats (obviously), but Houston as well .

-I mentioned that the ValleyCats have the best minor league record, after they briefly lost that title yesterday. The Elizabethton Twins of the Appalachian League had the highest winning percentage Thursday after Tri-City dropped their game on Wednesday.

-Brian Holmes takes the bump for the ‘Cats tonight. Holmes is coming off what was arguably the best start in the entire league. On July 27th, Holmes took a perfect game into the 7th and final inning of the 2nd game of double header versus Hudson Valley, before allowing a single to the leadoff hitter. Holmes has quietly become one of Tri-City’s best starters, a very crowded discussion, and comes into tonight’s start with a 4-1 record and a 2.55 ERA. Interestingly enough, those are the exact same numbers as Vincent Velasquez.

Tonight’s lineup:

Sclafani SS

Elkins 2B

Aplin CF

Wierzbicki 1B

Heineman DH

Tucker RF

Dineen 3B

Morales C

Gulbransen LF

LHP-Brian Holmes

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