Pregame Meal: Friday, August 17th

By Matt Appel (@mattappel)

A very happy Friday, ‘Cats fans! It’s been a long week, so get ready for a hearty Pregame Meal before this third and final game between the ValleyCats and Cyclones. Tri-City will go for the sweep and try to inch even closer to wrapping up the Stedler Division. It’s Brian Holmes for the ‘Cats and Gabriel Ynoa for Brooklyn, in a matchup of two starters with very low ERA’s both making their 10th starts of 2012. It’s “Blizzard in August” night at The Joe-fans will be given white rally towels and given white t-shirts. With that theme in mind, the ‘Cats will try to blank the Cyclones in the series.

-Despite a seemingly ordinary game, last night’s 4-2 win had a lot of positives to take away for the ValleyCats. Lance Day won his 4th straight start to improve to 5-0, and has quietly become a very reliable cog in the rotation. The bullpen, which has game-in-and-game-out been a huge part of the team’s success, pitched a dazzling 3.2 scoreless in relief of Day, including Blake Ford getting his league-leading 14th save of the year. Above all, Emilio King had a tremendous game. King had a two-run homer in the 5th, and then a lead-saving catch in center the next inning. King has struggled for a majority of the season, and last night might be the start of a turnaround for Emilio. We also want to wish Emilio a very happy 23rd birthday from all of us here at the ‘Cats Corner. Also, a belated happy birthday to Jeremiah Meiners, who turned 24 yesterday.

-It’s only been two batting practices and one game, but so far I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen from infielder Jean Batista. Batista has a good looking, easy swing from both sides of the plate, and can appear to be able to hold his own in the field. He did drop a pop-up in the 6th last night, but he said after the game that he lost it in the lights, so as he gets adjusted to the lighting here in Troy, I wouldn’t expect to see that too often. He added a line drive double down the right field line and picked up his first stolen base with the team right after. He is again in the lineup tonight, and moves over to short after playing third last night.

-I mentioned above that the ‘Cats are attempting to sweep the Cyclones tonight. Should they be successful, it would be their eighth of the season, wayyyyy more than any other team, not like that really needs to be said. If they win tonight, the 24 wins they would have gotten in those series would surpass or equal 5 teams total victory count so far this year. Ironically, the only series loss the team has suffered this year was a sweep at home versus the State College Spikes. That remains the only series Tri-City has lost this year, which is hard to believe considering we’re now more than half way through August.

-Brian Holmes takes the mound, in the midst of a streak that is just as strong as any pitcher has had in the league this year. He has won his past 5 starts, going at least 6 innings in four of them and not allowing more than one run in any of them. The All-Star lefty has been the arguably the best pitcher on this team (in the non-Aaron West division) over the last month, if not the whole year. In my opinion, the “Big Three” of West, Rodgers, and Velazquez, is now definitely the “Big Four” with the addition of Holmes.

-Aaron West’s pitching credentials speak for themselves. But he made the play of the year in batting practice today. On a ball hit to the outfield, West appeared to be gearing up to make a routine catch of a line drive. Boy, was I wrong. He did a quick 180 and caught the ball with his glove behind him, as he was facing the wall. Doesn’t get much better than a no-look, behind the backer. I went up to Aaron after BP had ended and I asked him if he actually caught it, because frankly I couldn’t believe me eyes. He told me he did, but made it seem so nonchalant, as if it were a normal drill. Oh, to be athletically talented….

-Batting Practice Hero: I thought I would be writing to you ValleyCats fans today that I had to induct Preston Tucker into the Batting Practice Hall of Fame, after dominating again. But the former Florida Gator was upset today by Jesse Wierzbicki. Jesse has been a great BP guy throughout the year, as the ball really takes off after contact. Great opposite field power too, which is always nice to see in the cage. Wierzbicki today hit a ball that, off that bat, I thought had warning track power. But it just kept on going and going and going until I didn’t see it anymore, because it had been deposited in the deepest part of the park in left-center. It was a long home run for a guy that hits a ton of them before and sometimes even during games. Runner-up goes to Jarrod McKinney. McKinney, on his second to last swing of BP, swung through a Stubby Clapp fastball that gave everyone a good chuckle, including McKinney himself. In a glimpse of true redemption, J-Mac (decent nickname, right?) tattooed the next pitch well over the Tri-City ‘pen in left field to go out on a high note.

Tonight’s lineup:

Johnson CF

Batista SS

Tucker LF

Wierzbicki 1B

Heineman C

Elkins 2B

Dineen 3B

Christian Moronta DH (his position his catcher, called up on 8/10)

King RF

Holmes LHP

“There are three things you can do in a baseball game. You can win, you can lose, or it can rain.”

-Casey Stengel

Last night’s player of the game Emilio King taking in BP before he hits

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