Friday, October 31, 2014

Astros Arizona Fall League Game 21 Eyewitness Report

Hmmmm, it's not a full moon, but according to Wallee Wright's eyewitness account of Salt River's 5-4 loss last night, a little lunar lunacy would have helped explain some of the action.


The Surprise Saguaros made it abundantly clear from the outset that they do not like The Salt River Rafters even a little bit … perhaps the Rafters 4-0 record going into tonight’s game had something to do with it, but the baiting and derisive cheering by the opposing bullpens made it clear to everyone that this was no ordinary game.

What involvement can a bullpen have in the conduct of the game, you ask … you see, the ‘pens at Salt River field have chicken wire fascia and are located inside the foul lines so the pitching staff not going tonight was all but seated on the field of play – and both ‘pens were raucous from the get-go. Perhaps that is why Andrew Aplin misplayed the first fly ball of the evening into a double that eventually led to one of two runs in the top of the first.

The Rockies Jayson Aquino started for the Rafters and essentially threw BP for five innings … the Rafter outfielders pretty much played the first three innings on the warning track – but Aquino has now thrown sixteen innings, giving up sixteen hits including three of eight tonight for extra bases, and yet has a 2-0 record with a 3.38 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Key to Jayson successfully dodging these bullets is his not giving up walks … just like the coaches keep telling you.

The Padres’ Mallex Smith is a 5’9”, 170 pound bolt of lightning on the base paths, making even sharply struck grounders a potential base hit with his speed … but baseball is more than running fast - you need to do little things like check in with the third base coach as you round second base. On the ball Andrew misplayed to start the game Smith wheeled into second base as Aplin attempted to corner the ball, and just stopped … Delino DeShields Sr was making like a windmill at third but by the time Mallex finally looked in that direction as he stood on second, Aplin was throwing the ball in to the cutoff man. The next batter fouled of a bunt attempt with Smith running on the play, but poor Mallex had made it all the way to third before time was called … I told you he was fast. Whereupon DeShields forcefully explained the concept of looking to the third base coach for guidance when rounding second – so forcefully, in fact, that Rio Ruiz felt compelled to pat Mallex on the butt as he made his way back to second.

Rio Ruiz drove in two runs this evening with one-out sacrifice flies … and was robbed of a base hit by a sensational play by the seventeen-year-old shortstop Michael DeLeon, who then doubled Peter O’Brien off second. Rio had an odd evening in the field as well, whiffing on a ball down the line in the second or third inning, then making a sensational backhand stop on Cincinnati’s top prospect Jesse Winkler and turning it into an around-the-horn double play to end the fifth … the second such double play to bail Aquino out of an inning tonight.

Andrew Aplin was similarly robbed in the bottom of the inning by San Diego’s Jace Peterson … Peterson laid out, completely airborne, to snag a scorched ball headed to centerfield. This evening was likely very frustrating to Andrew on another score … he was the target of an inordinate amount of noise from the Saguaro bullpen this evening. I don’t know if it was Andrew, personally, that was the target or the fact he was in right field directly in front of the chicken wire … or maybe there were a couple of University of Arizona grads seizing the opportunity to stick it to a Sun Devil – like I said, it was clear early on that something was going on between these two team.

Salt River led into the ninth inning when Kaleb Fleck of the home town D-backs came on to close it out … he promptly gave up 800 feet of fly balls, one of which left the yard to tie the game. Then, with the bases loaded, the lightning bolt Smith sprinted home with what would be the winner on a ground ball to Rio Ruiz … Rio’s only play was the force at third and that was the game as the Rafters went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth - Fleck has now closed two and blown two in four chances.

~ Wallee Wright ~

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