By Matt Appel (@mattappel)
Hey ‘Cats fans! After a most successful of homestands, the ValleyCats return home tonight to kick off a six-game homestand against their post-season foes from last year, the Auburn Doubledays and Hudson Valley Renegades. The question right now appears to be what will cool off first: the weather, or the ‘Cats?
-While the offense did pick it up, the key to the sweep of the homestand was phenomenal starting pitching. From July 6th through the 14th, the ‘Cats starters registered nine consecutive scoreless outings of at least three innings. Their team ERA in July is 2.27, tied for the lowest in the entire league, with Lowell.
-For the first time this year, we will see Conrad Gregor in left field tonight, due to injuries to both Ronnie Mitchell and D’Andre Toney that have left them day-to-day. I asked Conrad when the last time he played left field, and he said it was during his freshman season at Vanderbilt. The centerfielder in that game? Tony Kemp.
-Talked to Chris Cotton before the game. If any of you out there think that some of these players haven’t necessarily worked hard to get to this point, go have a word with Cotton. He worked off his behind to walk onto the LSU squad his freshman season, and became one of the best closers in America over his time with the Tigers. He turned in possibly the best performance of the year by any ‘Cats pitcher in his last start Saturday in Batavia, going five perfect innings and picking up the win.
-One roster move to pass along. LHP J.D. Osborne, who was taken in the 36th round out of Wofford College and played for Greenville, has been added to the roster. Osborne has pitched superbly thus far, registering a 0.00 ERA and six saves in 14 innings.
-Adrian Houser hasn’t allowed an earned run in a month. He gets the ball tonight for the ‘Cats. We’ll see Tanner Bushue as well at some point.
By Matt Appel (@mattappel)
Hey ‘Cats fans! All teams in the New York-Penn League are off tonight, in honor of the MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field. Two former ValleyCats, Ben Zobrist and Jason Castro, will suit up for the American League, which is looking to break a three-year losing streak to the NL. This is Zobrist’s second All-Star nod, while Castro is making his first appearance in the Midsummer Classic. As past ‘Cat legends are honored tonight in Queens, let’s take a look at what the 2013 squad did while on their six-game road trip…
The ‘Cats hit the road last week after struggling at home. From July 4th-9th, Tri-City went just 2-4 at “The Joe”, with some especially uninspired play offensively. However, the team seemed to have found its groove in Mahoning Valley and Batavia, as they swept all six games against their Pickney Division opponents. The ‘Cats improved to a league-best 20-9 overall, and 11-4 on the road after the road trip, as they return home on a six-game winning streak.
After getting rained out on Wednesday in Mahoning Valley, the ValleyCats and Scrappers played two on Thursday. The first game went into extra innings (albeit just the 8th inning, as NYPL doubleheaders are comprised of 7-inning games), making it the third straight contest for the ‘Cats that had not been settled in regulation. Thanks to a Tony Kemp double in the 8th that scored two runs, the ‘Cats took the first game, 4-1. Adrian Houser, Charles Basford, and Richard Rodriguez combined on a one-hitter for Tri-City, the second time that feat has been accomplished so far this year (the other time was a 2-1 win in Vermont on July 2nd, in another doubleheader). A James Ramsay RBI single in the 6th inning of the second game proved to be all the run support needed, as the ValleyCats swept the doubleheader from the Scrappers with a 1-0 victory. Mahoning Valley pushed across just three hits total in the 15 innings played between the two teams, a sign of things to come for the ‘Cats pitching staff.
Tri-City finished off its first road sweep of the season on Friday with another pitching-led victory, 2-1 over the Scrappers. Michael Feliz, who, if the NYPL had a “Cy Young” award, would be the front runner so far, improved to 3-1, as he struck out seven hitters in five innings of work. The duo of “Andrew Squared”, Andrew Thurman and Andrew Walter, finished out the game for the ‘Cats with four innings of impressive relief. Walter pitched the ninth for his second save. The ValleyCats offense, which was still struggling at the time, scored its only two runs in the first inning, but that, once again, was all they would need. In the previous 34.1 IP, ‘Cats starters had a mind-boggling 0.26 ERA after Feliz’s five scoreless frames in this one.
After disposing of the Scrappers, Tri-City headed back east to face the Muckdogs for three in Batavia. Chris Cotton, in his best performance of the season, did not allow a hit in his five innings of work, and received the win, as the ‘Cats won their fourth straight, by a 5-4 count. With the team up 3-0 in the 8th inning, Ronnie Mitchell blasted his second HR of the season with a man aboard, extending the ‘Cats lead to 5-0. Two runs apiece in the 8th and 9th made it interesting for the Muckdogs, but Pat Christensen put out the fire in the final inning to record his second save of the year. Five different players picked up multi-hit games for the ‘Cats, as Tony Kemp, Conrad Gregor, Michael Martinez, Ronnie Mitchell, and Jon Kemmer all acquired a pair of knocks.
In their biggest margin of victory to date this year, the ‘Cats blanked the Muckdogs on Sunday, by a final of 7-0. It was the second time on the road trip that Tri-City had shutout its opponent, and the third time in 2013. The seven runs were the most the ‘Cats had scored since a 9-4 victory over Lowell at home on June 27th. Amazingly, for the second night in a row, the starter for the ValleyCats had a no-hitter at the time they were pulled, as Zach Morton went six hitless innings, and picked up his first professional win. The ValleyCats played longball for the first time on this road trip, as Ernesto Genoves connected for his first homer in 2013, leading off the 4th inning to extend the ‘Cats lead to 2-0. 11 hits for the second game in a row were the fuel for the road team, including two more from Michael Martinez, brining his season total to 11, seven of which have come in his last ten games. The ridiculous stretch of utter dominance by the Tri-City starters now totaled just 1 ER in the last 45.2 IP, which is a nifty 0.20 ERA. Yes, you read that right.
Yesterday, the ‘Cats finished up their sweep of Batavia and of the road trip with an 8-4, come-from-behind-win. Back-to-back home runs from Jon Kemmer, his 2nd, and Thomas Lindauer, his first, gave the ValleyCats a 3-0 lead early on in the 2nd inning. By the end of the 5th, however, it was Batavia ahead 4-3, as the ‘Cats saw themselves trailing for the first time on the road trip. In the 7th inning, Tri-City received one of it’s biggest hits of the year, as an Ernesto Genoves double cleared the bases with two outs, to give the ‘Cats a 6-4 lead that they would not relinquish. Genoves went 3-for-5 with a season-best 4 RBI. Evan Grills (2-0) got the win in relief, after finishing the game with 4.1 IP of scoreless baseball and just two hits allowed.
For the second year in a row, the ValleyCats find themselves with the best record in the league at the time of the first off-day, which always coincides with the MLB All-Star Game. I speculated that it would be hard for these ValleyCats to replicate the magic away from home that their predecessors recorded, but so far, they have been just as strong on the road. While the offense isn’t quite at the level that the 2012 team was at a year ago, the pitching has been almost as impressive. Through the first 29 games this year, Tri-City has a 2.66 ERA, which is 2nd best in the NYPL, behind only State College. As they return home with a three-game lead over Lowell, the ‘Cats find themselves playing their opponents from last year’s post-season, Auburn and Hudson Valley. The ValleyCats got past the Doubledays in three games in the first round of the playoffs, and took game one of the championship series against the Renegades. However, Hudson Valley came back to take the last two games, and the title, as the ‘Cats failed to take home their second championship in three years. In a season that certainly has the look and potential of another deep run, Tri-City will reconnect with foes with whom they encountered in the playoffs during the legendary 2012 season.
With the NYPL All-Star Game less than a month away, and the MLB version tonight, it’s never too early to start theorizing which ValleyCats players might find themselves playing for the American League squad in Dodd Stadium, home of the Connecticut Tigers, next month. Right now, you’d have to guess that the two “locks”, whatever that’s worth at this point, are Tony Kemp and Michael Feliz. Kemp has been offensively the best Tri-City player not named Dan Gulbransen from season’s beginning ’till now, and leads the club in batting average, runs scored, stolen bases, hits, on-base percentage, slugging percentages, as well as tremendous plays in the field. Feliz, as I mentioned earlier, looks more impressive with each succeeding start. Amongst all qualifiers, Feliz leads the league with a 1.07 ERA, and is third in K’s with 32. In 25.1 IP this year, the 19-year old has surrendered just 14 hits and three earned runs. Those two are in good shape to receive strong All-Star considerations. With the way the ‘Cats have been playing, and especially pitching, of late, it’s a good bet that they won’t be alone in Tri-City uniforms in Norwich next month.
Whether the ValleyCats are at home on on the road, there is one thing that you can count on: Southpaw and the Street Team keeping active in the community as part of the ‘Cats Care Program! This past week, the ‘Cats mascot and Street Team members participated in a number of great community events.
One of these events was the Play Outdoors Program. The Street Team and the Inflatable game made it out to Griswold Heights to work with the Troy YMCA. The residents of Griswold Heights were eager to take Drug-Free Capital District Quizzes and receive Drug-Free foam fingers! The kids were also excited to play with the inflatable game.
This is part of a season-long partnership with the Rensselaer County District Attorney, Richard McNally and his office for an awareness campaign that reaches beyond the ballpark with family friendly activities at community events throughout the county.
SouthPaw and the inflatable game also made the trip all the way out to Altamont to see the kids at the Wildwood Programs Day Camp. SouthPaw was excited to play with the campers, who have been practicing their baseball skills all summer long! The campers were also anxious to spend the day with SouthPaw, and they made awesome signs to welcome him!
Southpaw, the Street Team, and even a few ValleyCats players came out to participate in the “Yes I Can Olympics” at Troy Little League last week! This great event featured a variety of kids from the Troy Central neighborhood as well as kids with developmental disabilities. ValleyCats pitcher Kevin Comer and outfielder D’Andre Toney joined members of our staff to kick the camp off with a day of baseball fun! This event focused on teamwork between kids of all abilities, and served as a great way for the kids who participated to keep active in the summertime!
For the last two weeks the Street Team has brought SouthPaw to Crossgates early in the morning to kick off their day with B95.5 and the kids in the B95 Kids Club. Kids are able to fill out three activities in the ValleyCat activity book in order to win a free hat! SouthPaw also has fun playing Hot Potato with B95, though he has yet to clinch a victory.
The ValleyCats return home tomorrow against the Auburn Doubledays to start a six-game homestand with plenty of exciting promotions! On Wednesday, we have another tremendous Price Chopper Fireworks show post-game, as well as our 25 Silver Ball Launch! Thursday is Arts in the Park Night, as the ‘Cats and Proctors have teamed up to showcase the best that local artists have to offer!
On Saturday, the Hudson Valley Renegades come into Troy to face the ValleyCats for the first time since the two teams battled for the New York-Penn League championship last September. The fireworks return on Saturday, which is Star Wars Night, as well as GE Kids in Free Night! Sunday, the 21st, marks our third “Sunday Funday” of the season, which offers the promotion of 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs, and 4 sodas, all for just $25! On Monday, the homestand wraps up with Capital Region Baseball Heritage Night! The first 1500 fans in attendance will receive a 1994 Albany-Colonie Mariano Rivera bobblehead, the second member of the Heritage Series Bobblehead Collection. We hope to see as many ‘Cats fans as possible out at The Joe for what promises to be a great homestand, both on and off the field!
By Matt Appel (@mattappel)
The most recent homestand for the Tri-City ValleyCats was certainly not the best stretch of baseball the team has played this year. They wound up losing four of the six games, but had a lead in three of the four games they lost, as the bullpen faltered on multiple occasions. Over the span of the six games, the offense, which came into the homestand leading the league in runs scored, pushed across just 15 runs. Despite the struggles at home, it was quite possibly the most historic homestand in team history, as 2013 #1 overall pick Mark Appel made his debut with the ValleyCats, starting on both July 5th and July 9th. With the ‘Cats now on the road for six games, let’s take a look back on the week that was:
July 4th: Loss, 4-2 vs. Lowell: This loss was just the 2nd for the ValleyCats at home in 2013 at the time. In their first home game without Dan Gulbrnansen following his promotion, the ‘Cats went just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, which began a concerning trend that lasted throughout the homestand of failing to deliver in key spots. A three-run 4th inning proved enough for the Spinners to win, as ‘Cats starter Kevin Comer took his first loss of the season, going just 3.1 IP and yielding three runs, all earned. After Tri-City pushed a run across in the 4th to cut the lead to 3-1, they let a golden chance get by them in the 5th. Tony Kemp stepped to the plate with bases loaded and no one out. However, for the second time in the game, the speedster bounced in a double play. While a run scored, the momentum was killed, and the ‘Cats would not score again in the contest. In the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th, the ‘Cats left at least one runner in scoring position, which doomed them when Lowell added a run in the 8th.
‘Cats Player of the Game: In a pretty lackluster offensive performance from the ‘Cats (of which there were many more to come), SS Chan Moon went 2-for-3 to bump his batting average up to .385.
July 5th: Win, 5-4/10 vs. Lowell: The ValleyCats could have scored 25 runs in this one, and the story of the game still would have been Mark Appel’s debut. Admittedly nervous in his first live game action since May 24th for Stanford, Appel came out of the gate pretty sluggish. Lowell SS Tzu-Wei Lin smashed the righty’s first offering over James Ramsay’s head in center for leadoff triple. A ground out scored Lin, and Lowell scored once more to take a 2-0 lead before the ‘Cats even came to bat. In his second inning, under a strict 30-pitch limit, Appel sent down the Spinners in order on just seven pitches, which finished his outing. His final line was 2 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs, no walks and one K. After the start, Astros Assistant General Manager David Stearns said that Appel’s velocity and movement on his pitches were both there in his two innings, and that was the thing that the team was really looking at. The ‘Cats tied up the game with two two-out hits in a row in the 3rd, coming from James Ramsay and Conrad Gregor. It was one of three deficits the ‘Cats would erase on Friday. After another Gregor RBI scored Tony Kemp to even the score at four in the 7th, we headed to extras at the first time in 2013 at The Joe. In the bottom of the 10th, with Thomas Lindauer at third and Luis Alvarez at the plate, Alvarez swung and missed badly at a 1-2 slider in the dirt from Lowell pitcher Kyle Martin. However, the ball bounced away from catcher David Sopilka, allowing Lindauer to race home to score the winning run, in the most unconventional of walk-offs. The ‘Cats stole four bases, their season high, including two from Kemp.
‘Cats Player of the Game: Conrad Gregor. Gregor had three hits in five at bats, including a pair of two-out hits that brought home tying runs. This year’s 4th round pick of the Astros also made a number of nice plays in the field, which is what we have come to expect from Conrad over at first, game in and game out.
July 6th: Loss, 4-3 vs. Lowell: After the most wild win of their season the night before, the ‘Cats encountered their most difficult loss on Saturday night. Leading 3-0 into the ninth inning, Lowell loaded the bases with just one out. Pat Christensen came in to relieve Albert Minnis, who faced two batters and got neither out. The first batter Christensen faced, Cleuluis Rondon, silenced the home crowd with one swing of the bat. Rondon sent a fastball over the right field fence, his first home run of the season, and gave the Spinners a 4-3 lead with a 9th inning grand slam. As the ‘Cats failed to push across a run in the bottom half of the inning, Lowell walked away with a dramatic victory, as well as a series win. It was the first time all season that Tri-City lost a game in which they led after eight innings. The loss obscured great pitching from both starter Andrew Thurman, who went four scoreless innings, as well as Michael Feliz, who went 4.1 IP in relief. Both Ryan Dineen and Tony Kemp had three hits for the ‘Cats, but a 2-for-13 line with RISP hurt the team, as they failed to add insurance runs to a 3-0 lead they had after five. For the second night in a row, the ‘Cats stole four bases, including two more from Kemp, which gave him the league-lead in thefts.
‘Cats Player of the Game: Michael Feliz. The Dominican 19 year-old went 4.1 IP, and had six strikeouts, retiring 10 straight at one point. Feliz has arguably been the team’s best pitcher this season, and this outing put Feliz into a tie for the most strikeouts in the league with 25. He was in line for the win before the bullpen’s implosion in the 9th.
July 7th: Loss, 3-1 vs. Aberdeen: This loss was by far the most listless performance from the ‘Cats at home this season, and was followed by a closed-door meeting led by manager Ed Romero. The team managed just four hits, the second fewest all season. The lone run came in the 3rd inning, as a Dineen groundout score Chan Moon. Kyle Westwood turned in a phenomenal outing, allowing just a base hit in five innings of work, lowering his ERA to a league-best 0.49. He was in line for a victory until Chris Cotton allowed the tying run in the 6th. In the 7th, with the score 1-1, Tri-City loaded the bases with just one out, looking to take the lead. Romero pinch-hit for Chan Moon with Ernesto Genoves. However, that move back-fired, as “Geno” bounced into a 6-4-3 double play, ending the frame. Cotton allowed two runs in the 8th, and the ValleyCats never really threatened again, falling in the series opener to the Ironbirds, 3-1. It was the first time all season the ‘Cats had dropped three out of four games. Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of Carl, had two extra-base run-scoring hits to lead the way for Aberdeen, who came in winners of 10 of their last 14 games.
‘Cats Player of the Game: Kyle Westwood. In Westwood’s first appearance in front of a home crowd, he worked quickly and efficiently to get through his five innings. With the ‘Cats struggling, a lot of pressure has been on the pitching, but it did not seem to bother the 13th round pick of the Astros this year. The University of North Florida product had his third scoreless outing of the season, and registered three K’s.
July 8th: Win, 2-1/12 vs. Aberdeen: Once again, it was a struggle offensively for the ValleyCats. Once again, they couldn’t buy a hit with runners in scoring position. But on Monday night, it didn’t matter. In the 12th inning, with the score tied at one, as it had been since the 6th, Ryan Dineen hit the first walk-off home run for the ‘Cats since Chris Epps hit one against Mahoning Valley on August 10th, 2011, a span of 65 home games. It was Dineen’s first home run in 2013, and his first home run ever at The Joe, going back to last year. It was the second win for the ‘Cats on the homestand, both coming via walk-off victories. Before the dramatic and exciting ending, it was yet another game dominated by pitching. Randall Fant became the third straight ‘Cats starter to go at least four scoreless innings, as he went five, allowing four hits, walking none, and striking out two. Zach Morton, despite allowing the only Aberdeen run, pitched well, going four innings. And then came the pitching performance of the season for the ‘Cats. Richard Rodriguez, who has pitched well all year since being assigned to Tri-City from Quad Cities, entered in the 10th and struck out the side. He came out for the 11th, and did it again. He pitched the 12th, and registered two more K’s. All told, R-Rod struck out the first seven (!!!!!) hitters he faced, and finished the outing with eight overall. He received the win when Dineen sent the crowd on “Bark in the Park Night” home with a victory.
‘Cats Player of the Game: Even though I’m slightly tempted to pick Rodriguez, obviously it’s Dineen. Dineen is one of the hardest working guys on this team, and he had as good a homestand as anyone not named Tony Kemp offensively. His walk-off was a no-doubter, and a great way to end a really fun game to watch, especially with the ValleyCats in desperate need of win. They improved to 14-8 overall and 9-4 at home.
July 9th: Loss, 8-2/10 vs. Aberdeen: Despite the largest run differential in loss for the ‘Cats this year, this was another close game that they couldn’t quite get enough production to win. Appel made his second start in the 11 AM day game, and appeared more comfortable than he did in his first appearance. In what proved to be his final start with the team, Appel went three innings, allowed no runs, just three hits, and struck out five Ironbirds. His outing ended with an outfield assist from D’Andre Toney at the plate to end the third. Appel’s best pitch in the game was his slider, which was accountable for three of the five punch-outs. It was the 4th straight scoreless outing for a ValleyCats starter, equating to 18.1 IP. Offensively, the only two Tri-City runs came on a opposite-field Michael Martinez home run in the 4th inning, scoring Gregor and himself. For Martinez, it was his team-leading third home run. However, the ‘Cats continued to not get big hits late in games with runners on base. The team left runners at second and third in the 7th, an inning that included a questionable call for a safety squeeze from Chan Moon with one out. Moon’s bunt went right in the air to the pitcher Alex Santana. In the 9th inning, a strike ‘em out-throw ‘em out double play ended another potential game-winning scoring threat. Then came the ugliest inning of the season for Tri-City in the 10th. Kevin Comer, who had been in the game since the 7th inning, allowed two run-scoring singles, before departing. On the first pitch Pat Christensen threw, he gave up a home run (sound familiar?) to Anthony Vega, a three-run shot, to make the score 7-2 and out of reach for the ‘Cats. Aberdeen added one more for a 8-2 final.
‘Cats Player of the Game: Mark Appel. After his start, the #1 pick of the ‘Stros was promoted, as was expected, to Quad Cities, where he is slated to start on Sunday. Appel looked the role of the top selection in a draft on Tuesday, using his outstanding of command of his fastball, which topped out at around 95, and a devastating slider, that hitters had a difficult time picking up. In his two starts with the ‘Cats to begin his professional career, the righty finished with a line of five innings, six hits, two runs, no walks, and six strikeouts.
All in all, the ‘Cats were almost lucky to get out of the homestand at 2-4. The team went an almost-inconceivable 6-for-59 with RISP, which equates to a .102 average. They averaged just 2.5 runs per game, a complete cliff-dive for a team that was averaging 5.1 runs per game before the homestand. The bullpen needs to improve, and improve fast. In three of the four losses, the ‘Cats led going into the sixth inning, only to see that lead evaporate. The one true bright spot that came from the past six games for Tri-City was that the starters simply dominated. The six Tri-City starters, including Appel twice, gave up just five earned runs in 22.1 IP, which is a 2.02 ERA. For the time being, it is the pitching that is carrying the Tri-City ValleyCats. Despite the struggles, the team still finds itself on top of the Stedler Division standings with a record of 14-9, a half-game ahead of the Spinners before the ‘Cats play two in Mahoning Valley Thursday night. It was a homestand that thanks to a top draft pick from Stanford who happens to hail from Houston, will not soon be forgotten in ValleyCats history. More than a quarter of the way through the season, and the ‘Cats are still in great position to make it back to the New York-Penn League playoffs.
On Monday, the ‘Cats and Aberdeen Ironbirds played the second game of a three-game series on “Bark in the Park Night” at The Joe. All fans were invited to bring their four-legged friends to the park. A record number of dogs, 400, were in attendance for the action!
In honor of the promotion, displays from local animal hospitals, groomers, daycares, and supply companies were on hand. “Bark in the Park Night” was truly a can’t-miss night for any dog-lovers! We thank all of our fans who came to the game with “man’s best friend”!
Our Mayor’s Race had some added guests on Monday night, as some of our canine fans participated in the festivities! Check out the results of the race here.
On the field, the ‘Cats went into extras with the Ironbirds, with the score 1-1 in the 12th inning. With one out, ValleyCats third basemen Ryan Dineen “let the dogs out” with a solo home run to right field to win the game! For Dineen, it was his first home run of the season, and his first home run ever at The Joe! The ValleyCats improved to 14-8 with the dramatic victory.
Tuesday’s game got started just a little bit earlier than usual…11 AM to be exact. Why the early start? Well, it was one of the best days on any ValleyCats schedule: Camp Day! Over 4000 kids from many different summer camps in the area came out for what is definitely one of the loudest crowds of the season so far. All of the camps wore color-coded t-shirts, which created a very colorful atmosphere in the crowd!
From the moment they arrived, all of the campers kept the energy going in the unusual morning start-time, chanting “Vamos Gatos” and “Let’s Go ‘Cats” throughout the entire game!
During our 5th inning drag across the infield, our draggers performance was interrupted by the Tri-City Mayors! The draggers got cooled off by the Mayors, who came fully prepared with water-soakers. View the craziness here.
On the field, 2013 #1 overall pick Mark Appel made his second start for the ValleyCats. In three innings, the righty did not allow a run, only gave up three hits, and had five strikeouts! After the game, Appel was promoted to Class-A Quad Cities. We wish Mark all the best as he progresses towards making it to the Major Leagues, and are glad that his first stop in his professional career came with the ValleyCats!
Unfortunately, the ‘Cats couldn’t capture their extra-inning magic for the second straight game, as they fell in 10 inning to Aberdeen by a final of 8-2. The ‘Cats will return home on Wednesday, July 17th, against the Auburn Doubledays, which will kick off another exciting six-game home stand!
By Matt Appel (@mattappel)
Good morning ‘Cats fans! The ‘Cats and Ironbirds will wrap up a three-game series today, in one of two 11 AM starts this season. Mark Appel makes his second (and potentially last) start with the ValleyCats. Lots (and I mean lots) of screaming kids will be in attendance today, which should sufficiently wake up any players who might be tired after the late ending last night.
-Ryan Dineen was the hero last night, blasting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th. It was another offensive struggle, as the ‘Cats went 0-for-10 with RISP, but it didn’t matter, as Dineen picked a great time for his first home run at The Joe ever, as well as his first homer in 2012. The ‘Cats improved to 4-0 in extras this year.
-Mark Appel will look today to improve upon his first start, where his command and velocity were good, but the results weren’t quite there. Appel went two innings, threw 26 pitches while on a pitch count, and allowed two runs on three hits. One of the scouts here at the stadium clocked Appel, who was admittedly was nervous, at 98 MPH on the gun. It is expected to be another short outing for Mark.
-Richard Rodriguez had the performance of the year for the ‘Cats last night in relief. Coming into the game in the 10th inning with the score (obviously) tied, Rodriguez struck out the first 7 (!!!!!) hitters he faced, and wound up with 8 K’s in three innings. He received his second win of the year. R-Rod has really been tremendous out of the ‘pen.
-Day games are always interesting. Last year, Tri-City went 2-0 in the Camp Day matinees, and will come away with a series win if they can get an early win once again today. RHP Janser Severino goes for Aberdeen.
By Matt Appel (@mattappel)
Happy Monday, ‘Cats fans! It’s “Bark in the Park Night” as we certainly hope to see plenty of dogs at The Joe tonight. At the plate, the ValleyCats have lacked any type of bite at the plate since the calendar turned over to July. After another loss, and just four hits, Ed Romero held a closed-door meeting with the team to stress focus and concentration in important spots, where the ValleyCats have really struggled recently.
-How much have they struggled, exactly? In their last two games, both losses, the ‘Cats are just 3-for-25 with RISP. That was the main topic, according to Romero, of the post-game discussion. However, going back to the 5th inning of Saturday’s loss against Lowell, Tri-City has plated just one run in the last thirteen innings.
-The ‘Cats were the best team in the all of the NYPL in June, but July has been a totally different animal. They’re just 2-5 in the month, and their .222 batting average represents the fourth lowest in the league over those seven games. After hitting 11 HR in their first 14 games, the power has gone out for the ‘Cats. They’ve hit just two homers in the past seven games.
-How about Kyle Westwood last night? Five innings, no runs, one hit. He lowered his ERA to a minuscule 0.49, which is the lowest in the New York-Penn League. Which brings me to my next point…
-The ‘Cats pitching has really been phenomenal of late. While the offense has clearly struggled mightily recently, the pitching is certainly doing its part. The Tri-City pitchers have a 2.64 ERA in July, which is third lowest in the league. The team currently in town, Aberdeen, has the lowest at 1.64.
-There was a point in this season where the ‘Cats seemed to score at least eight or nine runs a night. Well despite that hot streak, the team has failed to score three runs in nine of their 21 games, which is a rather high percentage. The team’s record in those nine games? 1-8.
The ValleyCats continued their six-game homestand on Sunday night at “The Joe”, and for the second time this season, it was “Sunday Funday at The Joe”! Fans were invited to come out onto the field and play catch before the game.
It was also Relay for Life Night at the ballpark, as the ValleyCats were wearing special purple and white jerseys. Fans could bid on the jerseys during the game, and the proceeds of the winning bids will go the Relay for the Life and the American Cancer Society. Thank you so much to all of those who bid on the game-worn jerseys!
Before the game, survivors of cancer from the American Cancer Society took a lap around the stadium as a way to raise awareness for those who have or are currently battling cancer. We were so glad to see members from the American Cancer Society in the ballpark on Sunday!
We were also glad to be joined by two professional LPGA golfers, Haley Milsap and Kendall Dye! They each threw out a ceremonial first pitch. Also, during the game, they both participated in a chipping contest on the field, in which Haley won!
On the field, the ‘Cats lost their second straight by a final of 3-1 to the Aberdeen Ironbirds. Despite the loss, ValleyCats pitcher Kyle Westwood had a great outing, in which he went five innings and allowed just one hit. Westwood now leads the New York-Penn League with a fantastic 0.68 ERA.
By Matt Appel (@mattappel)
Happy Sunday Funday, ‘Cats fans! The ValleyCats suffered a brutal loss last night, as a 3-0 9th inning lead evaporated with one swing of the bat from Lowell second baseman Cleuluis Rondon, as he launched a grand slam into the Spinner bullpen. The ‘Cats comeback fell short in the ninth, and the Spinners got out of town with a series victory, thanks to a dramatic effort. Tonight, the Aberdeen Ironbirds are in town. It is the first time all season the ‘Cats will take on a team from outside the Stedler Division. The Ironbirds, the Baltimore Orioles affiliate, are second in the McNamara Division with a record of 10-9.
-Four stolen bases again last night for the ‘Cats, which brings their total over the past two games to 8. Tri-City is now 5th in the league with 23 steals.
-What a job done by Andrew Thurman and Michael Feliz last night. Between the two righty’s, just one run and three hits allowed in 8.1 IP. Feliz was especially spectacular, retiring 10 straight at one point, with six strikeouts. He is now tied for first in the league with 25 K’s, and would have tied the league mark for wins had the ‘Cats held on.
-Tri-City needs to improve with RISP. A 2-for-13 effort last night doomed the ‘Cats, as they couldn’t muster any insurance runs once the team went up 3-0. 11 men left on base is never a good ingredient in a win, which the ‘Cats of course did not come away with last night.
The ValleyCats had a special guest for Saturday’s game as baseball great, Tommy John joined us for a fundraiser to benefit ALS. He mingled with guests and signed autographs in the Diamond Club for this special meet & greet. This event was in conjunction with the Strike Out Lou Gehrig’s Disease program, an official initiative of Minor League Baseball Charities.
The excitement started early on Thursday as the #1 overall pick in the MLB draft, Mark Appel, was welcomed to Tri-City with a pre-game press conference in the Diamond Club. Mark met the Capital Region media with his family in attendance and was introduced by ValleyCats Vice President/General Manager, Rick Murphy, before team President, Bill Gladstone, gave him his #28 jersey. Manager, Ed Romero, was also on hand to talk about Appel joining the team.
A packed house of 6,384 fans created a patriotic atmosphere as we celebrated Independence Day at “The Joe” on Thursday night. The homestand, kicked off with a bang . . . literally! Fireworks were the theme of the night and punctuated a great anthem rendition by Lucy Gladstone.
Sunmark FCU was the game sponsor with representative Jay Singh throwing out a ceremonial first pitch.
The Tri-City Mayors got into the spirit with patriotic garb and a throw down to James Brown’s “Living in America.” Nice moves fellas! Hot dog eating champion, Joey Chestnut, had room for one more hot dog as he took off with relish during the Helmbold’s Hot Dog Race.
On the field , the ‘Cats fell to the Lowell Spinners, 4-2. It was the second straight loss for the ‘Cats, who struggled getting the timely hit. The ValleyCats fell to 12-6 on the season after the Lowell victory.
Following the game and the 25 Silver Ball Launch, we had our annual July 4th fireworks display set to a soundtrack of patriotic music. As always, the Price Chopper fireworks were a hit!
The ‘Cats were back at it on Friday for the much anticipated professional debut of Mark Appel. Authenticators from Major League Baseball were in the house to verify and collect an assortment of game used items; including: baseballs, lineup cards, dirt from the pitchers mound, and of course Mark’s hat and jersey. It was interesting to see this process unfold as they preserved this memorabilia in the dugout and clubhouse.
Friday’s game was presented by CSEA and was also our annual Veterans Night. The Albany & Stratton VA Medical Hospital was on hand for a “Welcome Home” celebration and provided 1,000 tickets for veterans of all eras.
The pre-game ceremonies began with the unveiling of a seat in Section 100 that was dedicated to military personnel who were taken as prisoners of war or listed as missing in action. This seat will never be sold and will be symbol of those who sacrificed their lives for the freedoms that we enjoy. ‘Cats VP/GM, Rick Murphy, was joined by Army veterans (and ValleyCats ushers), Mike Pickett and Joe Carl, for the dedication.
Donald Stuart, Associate Director of the VA, was joined by several other veterans employed by the VA, as he welcomed the veterans in attendance and invited them to stand. ValleyCats fans gave them a wonderful ovation to thank them for their service to our nation.
Students from the Music Studio also performed a tribute to veterans on the field as part of the festivities.
Sergeant First Class Glenn Read, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, was honored with a ceremonial first pitch. Airman First Class, Lauren Minholz, in the 109th Airwing, was also recognized and fired a first pitch strike of her own.
Prior to the National Anthem, the Patriot Guard Riders entered the field and formed a flag line on the warning track. They rode on to a standing ovation and made for a phenomenal visual. The Army National Guard presented the colors and Vietnam veteran, Freddie Ingleton, invited the crowd to join him in the singing of our National Anthem.
The tribute to veterans continued throughout the night with Airman Minholz doing her best to drill the Tri-City Mayors into shape. Another veteran, E.J. Haley, provided a stirring rendition of God Bless America during the 7th inning and the post-game fireworks once again featured a patriotic soundtrack.
On the field , Appel went two innings in his debut, allowing two runs on three hits. After the game, he said that overall, he was pleased with the outing. The ‘Cats came back three different times against the Spinners, and won the game in the 10th inning on a wild play. With a runner at third, ‘Cats catcher Luis Alvarez swung and missed at a two-strike pitch, but it the pitch was wild, and went to the backstop, allowing the winning run to score, as the ValleyCats won, 5-4!
By Matt Appel (@mattappel)
At long last, it is finally #MarkAppelDay! At 7:00 pm (approximately), Mark Appel, the first overall pick of the 2013 MLB Draft, will begin his professional baseball career with the ValleyCats. While Appel is reportedly on a 30-pitch limit in this outing, it will still mark the beginning of what has the potential to be a long and successful career.
-I’ll be joined after Appel’s start in the radio booth by Astros Assistant General Manager David Stearns, to break down Mark’s outing, as well as discuss where the Astros are as an organization right now.
-ValleyCats come into this one struggling a little, losers of three of their last four, while scoring no more than two runs in any of those games. For a team that has relied so much on its offense, there has been little extra base production, or production of any sorts since the calendar turned to July. We’ll see if that changes tonight.
-If I had to guess, we might have a bigger crowd tonight for Appel’s start than we did for July 4th last night, which is saying something. The crowd outside the gate before they were opened was tremendous.
-Quick scouting report that haven’t seen Appel pitch yet: 98 MPH fastball (we won’t see that tonight), a wipeout slider from 84-86, and a changeup at 82-84. All three pitches are potential strikeout pitches for the righty.
Mark Matt Appel (@mattappel)
Happy Independence Day, ‘Cats fans! Lots of excitement at the ballpark today, as we have our July 4th Fireworks Extravaganza after the game today, and a sellout crowd is expected as always. But also, we just happen to have the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft in the building, as Mark Appel arrived today for his introductory press conference. He will make his debut tomorrow.
-Jake Rodriguez, ValleyCats catcher, faced Appel twice this year and was 2-for-2 off of him. He said the key to hitting Appel is to do it early in the game, because once he settles in, there’s nothing you can do. Appel will be on a shortened pitch count tomorrow (Ed Romero guessed around 30), but we’ll see if that holds up in a smaller sample size.
-I got the chance to speak to Mark for a little bit before the game. Aside from talking about how many times we were referred to as “Apple” in our childhoods, I asked him about the pressures of being a #1 overall pick. He said he doesn’t quite ignore it, but he can’t read too much into it as well. More on Appel in tomorrow’s PGM.
-July 4th at The Joe as become a Capital Region tradition of sorts, as the ‘Cats have played every 4th since 2005 here at home. During that time, the ‘Cats are 6-2. The Spinners have twice been the victim of a July 4th loss at the hands of Tri-City, in 2005 and 2006. They will look to buck that trend tonight.
-Dan Gulbransen, not surprisingly was promoted before the series started. Good luck to Dan, who will take his talents, and .397 batting average, to Quad Cities.
-Batting Practice Hero: Chan Moon hit a bomb, and then followed it up with a beautiful running drag bunt down the first base line.
By Matt Appel (@mattappel)
On July 4th, fireworks will be set off, hot dogs and hamburgers will be grilled and consumed en masse, and a beer or two will be enjoyed. The occasion? Mark Appel’s much anticipated-arrival in Tri-City, of course. Did you have something else in mind?
On Thursday, the 1st overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft will be present at The Joe, as he begins his professional career with the ValleyCats. Appel is slated to start on Friday against the Lowell Spinners, which will be the first appearance of what has the potential to be a long and memorable career. The 6’5″, 215 pound righty went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA with four complete games and two shutouts. He struck out 130 hitters and held the opposition to a .203 batting average.
Appel will become the highest-drafted player (obviously) to ever play for the ValleyCats. The other Houston first round picks that have been assigned to Tri-City in the team’s tenure in Troy are Brian Bogusevic (now with the Cubs) in 2005, Jason Castro and Jordan Lyles in 2008, and George Springer in 2011. Once Springer gets a call up from AAA Oklahoma City, a move that might happen before year’s end, all of those players will have reached the Majors, a streak that Appel will aim to keep going.
What does Appel’s assignment to Tri-City mean for the ValleyCats? Well, it puts them at the center of the Astros universe for at least a night, as the potential future ace of the organization begins his path to Houston. While he will reportedly be on a very strict pitch count on Friday, Appel’s start will be one not soon forgotten for all in attendance, which should be quite a few.
For those not familiar with Appel on the mound, he is one of the more polished pitchers to emerge from the college ranks in recent memory. A First-Team All-Pac 12 selection in 2012 and 2013, Appel also holds the Stanford record for strikeouts, with 370. A smooth delivery from the righty allows a fastball that tops out at 98 MPH to often jump at hitters. A slider that has improved tremendously since arriving at Stanford is an out pitch that can generate many swings and misses. Appel’s third pitch is a changeup, that while it still requires some tweaking, projects as at least an average pitch, according to Baseball America’s scouting report. Before he takes the mound on Friday, make sure you check out Appel’s official prospect video from Steve Fiorindo.
The player comparison that has been made most often for Appel is another right-hander named Mark from a California college; Mark Prior. While Prior’s career, by almost all accounts, was an unfulfilled disappointment, the amount of potential he showed (and executed on, early in his career) is encouraging for Astros fans to have Appel compared to. Prior would most likely still have been a top-of-the rotation starter will multiple All-Star appearances and maybe even a Cy Young nod, if not for a most unfortunate string of injuries, that have stalled him even to this day. If Appel can reach the level, even on a semi-consistant basis, that Prior did in 2003, when the Cubs righty went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA, then the pick will be a clear-cut success for Houston.
2013 marked the third time Appel, a Houston native (yes, how perfect is that), was drafted. In 2009, the Tigers took him with their 15th round selection, but he opted to go through on his commitment to Stanford. Then, in 2012, when Appel was expected by almost everyone to be picked 1st overall by Houston, he slid to 8th overall because of a perceived tough negotiation process with agent Scott Boras. After opting to return to Palo Alto for his senior year, the calculated risk has appeared to pay off, as Appel became the first Cardinal player to go first overall in the MLB Draft. The Astros simply could not afford to pass on him twice.
By the time Appel fires his first pitch Friday night at The Joe, it will have been 42 days since he last threw in a game that mattered. That last start came on May 24th against UCLA, a 2-1 Stanford victory, in which Appel received his 10th win of the season, and became the Cardinal strikeout king. So, don’t be surprised if there is a little rust. Don’t be surprised if Appel doesn’t strike out every batter he faces on three pitches. Rather, pay attention to mechanics, velocity, movement, and the beginning of what should be a fruitful and achievement-laced career.
Mark Appel might very well go on to be the most successful ValleyCat in the Major Leagues of all time, and could arrive (for real, not just for a press conference) at Minute Maid Park as early as next season. He has the potential to join the ranks of Pence, Zobrist, even Jeter and Rivera, as very accomplished MLB players whose path there included a stop in the Capital District. His ceiling is that of a #1 or very, very good #2 starter. He has learned from the same pitching coach that made Stephen Strasburg the pitching talent of a generation. There is certainly a great deal of pressure on Appel, who is expected to be at the forefront of the Astros’ return to competitiveness. However, all that matters for right now is the reality of the player deemed “the best” in the most recent draft will begin his career wearing a Tri-City ValleyCats jersey. Doesn’t get much exciting than that, folks.
(And no, there is no known relation between myself and Mark. And if there is, then I certainly got robbed of any and all athletic genes.)
Despite some challenges from the weather (Friday’s game was rained out and Sunday’s delayed), ValleyCats fans were treated to some exciting baseball and lots of fun at “The Joe” this weekend. Special thank you to the many fans who donned umbrellas to wait out a delayed start on Sunday evening. And of course a tip of the cap to our grounds crew, the boys from Brickman, for all their work in getting the field ready.
Sunday marked our first Sunday Funday of the season with families from all over the Capital Region in attendance. Sunday was also Hall of Fame Night with our friends from Cooperstown joining us for the day. The Frank & Peggy Steele Internship Class of 2013 participated in a special presentation prior to the game as ‘Cats President, Bill Gladstone, VP/GM, Rick Murphy, and Manager, Ed Romero, each addressed the group in the Picnic Pavilion.