Itís been a rough week for sports fans in the National Capital Region. Itís all bad enough that the Senators were subject to a depressingly predictable first-round elimination by the hated Maple Leafs (it says here, BTW, that Patrick Lalime wears the goat horns unfairly in Ottawa; his high-scoring linemates were shut out three separate times by an inferior Maple Leafs squad), but thereís also the hapless Lynx, who have lately run into a buzzsaw called the Syracuse Skychiefs. Last nightís 10-7 Chiefs win wasnít as close as it seemed.
Syracuse 10 Ottawa 7
On the mound, Jason Arnold had one of his best starts in Triple-A, allowing just one unearned run over 7 solid innings. Arnold gave up just 5 hits and a walk in his outing, though he struck out only 1. It doesnít look like Jason is going to be a big strikeout pitcher, but if he records outs in efficient fashion, the Jays will likely be pleased. Talley Haines threw a capable 8th, but the roof caved in on Mark Lukasiewicz, who was torched for 6 hits and 5 runs (including a HR) in just 2/3 of the 9th inning; Dave Maurer came in to record the final out and pick up an unexpected save.
Arnold needed this win, his first since last July, and actually took advantage of the fact the wind was blowing out. Arnold is susceptible to the flyball, and so he worked to keep his pitches down in the strike zone and out of the air. If he can bring that approach to all his starts, windblown or not, heíll have turned a corner.
While the Lynx scored late and in a bunch, the Skychiefs scattered their runs throughout the game (three 3-run innings). Simon Pond broke out of a mini-slump with a double and 2 singles, driving in a run, while Glenn Williams tripled and homered in 5 trips; although heís hitting just .238, Williams leads Syracuse with four dingers. Jorge Sequea joined in the fun with 3 singles and 3 RBI of his own. Catcher Guillermo Quiroz and DH (!) Gregg Zaun each had 2 hits and scored a run.
Norwich 5 New Hampshire 4
An extra-inning heartbreaker for the Fisher Cats, a game that never should gone past nine frames. New Hampshire struck first: John-Ford Griffin singled in a run and then trotted home on Mike Snyderís first round-tripper of the year, giving New Hampshire a 3-0 lead through six frames. Gustavo Chacin was cruising along, allowing just four hits and no walks, striking out 3. But it all unraveled in the 7th: a leadoff triple (actually a flyball lost by outfielder Tyrell Godwin) and a single pushed across the first Norwich run. Then first baseman Snyder muffed a pickoff throw, allowing the runner to advance to second. Shortstop Aaron Hill then booted a grounder, and that was all for Chacin. As manager Mike Basso said, you canít give any team six outs in an inning and expect to win.
Brandon League entered the game in relief, but League, heretofore sharp and dangerous this season, didnít have his command. A walk and a single brought home the second run and loaded the bases; following a fielderís choice that retired the runner at home, League hit the next batter to force in the third run. He struck out the next batter, but then uncorked a wild pitch and run #4 crossed the plate. A groundout finally ended the ugly inning, but the Navigators had pushed across four.
New Hampshire tied it up in the bottom of the 8th on catcher Jose Umbriaís home run, and thatís how it stayed until extra innings. John Ogiltree took the tough-luck loss; he struck out 3 in a hitless 8th and 9th, but walked the first two batters leading off the 10th. Ryan Houston relieved him, and a wild pitch and single later, the go-ahead run crossed the plate.
The good news for New Hampshire: Griffin singled twice and doubled in 5 trips, marking his first solid game after coming off the disabled list. Another 2 hits and a walk for Rich, who raised his average to .356. And Chacin didnít strike out many guys, but he still fired 6 strong innings (6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K). A tough loss that shouldíve been a New Hampshire win.
Lakeland 4 Dunedin 2
After a hot start, the D-Jays have come back to earth the past few games. But you canít blame Kurt Isenberg, the top left-handed prospect in the system, for this one. Isenberg came out firing on all cylinders, pitching 6 shutout innings and allowed 3 hits and 0 walks, striking out 7. Dunedin was clinging to a one-run lead after six, thanks to a 2nd-inning wild pitch that scored Miguel Negron. But the wheels came off in the top of the 7th: Jamie Vermilyea entered the game and put the first 3 batters on base with a single and 2 walks. A sacrifice fly and a strikeout took the D-Jays to the edge of escape, but a two-run single did all the damage Lakeland would need.
Negron was Dunedinís offensive star, scoring twice on a single and two walks. The two base-on-balls gave Negron a 6/11 BB/K rate in his first 50 ABs, to go along with a solid .320/.407/.460 line; promising stuff. Big Vito doubled once in four trips, while shortstop Manny Mayorson made 3 errors and saw his average drop to .195 in the early going.
Charleston 9 Greensboro 3
Justin James and Felix Romero gave sterling pitching performances in this one. James started the game on fire, striking out 5 of the first 6 batters he faced. He allowed an unearned run in the 3rd, however, and 2 more in the 4th. The first came on your standard RBI single, but the other was a classic small-ball run: Greensboro third baseman Joe Mazzuca walked, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch, and then, to complete the little-ball cycle, stole home!
That was all the runs the Alley-Cats would allow, however: James fired 2 more scoreless innings, and left with a solid line of 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB and 8 K. He was followed by Romero, who allowed a single to the first batter he faced. But that baserunner was quickly erased by catcher Robby Diaz on a steal attempt, and Romero set down the final 8 batters in order, striking out 3.
The game was never really in serious peril for Charleston, though: they posted a four-spot in the 3rd inning and kept on going from there. Ryan Roberts had the game of the night, reaching base in all 5 of his plate appearances (double, 2 singles, 2 walks) and scoring 4 times. Diaz was the run-producing star, driving in 4 runs and scoring twice in a 3-for-5 performance. Right fielder Morrin Davis and shortstop Juan Peralta each chipped in with 2 hits and a walk as well. Charleston moved to 10-2 on the young season, and while their pitching has been their mainstay so far, the batters are starting to hit their stride too.
Your Three-Star Selection
All four starters did themselves proud last night, but there can only be three stars, and the hitters need a little love too. So:
Your Third Star: Dunedin SP Kurt Isenberg, who delivered 6 dominant innings, though he wasnít rewarded with a win.
Your Second Star: Charleston 2B Ryan Roberts, who reached base in all five of his trips to the plate and scored four times.
Your First Star: Syracuse SP Jason Arnold, who had the game of his Triple-A career in firing seven innings and allowing just one unearned run.
Honourable mention: Gustavo Chacin, Justin James, Robby Diaz.