Results tagged ‘ Matt Duffy ’
Right fielder Drew Muren was named the South End Tavern Player of the Game. Along with a South End gift certificate, he earned a pie in the face courtesy of Charlie.
Entering last night, the ValleyCats had scored eight runs in their last five games. Five games, spanning 135 outs. On Thursday, they matched that total with only one out, as the first eight runners reached base and scored.
Entering last night, it had been more than a week since a ValleyCat drove in a teammate with a base hit. On Thursday, three ‘Cats did so in the first inning, and Matt Duffy did it again with one out in the second.
So, what happened? Why the offense?
Beyond the usual explanations of baseball being a funny game, you can look to the opposing starter for some clues. Stetson Allie entered the season as arguably the best major-league prospect in the NYPL, but he hasn’t shown it this year. The righty, who has thrown 100 mph in the past, was only around 91-93 last night, reportedly in line with his other outings this season.
Allie paired his diminished stuff with horrible command, not a good combination for a pitcher. After he got ahead 0-2 on John Hinson, Allie threw only six of his final 19 pitches for strikes, allowing a clean double to Hinson on a full count and eventually hitting consecutive batters with the bases loaded. With the ‘Cats up 2-1 and the bases loaded, Allie left the game without an out to his credit.
Manager Stubby Clapp said after the game that Allie’s wildness helped the hosts’ hitters beyond the results in the box score.
“He wasn’t really around the zone, and it gave our guys a chance to settle in and see some pitches before they needed to hit,” he said. “When pitchers attack the zone real quick, it puts the guys in swing mode, and sometimes they’re not swinging at good pitches.”
A lineup that has struggled to bring teammates home this season had no such trouble in that first inning, as the bottom of the order greeted Vince Payne with four consecutive singles. Duffy, a first-pitch line drive into left to plate two; Drew Muren, a perfectly-placed bunt single dropped down the line; Kellen Kiilsgaard, a clean line drive into left field that scored two, his first hit in nearly two weeks; and Neiko Johnson, a soft flare off the end of his bat that found green behind the first baseman, scoring Muren. Hinson, batting a second time, capped the rally with a sacrifice fly, the first of 24 outs that the Spikes needed.
Duffy floated a double into the right-field corner with one out in the second inning, scoring Brandon Meredith all the way from first with the Cats’ ninth and final run.
Will this break the ‘Cats out of their slump? Stubby wasn’t sure. “We’ll find out tomorrow,” he said. “One day’s good; let’s see if we can get it two days in a row.”
Some other notes:
-Neiko Johnson was 2-for-4 with a stolen base – he’s 11-for-13 in that department, incidentally, the only ValleyCat to steal many bases at a high rate – but may have been more impressive in the field. Playing shortstop for the first time in three weeks, Johnson was not only errorless in five chances, he made two highlight-reel plays. With two on and nobody out in the second inning, Kirk Singer hit a hard smash up the middle; Johnson dove to his left, snared the ball and flipped with his glove to Hinson, a spectacular force that nearly became a double play (pictured below). He went to the dirt for another ball to his left in the sixth inning, helping Travis Smink get out of a jam.
“It was a pretty tough play…it kind of skidded off the mound,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think I was going to get there, but I did, and I just made a good flip to Hinson.”
Johnson is penciled back into the lineup at shortstop tonight. Jacke Healey had a Web Gem on Wednesday, getting a good jump on a grounder up the middle, diving to his left and adjusting to a rough hop on the fly before throwing the runner out at first.
-Jonas Dufek had another sharp outing on Wednesday, getting hung with a tough loss. He struck out a season-high five batters, throwing his curveball more often than usual to go with his usually sharp two-seamer. Both runs came in the second inning on a walk, two seeing-eye grounders and a wild pitch.
-Dayan Diaz was electric as always on Thursday, picking up Quezada in the second inning and pitching into the sixth. He was 93-94 with his fastball, blowing it by several hitters and getting a couple of his seven strikeouts with the occasional secondary pitch. Diaz is now tied for second in the league with four wins and has fanned 37 batters in 26 innings, the third-best K rate among relievers.
We hope to be back at it tonight for the rubber match; the forecast is not ideal but the tarp is off now and there’s a spot of sunlight. As always, listen live on tcvalleycats.com and follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the game.
The ‘Cats fell to 3-11 on the road in last night’s doubleheader sweep at the hands of Connecticut. Tri-City’s averaging just over three runs per game in the 14 road games so far this season. That’s especially discouraging considering the ValleyCats averaged almost seven runs per game in the most recent five game homestand.
Perhaps it was just a worn out team coming off the 4:40 game Tuesday, and Connecticut was just a tad better.
Manager Stubby Clapp put it simply before the team got off the bus last night, “There’s still a lot of baseball left on this road trip”.
Matt Appel and I will be back on the broadcast tonight from Norwich in the final meeting of the season between Connecticut and Tri-City. We’ll start the pregame show at 6:50, first pitch is set for 7:05. Euris Quezada goes for the ‘Cats, coming off his first win of the season. Below is last night’s game story.
Tigers Sweep ‘Cats in Doubleheader
NORWICH, Conn. — After it took four hours and 40 minutes to play one 13-inning game at ‘The Joe’ yesterday afternoon, Tri-City and Connecticut completed a doubleheader in just three hours and 27 minutes.
In total, it was just over eight hours to forget for the ValleyCats.
Tri-City fell in both games of Thursday’s doubleheader 4-2 and 3-2 and dropped to 13-20 on the season.
In game one, right-handed starter Jonas Dufek was spotted a 2-0 lead in the second but had his scoreless streak snapped at 21.1 innings when the Tigers touched him up for three runs on four hits in the second inning.
Second baseman John Hinson was the only ValleyCat to record a multi-hit game. The ‘Cats got the potential tying run to the plate in the seventh, but Miles Hamblin lined into a double play, ending any threat.
In game two, the ‘Cats fell 3-2 despite another solid pitching performance by lefty Kyle Hallock. The southpaw tossed five innings and allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits, three of them infield singles.
Designated hitter Jason King delivered the game-winning blow in a 1-1 game in the 5th inning. With two on and one out, King roped a two-run double down the left field line.
The ‘Cats managed to get one run back in the sixth on a Matt Duffy infield RBI single.
Trailing by one in the seventh, Zach Johnson struck out looking with the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
With the two losses, Tri-City falls to four games out of first place. The ValleyCats face the Tigers for the final time of the regular season Friday night at 7:05 before heading to Staten Island for a three game series with the Yankees.
Manager Stubby Clapp, on last night’s victory:
“It’d be nice to put up 14 hits every day. We’d win a lot of ballgames.”
Of course, 14 hits don’t quite guarantee a victory, as the Lowell Spinners found out last night. The visitors matched the Cats’ hit total but committed four errors, including three in a costly fifth inning, as the ValleyCats jumped above .500 for the first time with a 12-8 victory.
I thought Zach Johnson summed up the crazy game pretty well in his first response after the game, saying, “We got down early, came back, got back down, came back and then we pushed through at the end with some extra runs … it was a good win.”
Both teams hit 14-for-39, a .359 clip, despite what looked like a very wide strike zone. Between well-hit line drives, soft shots that found holes and bad plays, lots of runners reached base – neither defense converted even half of the balls in play into outs (Tri-City was 13/28, Lowell 15/32).
We’ll likely be playing in similar conditions tonight. Rain fell heavily about an hour before the game and will slightly delay the start, and there is a small front of light storms that is scheduled to pass through during the game. As a getaway day for Lowell, the visitors probably hope for more outs and a quicker game than last night’s season-long 2:59.
A few more thoughts:
-Who leads the NYPL in runs scored right now? I posed this question to Erik and Dave this morning, and even after they figured out that it was a ValleyCat, it still took six or seven guesses for them to correctly identify Brandon Meredith. I was shocked when I saw him atop the leaderboard, but his eight runs are best in the league. He’s only hitting .227 and has usually been in the lower half of the lineup, but he’s drawn seven hits in as many games and the ‘Cats have been productive behind him.
-Starter Jonas Dufek just didn’t have a good night. He wasn’t wild, not walking anyone until the final batter and going to three balls only once (in a ten-pitch at-bat), but his secondary stuff wasn’t particularly sharp and he missed a couple spots. Balls in the air will eventually kill you in this park, especially when the wind blows out – though there wasn’t much doubt about either homer – and he should be better in his next start.
-Have I mentioned yet that Drew Muren has a good arm? He chased a line drive to the right-field wall, maybe 20 feet from the line in the corner, and didn’t pick it up very cleanly, but still was able to gun down Travis Shaw at second base. The throw was right on a line, didn’t bounce and hit Hector Rodriguez perfectly to get the out by a step.
-I may have missed a pitch, but I had Travis Smink with 17 strikes and zero balls in two innings.
-One day after being pinch-hit for in the ninth inning, Joantoni Garcia pinch-hit for Roberto Ramos in the eighth. Ramos was 2-for-3 on the night, though both hits were bunt singles; I suppose Lowell didn’t think he could get away with a third. Garcia hit into an inning-ending double play – on a beautiful turn at short by Rodriguez – so the Spinners might have been better off with Ramos’s speed.
-Matt Duffy scored from first on a double in the third inning, which probably won’t happen very often. He was running on the 3-2 pitch (with two outs) and Miles Hamblin hit a perfectly-placed grounder that rolled all the way to the right-field wall.
-The ‘Cats hit three triples in the game, as Kellen Kiilsgaard, Johnson and Meredith each had three-baggers. That was the first three-triple game for Tri-City going back to 2005, the earliest year for which we have easily-accessible stats.
-Duffy, by the way, was 4-for-5 and leads the league with a .483 batting average, keeping the tradition of success for Houston’s 20th-round draft picks alive and well.
With 9-3 and 10-0 decisions in the first two games of the season, the one thing lacking was late-game drama, and it appeared the trend would continue when Vermont took a four-run lead into the eighth inning on Sunday. But the the ValleyCats rallied for three runs on three hits, bringing up John Hinson in the highest-leverage situation of the short season: down one, first and third, two outs.
Hinson drove the ball hard to the opposite field – just as he had done in the previous two at-bats, for a double and a single – and Ryan McCurdy, leading off first, said that he thought it would be a game-tying hit. But shortstop Sam Roberts stepped to his backhand, jumped softly and snared the line drive to end the inning.
Matt Duffy singled with two outs in the ninth but advanced no further, and Vermont took the game and the series, 6-5.
Now, the ‘Cats go away from home for the first time this season. The rookies have taken road trips before in college, but manager Stubby Clapp commented on some differences that they will have to adjust to.
“They’ve been on the bus rides, but they’ll need to get used to the system, the organization we use on the road,” he said. “We don’t have our own facilities, we have to deal with the opposing team’s schedule and go from there.”
As I write this, the ‘Cats seem to be handling the change of scenery just fine, taking a large lead at Connecticut in the opener of the three-game series.
-Drew Muren and Duffy have been in the 3-4 slots all three games so far, and if they keep playing like this, they’ll hold that position all year. Muren drew three walks last night while Duffy had three hits. Muren was caught stealing for the first time in three attempts when Vermont guessed right and pitched out on 0-2; it worked out okay for the ‘Cats, as with a new count in the second inning, Duffy smacked a first-pitch double and eventually scored.
-Muren had the defensive play of the night in the ninth inning, preventing a potentially key insurance run by gunning out Xavier Macklin at the plate on a single. Muren had to range to his right and was not able to come in very far to field it, but he threw a dart to home plate, beating a surprised Macklin by 10 feet.
-The first eight balls in play off Euris Quezada were all on the ground, none hit all that hard; two went for hits, but both were slow rollers back through the box and over second base for singles. The Lake Monsters finally elevated a couple balls the second time through, though only two of the five fourth-inning hits were struck very hard. After three runs scored, he bounced back nicely, striking out Michael Fabiaschi with the bases loaded and inducing a soft grounder from Chad Oberacker to end the inning.
Quezada didn’t throw all that hard, topping out around 88, but had a strange release point and hitters seemed to have trouble picking up his breaking stuff in particular. He certainly seems to have potential to pick up more velocity – he got a late start to his pro career (signed out of the Dominican Republic and debuted at 20, two years ago) so his mechanics are probably not a finished product, and at 6’6”, 240 lbs., he seems to have more strength to tap.
-Travis Blankenship last night: 23 pitches, 12 strikes, no runs. Having seen a lot of the lefty last year, I can tell you that was a very Blankenship-like outing. He fell behind the first four hitters but got two out, then retired Jordan Tripp on a harmless fly ball to right.
-You don’t see this often: catcher Beau Taylor assisted three of Vermont’s first five outs – two whiffs were put out 2-3 and Muren’s CS.
-For the third straight game, Vermont’s starter went up there in pitches – J.C. Menna threw 87, which would be on the high side for an August game and is certainly a lot for an Opening Weekend contest at this level.
-If the people I met and worked with this weekend are any indication, the Oakland A’s are a classy organization, and the NY-Penn League is lucky to have them.
-13,965 fans turned out to “The Joe” this weekend, putting us ahead of last year’s record-setting pace despite some bad weather on Friday. Thanks to everybody who came to the ballpark, and we’ll see you later this week!
Stubby on his first weekend at Joe Bruno Stadium: “It was fun. I love being here, and I know the guys love being here.”
Two more of Houston’s 2011 draftees will reportedly sign soon and debut with the ValleyCats this summer: 20th-round pick Matt Duffy and 24th-round pick Jesse Wierzbicki.
Duffy signed with the Astros last night, according to the Tennessee University athletics department, which tweeted this morning that he will likely play for the ValleyCats. If Duffy could follow in the footsteps of the last two 20th-round picks, he and the Astros would probably be very happy. In 2009, J.D. Martinez led the New York-Penn League with a .326 batting average and ranked second in slugging; he has continued to kill the ball at every level of the minors. Last year, Dan Adamson led the ‘Cats with nine homers and a .444 slugging percentage while stealing 11 bases.
A 6’3” third baseman, Duffy is no stranger to northeastern baseball. The native of Milton, Mass., spent two years at the University of Vermont, earning America East Player of the Year honors as a sophomore, before transferring to Tennessee when the Catamounts’ baseball program folded. Duffy hit over .300 in both seasons with the Vols, showing improved power numbers in 2011 despite the nationwide switch to less explosive bats.
Duffy seems a good bet to start at third base on Opening Day, one week from this evening.
Wierzbicki also indicated last night that he would sign and has been told that he will spend the summer in Troy. But his case is trickier – his North Carolina Tar Heels are still playing in the NCAA Tournament. Announced as a first baseman, Wierzbicki will reportedly spend some time in left field and at DH as the Astros try to find the best position for him; he may not be able to play first every day for Tri-City if 15th-round pick Zach Johnson signs and is assigned to the ‘Cats.
Of course, Wierzbicki cannot sign until his college season is over. That would be soon if the Tar Heels lose to Stanford this weekend, but if UNC wins the best-of-three series, it would advance to the College World Series. The eight-team, double-elimination championship tournament begins on June 18, one day after Opening Day for the ValleyCats, so Wierzbicki would have to miss the first week or two of the season.
You can watch the future ValleyCat play against Stanford today and tomorrow at 3 p.m. on ESPN3, and on Sunday afternoon if necessary.
Eighth-round pick Brandon Culbreath has signed; no official word has come out on where he has headed, but college pitchers picked in that range have almost always joined Tri-City in past years.
Sixth-round pick Brandon Meredith is still on track to be on the ValleyCats’ Opening Day roster.
Future ValleyCat John Hinson reportedly signed for much more than 13th-round money.