By Matt Appel (@mattappel)
After a 1-0 win over the Renegades in Hudson Valley last night, the ValleyCats had played their 38th game, which is half of the regular season games on their 2013 schedule. It has certainly been a first half to remember in Troy, as for the second straight season, the ValleyCats have the best record in the New York-Penn League at the halfway mark. Their 26-12 mark has been led by a league-best pitching staff, strong defense, and enough hitting to get by in almost every game. Let’s take an in-depth examination of how the ValleyCats have emerged as the team to beat in the season’s first half.
Pitching: Through the first 38 team games, the Tri-City pitching staff has registered a 2.51 ERA, the best in the league. In 334.0 innings, ValleyCats pitchers have allowed just 274 hits and a league-low 64 walks, for a total of 338 base runners. That equates to a 1.01 WHIP, by far the best mark amongst the 14 teams in the league. In fact, the next closest team is Brooklyn, who allow 1.15 base runners per inning. In 15 games, well over one-third of the season thus far, opposing teams have scored two or fewer runs, and un-surprisingly, the ‘Cats are 14-1 in those games. In 22 games, which is more than half the slate, the ValleyCats hurlers have surrendered three or fewer runs, resulting in wins 18 times in that span.
The most runs that the ‘Cats have given up in a game this year is eight on July 9th versus Aberdeen, but even that contest was tied at two heading into extras before the Ironbirds erupted for six runs in the tenth. Outside of that game (or really, one inning), no opponent has scored more than five runs in any game. In an unbelievable stretch, ValleyCats starting pitchers went 48.2 scoreless innings from July 5th until July 15th. Yes, you read that correctly. The ‘Cats were 8-3 during that streak.
The ValleyCats have had ten starters for most of the year, as a piggybacking system has been implemented throughout the Astros organization this season. With so many starters getting a considerable amount of innings, you would figure that a few are bound to get knocked around a little bit. However, of the eleven pitchers to start at least two games for the ‘Cats this year, 2013 #1 overall pick Mark Appel included, all of them have ERA’s under 5.00, ten of them have ERA’s under 4.00, and nine have ERA’s of 3.00 or less. It is hard to determine who has been the most impressive of the starters. Michael Feliz is among the league-leaders in ERA and strikeouts. There is Tanner Bushue, the NYPL Pitcher of the Week of the week ending July 14th, who has the lowest WHIP in the NYPL at 0.76, just barely ahead of Feliz at 0.90. Even though he doesn’t have enough innings to qualify, Chris Cotton has dazzled on the mound, allowing just one earned run in his first 17.2 IP, good for a 0.51 ERA. Zach Morton has a 1.07 ERA in seven appearances. Andrew Thurman has looked the part of a second round draft pick. The list goes on and on…
Out of the bullpen, Chia-Jen Lo was dominating during his rehab stint with the team, registering four saves. Richard Rodriguez has a 16:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13.2 IP. J.D. Osborne has been amazing since his call-up from Greenville, striking out the side in two of his three appearances, and looks to be the closer of this team going forward. The depth of this pitching staff has put the ValleyCats in a most favorable of positions to be the favorite to take home the NYPL title come September.
Offense: After the ValleyCats scored 30 runs in their first four games, they had the look of an unstoppable machine. While they have certainly come back to earth in their last 34 games, they are still formidable, albeit somewhat streaky. Dan Gulbransen led the way early before a much-earned promotion. In 15 games, the second-year ‘Cat hit .397 with three HR and 13 RBI. He was named the NYPL Player of the Week for the week ending on June 30th, a seven-day span in which he hit .500 with two homers and eight runs driven in. Since his promotion, the offense has at times struggled to put up runs consistently, but still rank third in the league in runs scored. Tony Kemp, the fifth round pick of the Astros this year, has been the team’s best player since Opening Day. He has appeared in all 38 games, and has been a run-generator like no other player on this team. The 2013 SEC Player of the Year is hitting .287/.364/.364 with one HR, 12 RBI, 22 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases. While he is in a little slump right now (9-for-41 in his last ten games), he projects to be the most important player offensively at the top of the Tri-City lineup for Ed Romero.
Michael Martinez has become the every-day cleanup hitter for the ‘Cats, and for good reason. Despite just a .242 average, Martinez leads the club with five HR and 18 RBI. The 36th round pick in 2012 of the Astros has hit one-fifth of the longballs for the ValleyCats, who lead the league in home runs with 25. In a lineup that is very left-handed heavy, Martinez can been able to balance the order with a good amount of pop from the right side. James Ramsay has also been a very consistent and reliable player for the ‘Cats offensively. Thanks to a .419 average in his last ten games, the seventh round pick of Houston this year has a team-best .304 average (amongst league qualifiers). In 32 games, mostly in center field, Ramsay has two HR and 14 RBI, and has walked more than he has struck out. A prototypical two-hole hitter, Ramsay’s production has picked up as he has become more accustomed to professional play.
Conrad Gregor has shown great potential in spurts this year, but is still without a great stretch of games consecutively. The first baseman is hitting .243/.364/.287 with just one homer and 14 RBI. If the ‘Cats can get Gregor, their number three hitter in the lineup just about every day, to get into a solid groove, their offensive production figures to drastically improve.
The Tri-City lineup has proved, for the most part, to be pretty top-heavy, which would be one improvement the team could make going forward. Chan Moon has done a very good job at short, and provides a little relief in his typical spot at the bottom of the order. Ryan Dineen, Jon Kemmer, and the catching duo of Ernesto Genoves and Jake Rodriguez have all had streaks, but as a whole, are not totally reliable from game to game to produce offense. Kemmer appears to be coming on with two homers in his last four games, but is still hitting just .206.
The ValleyCats are averaging 4.39 runs per game at the half way mark, and that run total has seemed to represent a magic number. When scoring at least four runs, the team is 20-1. With runners in scoring position, the ‘Cats rank sixth in the league with a .244 average, which is a spot that the team could stand to improve in the second half as well. There was a week-and-a-half span from July 2nd through July 9th in which the ‘Cats didn’t eclipse five runs scored in any game, scoring two runs or fewer seven times. The offense at points has looked lethal, and at other points, has been a weakness on this team. If they strike a balance in the second half, their chances of being crowned champions can only improve.
Defense: While the aforementioned strength of the ValleyCats pitching is well-documented, some of the credit belongs to the great play of the team in the field. So far, Tri-City has a league-best .977 fielding percentage, and has made just 33 errors, tied for State College for the fewest in the league. Conrad Gregor at first, Tony Kemp at second, and Ryan Dineen at third, have all played exceptionally well with the glove. As a team, the ‘Cats have allowed just 20 unearned runs, second fewest only to Aberdeen’s 15. ValleyCats catchers have allowed just two passed balls this year, fewest in the NYPL. They have also thrown out 44% of would-be stealers, the second-highest clip of any team. Great pitching can sometimes be hindered by sub-par defense, especially at this level, but that has not been the case for the ValleyCats in the first half.
Now it’s time for a staple of every midseason recap: the meaningless award/prediction section!
MVP: It’s got to be Tony Kemp. Other players on the roster have been either very hot or very cold for a week at a time, while Kemp has been a consistent (for the overwhelming majority of the time) force leading off for the ‘Cats. It would be a mild upset if Kemp were not named to the All-Star team in a few weeks. Between his contributions at the plate and in the field, the Tri-City second baseman gets the nod here. Runner Up: Michael Martinez.
Cy Young: Michael Feliz, who, mind you, is just 19 years of age, has been the best pitcher for the ‘Cats this season. In fact, you could make a case he’s been the league’s best pitcher as well. Despite being just 3-2 on the season, Feliz has been phenomenal since the year began. His worst start was a five-inning, two-run performance on July 23rd in Hudson Valley. Feliz has over a 6:1 K:BB ratio in 33.1 IP. His 1.62 ERA is the second-lowest in the league. He is holding opposing hitters to a .200 batting average. Did I mention that he is 19 years old? I did? Well, it needed to be said again. Runner Up: Tanner Bushue (I would have gone with Cotton, but he’s only been with the team for three weeks-ish).
Game of the 1st Half: The game of the first half comes all the way back on June 20th, the ValleyCats first road game of the season. Playing in Lowell, the ‘Cats were trailing 5-0 going into the top of the eighth. They scored three times in that inning, and then scored twice more in the ninth to complete the incredible comeback, pulling even with the Spinners. In the 11th, the ‘Cats scored three times to take an 8-5 lead, which would wind up being the final. The five-run comeback is the biggest deficit the team has overcome this year. Runner Up: A 2-1 win on July 8th over Aberdeen which featured Ryan Dineen’s walk-off HR
Moment of the First Half: This is as predictable as it gets, but it has to be the debut of Mark Appel on July 5th. Appel became the first #1 overall pick to play for the ValleyCats when he started that night against Lowell. Appel received a no-decision in both of his starts, but they will go down as two of the most memorable no-decisions in team history. Runner Up: Dineen’s walk-off homer. 2nd Runner Up (because that play already was mentioned): Jon Kemmer making a crazy catch up against the left field wall in the top of the ninth of a 4-3 win over Hudson Valley on July 22nd to preserve the ‘Cats lead.
2nd Half Predictions: It would be an incredible turn of events if the ValleyCats don’t go on to win the Stedler Division. However, anything can happen (just ask the 2010 ‘Cats about that). I think the team will hold on to win their second straight division championship, a first in team history. Tony Kemp, Michael Feliz, Michael Martinez, James Ramsay, Chris Cotton and Tanner Bushue get named to the All-Star team. Towards the middle of next month, in a repeat of what happened last year, some of the team’s better players will start to get called up and damage the chemistry of the team slightly. They will still end the year with the best record in the NYPL, locking up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Unless the entire pitching staff gets called up, it’s hard to not envision the ValleyCats not walking away with the organization’s second title in four years at season’s end.
By Matt Appel (@mattappel)
Greetings from Dutchess Stadium in Wappinger Falls, NY, everyone! The ‘Cats and Renegades will go at it again tonight, after a 4-3 Tri-City loss last night. The ValleyCats trailed 4-1 going into the ninth, rallied for two, but ultimately couldn’t complete the comeback.
-The ‘Cats offense has been streaky for almost all year, which can sometimes be conducive to losing streaks. However, the pitching of this squad has not really allowed that to happen. The team is 9-2 after a loss this year, so the odds are in favor of the ValleyCats evening up the series with a win tonight. Recent history would also tell us that the ‘Cats will win the next two games as well, seeing as how the ValleyCats lost both of the first games of series play against Auburn and these Renegades on their most recent home stand, but won both sets.
-Didn’t get a chance to pass this along yesterday, but there are a few roster changes to note. INF Jose Fernandez, who has been injured for a great deal of this season, has been assigned to the GCL Astros. Catcher Brett Booth, the 34th round pick of Houston this year from Alabama (Roll Tide!), is now with the ‘Cats, after hitting .308 in 52 AB’s in the GCL. Booth is starting tonight. He came up and introduced himself to me during BP, and when I asked him if he was excited to be with the ValleyCats, he told me yes. His main reasoning? “Better than waking up at 6 AM for breakfast every day in Florida.”
-Very different looking lineup for the ‘Cats tonight. Tony Kemp leads off, which is to be expected, but for the first time this year, he is not playing second; he’s actually playing left. Kemp started off in Vanderbilt as an outfielder, so it shouldn’t be too hard of an adjustment, just as it wasn’t for his BFF Conrad Gregor. Chan Moon hits second tonight, as opposed to ninth where he usually bats. Both Adam Nelubowich and Thomas Lindauer are in the lineup tonight (Nelubowich at 3rd, Lindauer at 2nd), for the first time I can recall this year.
-James Ramsay has been on fire recently. In his last ten games, the seventh round pick of the Astros this year is 12-for-31, which comes out to .387. He didn’t start last night, but did pinch hit for D’Andre Toney in the eighth, and wound up going 2-for-2, including a two-RBI single in ninth. He now leads the team (amongst qualifying players) with a .296 average.
-Despite letting up two runs in the eighth last night, Andrew Thurman wow’d the road crowd here in relief, striking out six of the first seven hitters he faced. While statistics would suggest both him and Michael Feliz (who got the loss) struggled, both pitched well enough to win.
-Batting Practice Hero: Conrad Gregor hit a home run over the high wall in right-center today, so we’ll give it to him. This park, while having the same dimensions as “The Joe,” features higher fences in right and center, so it appears slightly harder to hit the ball out of Dutchess Stadium.
-Chris Cotton and Kyle Westwood on the mound for the ‘Cats tonight. Statistically speaking, this has been the team’s most dominating duo, as Cotton is 2-1 with a 0.73 ERA, while Westwood is 1-1 with a 1.13 ERA. Both ERA’s would be good for the current league-lead if either had enough innings. Tri-City is just 2-2 when Cotton/Westwood pitch, but all four games have been low-scoring, one-or-two-run decisions.
-The rivalry between the ‘Cats and Renegades has picked up in recent years, but I will say this: the pre-game music here at “The Dutch,” as it’s called, has been impressive. Today’s lineup featured “Stacy’s Mom”, “1985″, “Sugar We’re Going Down,” to name a few of some forgotten classics of the early 2000′s. “Nowhere Man” by The Beatles even made an appearance.
While the team was at home for the past week, our Street Team and Southpaw were participating in many different exciting events in the area as part of the ‘Cats Care program!
SouthPaw was able to meet some of the E. Stewart Jones Community Heroes that were honored on the field this past Monday night while visiting them around the region.
SouthPaw and the Street Team were busy this weekend visiting three separate AT&T locations. They were at the Central Ave store, the Glenmont store, and the East Greenbush store. Both the ValleyCat staff and the AT&T employees were excited to celebrate SouthPaw’s birthday on Sunday at SouthPaw’s Birthday Bash Game presented by AT&T! SouthPaw also got to “drive” on the Texting and Driving simulator at each store. This simulator was at the game on Sunday night as well. Turns out SouthPaw does not text and drive- Way to go SouthPaw!
Our Mayor Jennings head made it to the Alive at Five festival on July 18th. Though criticized for not being tan enough, and often being mistaken for Bill Clinton, the Mayor Jennings head was a hit. This particular Alive at Five was to christen the riverfront park as “Jennings Landing”, in honor of the retiring politician.
The Street Team made their way out to Downtown Schenectady this past Friday to join the thousands of Schenectady residents who were celebrating the beautiful summer night. Amidst the jugglers from Proctors, the dancers from Radio Disney, and the live band, the Street Team set up their inflatable and giveaway table to add to the great fun going on around them. The night ended with an intense fireworks show mixed with lightning.
The Street Team and SouthPaw continue to visit Crossgates Mall every Tuesday morning to jam out with 95.5 and the children of the Kids Club. The ValleyCats provide activity books and giveaways for those who participate. Still no Hot Potato wins for SouthPaw.
The ‘Cats and Renegades wrapped up their three-game series on Monday on Capital Region Baseball Heritage Night at The Joe! We had a very special giveaway in honor of the celebration of baseball in the area: a 1994 Albany-Colonie Yankees Mariano Rivera bobblehead! Fans started lining up at 12:15 to make sure that one of the limited edition Heritage Series bobbleheads was theirs to take home! Thank you to all the fans who waited patiently for the gates to open!
During the pre-game ceremonies, we honored nine local people who were named E. Stewart Jones Community Heroes for the outstanding work they do in the area. We were so honored to be joined on the field by Ryan French, Faye Reynolds, James E. Welch, Paul Kirwin, Jeremy Walton, Ralph Southworth, Domenico Adami, Tammy Roberts, and Chad Tromblee, all of whom were presented with awards. These folks were nominated by others in the region to receive this honor for their hard work. ValleyCats General Manager/Vice President Rick Murphy and E. Stewart Jones himself were on hand to hand out the awards. The ValleyCats and E. Stewart Jones look forward to making this recognition of local heroes an annual tradition at The Joe!
In honor of the Rivera bobblehead, our Mayors Race had a Mariano theme to it Monday night. The mayors came out of the bullpen to Rivera’s entrance music, “Enter Sandman.” After re-enacting a Rivera save, Mayor Jennings went kung-fu on us to take home the win.
Black & White Taxi made an on-field appearance during one of our t-shirt tosses, and gave away some great t-shirts to the sellout crowd!
On the field, the ‘Cats were facing Castleton, NY native Jaime Schultz on the mound. Schultz, who pitched in high school for Maple Hill, was the 14th round draft pick of the Rays this year. In the 2nd, Jon Kemmer interrupted the homecoming by blasting an absolute moonshot to deep right-center, this third homer of the year, which gave the ‘Cats a 2-0 lead. Despite an hour rain delay in the eighth, the ‘Cats held on for a 4-3 win, as Tanner Bushue picked up his third win of the season. The ValleyCats improved to a league-best 24-11 with the victory!
The ‘Cats now head on the road for a five-game trip through Hudson Valley and Vermont. They will return home Sunday, which is Breast Cancer Awareness at The Joe! Player will be wearing Astros throw-back themed pink jerseys, which will be auction off after the game! To get your tickets and your chance to take home a game-worn ValleyCats jersey, call the stadium box office at 518-629-CATS!
By Matt Appel (@mattappel)
Hey ‘Cats fans! Hope your Monday is going well. It’s Capital Region Baseball Heritage Night here at The Joe, as the first 1500 fans in attendance received Mariano Rivera bobbleheads! Mo played for the Albany-Colonie Yankees in 1994. This is the second installment of the Heritage Bobblehead Series, with Derek Jeter being last year’s giveaway.
-A night after getting burned in the seventh, the ‘Cats responded with a huge seventh inning of their own last night. Great to see Ronnie Mitchell back in the lineup, a left-handed run producer in the middle of the order. Mitchell, who is still a few days away from playing in the field, went 3-for-4 yesterday with 3 RBI.
-Tonight will go along way in the perception of this homestand the rest of the year. If the ‘Cats can knock off the Renegades for the second straight night, they’ll finish the six-game swing at 4-2, and everything is peachy. Should they lose, they’ll split the homestand 3-3, and accomplished nothing but shaving six games off the schedule, which granted, isn’t the worst outcome. The goal, obviously, is to win series though. The ‘Cats have a four-game lead on Lowell entering tonight.
-Came across a stat today that is very, very telling of the ValleyCats success so far. In 23 of their 34 games this year, Tri-City starters have gone at least four innings with no more than one earned run allowed. Not surprisingly, the ValleyCats have 23 wins on the season. While they haven’t won every single of the aforementioned starts, you’re going to find yourself on the right side of the scoreboard more often than not when your starters continuously throw zero’s on the board.
-Michael Martinez homered for the second straight night last night, becoming only the second ValleyCats player to have a “homer streak” this season, joining James Ramsay on June 26th-27th. Martinez has truly found a home in that cleanup role, as he is leading the club in both longballs and runs driven in.
-Conrad Gregor is in left again tonight. I would imagine he will be out there every night until Ronnie Mitchell is able to play the field again. With the way Martinez is hitting right now, you have to play him, and first base is the place to do so while Ronnie is forced to DH. To his credit, Gregor hasn’t look overwhelmed in the outfield so far in the two games he’s been there.
-Tanner Bushue starts tonight for the ‘Cats, and might be the second best pitcher on the squad this year after Michael Feliz. Bushue has been in the Astros system for longer than most of the guys on this roster, and something seems to have finally clicked this year. Bushue’s control so far has been impeccable, shown in the fact that he’s leading the league in WHIP. We’ll also see Adrian Houser tonight, who has been solid as well.
-Let’s all take a second and be thankful that tonight wasn’t Ryan Braun bobblehead night.
Before the game action last night, the ValleyCats hosted a Chevy Youth Clinic at The Joe in the morning. The kids in attendance got a chance to work on their baseball skills with some of the players! Afterwards, our campers got lunch in the Picnic Pavilion, and were joined by the team!
It was another exciting Sunday Funday at The Joe! As always, kids were welcomed to play catch on the field before the game, and we had our biggest turnout of the season! Kids also ran the bases after the final out.
It was Southpaw’s birthday on Sunday! He fired a birthday first pitch, and afterwards was surprised with a gift from his mascot friends! Southpaw had a great time on his special day! Our 5th inning drag was even themed in honor of Southpaw’s birthday!
In the Mayor’s Race, Spiedie the Chicken got involved and tripped up Mayor Jennings and Mayor Rosamilia, allowing Mayor McCarthy to walk home with the victory! Sporty was having none of the argument from the losing mayors.
The sponsor of yesterday’s game was AT&T, who came to the stadium with a simulator to show the dangers of texting and driving. It is a part of their “It Can Wait” campaign to spread awareness of the harm of texting while driving. Assemblyman John McDonald threw out a first pitch as a guest of AT&T and a supporter of the “It Can Wait” campaign!
The Jackson family from East Durham, NY won a VIP Experience from AT&T, and their sons, Conor and Tyler, both threw out a first pitch! They later joined ‘Cats radio man Matt Appel in the broadcast booth for an inning!
On the field, the ‘Cats used a five-run seventh inning to get past the Renegades, 9-3. In his first game in a week, Ronnie Mitchell went 3-for-4 with 3 RBI, including a bases-clearing double in the seventh. Michael Martinez homered for the second day in a row, and Ernesto Genoves added a solo HR for the ValleyCats, who improved to 23-11 with the win. Evan Grills pitched five innings of solid ball to receive the win!
Tonight is Capital Region Baseball Heritage Night, and the giveaway is one to remember: a 1994 Albany-Colonie Yankees Mariano Rivera bobblehead! It is the second bobblehead in the Heritage Series, after a Derek Jeter bobblehead was given out last year. The first 1, 500 fans in attendance will receive their own limited edition Rivera collectable. We advise fans to get to the ballpark early to make sure they don’t miss out on this special promotion! Here is the policy for tonight’s giveaway. We’ll have pre-game entertainment outside the stadium for those who show up early! Tickets are almost gone, so call the stadium box office at 518-629-CATS to get your tickets and come out for the series finale against the Renegades! Castleton, NY native Jaime Schultz is scheduled to start for Hudson Valley, while Tanner Bushue will pitch for the ‘Cats.
The ValleyCats kicked off a three-game series against the Hudson Valley Renegades on Saturday, which was a big night at “The Joe.” It was the always-popular Star Wars Night, as our friends from the The 501st Legion’s Garrison Excelsior were on hand. Many Star Wars favorites, such as Boba Fett, the Tusken Raiders, and even a stormtrooper were present for the pre-game festivities!
It was also GE Kids in Free Day at the ballpark! For last night’s game, all children under 12 received free admission with the purchase of an adult ticket! Our friends from GE were on hand to give out great t-shirts, and the sellout crowd of 5, 201 enjoyed all the action! Thanks again to GE for hosting one of their Kids in Free Day’s at The Joe Saturday night!
We had a number of special first pitches before the game got underway. Chris Young, a recipient of a live-saving double lung transplant from the Center of Donation and Transplant, was on hand to deliver a first pitch!
At yesterday’s game, nearly 150 of the Arsenal and the Army’s Benet Laboratories workforce were sitting in Section 230 and 250. Arsenal Commander, Colonel Lee Schiller, threw out the first pitch. This was Colonel Schiller’s first community event as he just took command of the Watervliet Arsenal on July 18th.
And finally, we couldn’t have Star Wars Night without a first pitch from a galaxy far, far away, could we? A member of the Tusken Raiders uncorked a strike in impressive fashion!
In honor of last night’s theme, many of our in-game promotions had a twist of Star Wars in them. Our 5th inning drag was set to a Star Wars version of “Call Me Maybe” and we even got Yoda involved!
The Mayor’s Race featured a dramatic lightsaber battle between Mayor Jennings, Mayor McCarthy, and Mayor Rosamilia. Mayor “Jedi” Jennings used the force to take home the win on Saturday!
In our hot dog race, relish’s Jedi powers stopped mustard in its tracks, allowing ketchup to race home for 1st place!
On the field, the ‘Cats lost a tough one, 7-5. Michael Martinez put the ValleyCats on top in the 1st inning, blasting his 4th home run of the season for 2-0 lead. Martinez was 3-for-4 on Saturday, with the homer and 3 RBI. In the 7th, with the ‘Cats up 5-2, Hudson Valley rallied for five runs, which gave them the lead that they would hold on to. The ‘Cats dropped to 22-11 with the loss.
After the game, love was in the air on the field. We were joined for a special edition of “Let’s Make A Deal” by a young couple, Billy and Tanya. After Tanya turned down the first two prizes, she couldn’t help but accept the third offer: a marriage proposal & ring from Billy! She said yes!
Following that unforgettable moment, Billy and Tanya enjoyed a view of the spectacular Price Chopper fireworks from the best spot in the park: the field!
The ‘Cats are back at it tonight, with first pitch scheduled for 5:00 pm. It’s Southpaw’s birthday, as well as Sunday Funday at The Joe! Kids can play catch on the field before the game and run the bases after! We hope to see a lot of you out at the park tonight! Also, don’t forget that tomorrow is Mariano Rivera Bobblehead Night in honor of Capital Region Baseball Heritage Night. You won’t want to miss that, so get your tickets by calling the stadium box office at 518-629-CATS!
By Matt Appel (@mattappel)
Happy Saturday ‘Cats fans! It’s undoubtedly my favorite night of the year at “The Joe,” Star Wars Night! Huge fan of Star Wars. Not at all afraid to admit it. The Hudson Valley Renegades are in town for three starting tonight, which could possibly be the best set of games this season
-For those who might not have been following the team last year, this is a re-match of the New York-Penn League championship series from last season. The ‘Gades took the last two after the ‘Cats took Game 1, and so ended the season for both teams. While only Ryan Dineen remains from last year’s team, this is still a rivalry that matches up the best two teams in the league, record-wise. Hudson Valley comes into tonight’s game at 19-13, first place in the McNamara Division.
-The ValleyCat bullpen was sensational last night after Kyle Westwood, who was solid in his own right, departed. Pat Christensen, Chris Cotton, and newcomer J.D. Osborne combined to throw five innings of relief. This pitching staff has been remarkable, really from the start of the season. They never seem to get blown out.
-Going back to Osborne: wow. How did this kid fall to the 36th round?? Granted, we’ve only seen him once, but a 93 mph slider and a devastating slider has lefty specialist written all over it. He struck out the side in the ninth inning last night, to record the save. He’s the fifth different pitcher to get a save this year for Tri-City.
-Spoke to Jake Rodriguez before today’s game after his go-ahead two-run homer in the 7th. Rodriguez is a guy who was drafted for his defense, but has shown strong signs with the bat as of late. I asked him if he could pick any pitcher in the history of baseball to catch, who would it be? His answer was Greg Maddux. Not a bad choice.
-Any person with a solid baseball background/common sense will tell you that winning series’ becomes easier when you win the first game. The ‘Cats are just 6-5 in series-openers, a trend they will try to improve upon tonight.
The ‘Cats were back at it Friday night, as they finished up their three-game series against the Auburn Doubledays. It was the 6th annual Going Green Night at The Joe, as local companies such as National Grid and County Waste were on hand to help show our fans ways to help out the environment!
We also want to thank our friends from CDTA, Gallivan, Honest Weight Food Co-op, Culligan Water, NYSERDA, USDA, Mildred Elley, and Renewal by Anderson for coming out to the ballpark on Going Green Night!
Before the game, Southpaw took some time to rock out with the local band Fresh Brewed, who kept the fans entertained with a great original show!
Throwing out ceremonial first pitches were Chris Hess and Brian Sinkoff with the Hess Wiffle Ball League, the only organized wiffle ball league in the area! All games are played in Chris Hess’s backyard. Also throwing out a first pitch was Orin Nurse from National Grid.
In the hotly-contested Mayor’s Race, Mayor Rosamilia took home the victory on Friday, just barely beating out Mayor Jennings and Mayor McCarthy.
In honor of Going Green Night, Zoggy, one of the most popular mascots here at The Joe, made an on-field appearance, and participated in the 5th inning drag!
On the field, the ‘Cats took home a 3-1 victory over the Doubledays. With the score 1-1 in the bottom of the 7th, ValleyCats catcher Jake Rodriguez connected for his first professional home run! His two-run shot gave the ‘Cats the 3-1 lead that they would win by. Kyle Westwood started and went four solid innings, and in his place, Pat Christensen, Chris Cotton, and J.D. Osborne pitched five scoreless innings in relief. With the win, the ValleyCats improved to 22-10, the best record in the league!
The Hudson Valley Renegades come to town starting tonight for a three-game series in a rematch of the New York-Penn League championship series from last year. It’s Star Wars Night at The Joe, as well as GE Kids in Free Night. All children under 12 will receive free admission with the purchase of an adult ticket. Following the final out, stick around for the Price Chopper Fireworks show! Should be a great Saturday night at The Joe, so make sure to get your tickets before we run out!
By Matt Appel
Happy Friday, ‘Cats fans! After a wild 9-3 victory last night, the ValleyCats will aim for the series win tonight against the Auburn Doubledays. It’s the third consecutive Death Valley-esque night here at The Joe, as the ‘Cats will aim to improve upon their league-best record of 21-10.
-Last night set more than a few season-high hitting marks for Tri-City. 18 hits was the most this year, as was the six extra base hits. 4 doubles set a record for 2013, as did the two triples, which came back to back in the 2nd inning, something that doesn’t happen too often. Coming into the game, the team had just one triple the whole season. The last time the ‘Cats had that many hits was July 20th, 2011, a game the ‘Cats actually lost at home.
-Mentioned a few times last night on the broadcast that outside of Tony Kemp, there hasn’t really been a whole lot of consistent offensive production in the lineup. However, there are signs of that potentially turning around. Six hitters last night had multi-hit games, and three hitters, Ryan Dineen, Jake Rodriguez, and D’Andre Toney, had three hits. Someone in the middle of the Tri-City order needs to start hitting at a more consistent clip, and it looks as if a few guys might be on the verge of breaking out.
-Congrats to Andrew Thurman for his first professional win last night. Thurman has been one of the many very, very impressive starters for the ‘Cats this season. Two of those other strong starters are throwing tonight, in Kyle Westwood and Chris Cotton. Here’s a eye-popping stat: Tri-City has three pitchers, Chris Cotton, Kyle Westwood, and Richard Rodriguez, who are all slightly below qualifying for the league-lead in ERA, that would have the lowest mark in the league if they were eligible. Michael Feliz, even with his “worst” performance of the year last night, which was still overpowering at times, still holds the ERA title as of tonight, at 1.27.
-Once again, no BP, for the third straight day. Ed Romero trying his best to avoid any players being sent to the DL with a heat stroke.
-The ‘Cats have fared just so-so in 2013 in games like tonight’s: the rubber match of a series. The team is 3-3 in such games, but currently on a 3-game losing streak when looking to take a series, including two straight at home. Winning series’ is crucial to a sustained stretch of good play (obviously), so we’ll see if the ValleyCats can get back in that mode tonight.
-For the first time in the home slate this season, Ed Romero is running out the same lineup two nights in a row. And frankly, can you blame him? Last night was arguably the team’s best offensive performance this season.
Broadway made a visit to “The Joe” on Thursday as the ‘Cats partnered with Proctors for the first-ever Arts at the Ballpark promotion!
By Matt Appel (@mattappel)
Howdy, ‘Cats fans! The ValleyCats and Doubledays are at it again tonight, after Tri-City saw its six game-winning streak snapped last night. The offense sputtered, scoring only once and getting only five hits. I asked yesterday what would cool down first: the weather or the ‘Cats. Well, it’s still over 90 degrees here at the park, so that settles that.
-With last night’s loss, the ValleyCats are just 4-6 in their last 10 home games, which is concerning considering how well they played at home at the start of the season, winning the first five games at The Joe. More recently, they have dropped five of seven home games, and the offense hasn’t scored more than five runs in any one game during that stretch.
-On a positive note, Tanner Bushue was named the New York-Penn League Pitcher of the Week for the week ending on July 14th. During that week, Bushue pitched six scoreless innings against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers on July 11th, and got his second win of the year. He becomes the first ‘Cats pitcher to receive that honor since Brian Holmes took home the award the week of July 29th, 2012. Bushue only added to his resume by throwing four more scoreless frames last night. To date, his ERA is a very impressive 2.03, and he has the lowest WHIP in the league at 0.64.
-In what is usually a very entertaining scenario, Andrew Thurman and Michael Feliz will throw tonight for the ‘Cats. The two righty’s have been two of the better pitchers for Tri-City this year, as they have only surrendered six earned runs in 38.1 IP this year. Feliz has arguably been the best pitcher in all of the NYPL this year, as he leads the league in ERA at 1.07 (amongst qualifiers) and is third in strikeouts with 32 punchouts, and figures to add to that total tonight.
-If you look up and down the ValleyCats lineup, and roster, for that matter, there really aren’t many impressive batting averages. Tony Kemp is hitting .318, but he is the only true regular hitting above .300. In tonight’s lineup, if you remove Kemp, the highest batting average belongs to James Ramsay, with a respectable-but-not-great .267 mark. Michael Martinez, who has become the daily cleanup hitter, is only hitting .200. The ‘Cats enter tonight 6th in the NYPL in average, so I guess it could be worse.
-No BP on account of the inferno that the field is during the day. Seriously, god bless catchers, because wearing that much equipment in this kind of heat would land me in the hospital without a doubt. Here’s looking at you, Jake Rodriguez.
2B Kemp (.318)
RF Toney (.184)
1B Gregor (.224)
DH Martinez (.200)
LF Kemmer (.209)
3B Dineen (.235)
C Rodriguez (.167)
CF Ramsay (.267)
SS Lindauer (.074)
The ValleyCats returned to Troy on Monday night after a red hot road trip in which they won six straight games!
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.