Pregame Meal: Saturday, August 4th
By Matt Appel (@mattappel)
After taking two of three from the Batavia Muckdogs, the ValleyCats will take on another Pickney division opponent, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Over 7000 people expected to be in attendance tonight for the 3rd annual Time Warner Cable Customer Appreciation Night. The game is going to be televised, so this is a great opportunity to see the winningest team in the minors this year from the comfort of your own home. Now, to share what tidbits were picked up before the game, in the first weekend edition of the “Pregame Meal”:
-Late scratch from the lineup, as Jesse Wierzbicki will sit tonight. Whether this is related or not, both Andrew Aplin and M.P. Cokinos were taking turns fielding grounders at first. M.P. even made a few nice plays on line drives. If this illness of Wierzbicki’s carries a few more days, it might be interesting to see if one of those two gets a look at first. Preston Tucker will take Jesse’s spot in the field tonight. It is Tucker’s first appearance in the infield this season.
-Before the game, both myself and my broadcast partner Evan Valenti (@EvanValenti) were shooting a video with M.P. Cokinos, part of a series we will be bringing to you about how to keep your body in shape to play baseball. M.P. was showing us what he does to warm-up, what he does during the work out, and what he does afterwards. The latter part was quite awesome. Cokinos was talking about how he uses Muscle Milk to recover, but it turned into more of an ad for the protein shake than a lesson to young ballplayers. At one point, M.P. looked directly into the camera and said “Muscle Milk helps me refuel after a game or a workout, and that’s why I use Muscle Milk!” Priceless. Stay tuned for the finished product.
-If the ValleyCats can get a win tonight, they will be 33-13, 20 games over .500. For a team at any level to be 20 games over and not even 50 games into a season is simply incredible. The way they have pitched this year makes teams like this slump-proof more or less, because if you only give up 2-3 runs a night, your odds of winning are pretty darn high. For those who are curious, Tri-City’s best record for a full season is 50-25 and that came back in 2004. This year’s squad is well on their way to surpassing that mark.
-Last night, the ‘Cats as a team were just 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position, which was a rare off night for them in that department. As a team this year, the ‘Cats are hitting a very impressive .297 with runners on 2nd and 3rd. Amongst the players who have at least 25 at bats in those situations, no one is excelling more than Tyler Heineman, who has a robust .393 clip. Timely hitting has been one the most important features of the ‘Cats offensively in 2012.
-In the 9th inning of last night’s game, Andrew Aplin made a full-extension dive for a sinking liner in center for the second out of the inning. I think it was the best play any ValleyCat has made this year, at least at home. During BP, I asked Andrew how that felt, and he told me it “knocked the wind out of me for a second.” When then prompted about whether or not it was the best catch he ever made, he told me he made a better one in the Cape Cod league last summer, and told me to ask his then (and current, of course) teammate Kenny Long about it. When I approached Kenny, he told me that Aplin jumped over the fence, which was about shoulder-high, and landed on the other side, while securing the ball. The best part? It would have been a walk-off home run for the other team. Kenny said, “As soon as we saw he caught it, we all ran out there and made sure he was ok.”
-Catfish Elkins will make his first start of the year at short tonight. Elkins did play there during his college days at Dallas Baptist, but it should still be interesting to see him in maning the area between 2nd and 3rd.
-Batting Practice Hero: For the second time is as many BP sessions, today’s honor goes to Jarrod McKinney. In his final round, the ‘Cats right fielder tonight hit a long shot to left that was clearly leaving the park. But then it kept going and going and going, until it hit off the scoreboard. It was an absolute blast that stopped everyone in their tracks. Without question, it is the longest homer a righty has hit this year at The Joe.
-Lance Day taking the bump for the ‘Cats tonight. Since joining the rotation, Day has been very solid, recording a win in two of his three starts. The righty enters tonight with a 2-0 record and an ERA of 3.06
Lance Day RHP