Saturday, November 1, 2014

Astros Arizona Fall League Game 22 Eyewitness Report

Wallee has the latest from the Arizona Fall League as he recounts a Halloween Halloweird game fraught with more frights than a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie marathon!

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Though I missed it, apparently a few of the players dressed up in Halloween costumes for the MLB.com cameras during early morning warmups … for Astros fans, though, the most frightening moment of the day came after the umpire yelled ‘play ball’ – it was a scary display that we’ll hopefully not see repeated after the Fall(en) Stars game Saturday.

Mark Appel started and his first two innings were largely uneventful … vintage Appel – K, K, 6-3 and 3U, F-8, Single, F-9. It was at this point that the evil Astros made their appearance … and it started so promisingly – Andrew Aplin laid down a first-pitch bunt and advanced to second on the pitcher’s throwing error.

I don’t know if the Salt River Rafter’s manager, Andy Haines, gave Andrew the steal sign or if Aplin decided to take third on his own … but he was out by the old-timey country mile, and for the third time in seven tries this fall – it may be time for either Andy or Andrew to rethink this thing because were it not for the defensive incompetence of the whole Scottsdale team Andrew might have run the Rafters out of the inning.

Someone wearing the uniform of Mark Appel took the mound in the top of the third with a sweet 3-0 cushion and promptly made a mess of it … triple, single, base on balls, fly out, base on balls, error, sac fly and finally, blessedly, a force at second to end the inning. In his previous outing I mentioned that Mark was upset with what was happening around him and it was reflected in his pitching … perhaps, I was wrong, and Appel's frustration stems from his struggles to be effective out of the stretch. That certainly would help make sense out of his troubles in the California League. Hooda thunk it?

The Rafters picked up Mark in the bottom of the inning … Aplin drew a walk behind D-back Peter O’Brien’s single and followed the big fellow home on a double by Appel’s battery mate today, Chris O’Dowd. On a related note, catcher Tyler Heineman, whose picture has been on milk cartons around the Valley since the second week of the AFL, has been allowed to go enjoy a little California beach time … Tyler has been on an AFL-type DL with an eye infection – I saw Joe Sclafani in uniform in the dugout today so I suspect Joe is now off the ‘Taxi Squad’ and can participate more fully in the proceedings from here on out.

Appel zipped through the fourth without any drama – meaning base runners – and we moved into the fifth, and normally last, inning for Mark clinging to a 5-3 lead … and that’s when the fellow impersonating Appel came out to throw again. Single, single, base on balls … and Mark was through for the day. But wait, there’s hope … Mitch Lambson is called out of the ‘pen for a classic lefty-on-lefty matchup … first pitch single, run scores. Dante Bichette, Jr, a right-handed hitter, singles on a 1-1 pitch and two more runs are in … all three of these runs are charged to Mark Appel, who finishes with a forgettable line I’ll leave to Dustin to disclose. A strikeout and a double play ends the inning and, viola, Lambson records a perfect inning … Halloween-style.

Once again, however, the Rafters come back to pull Mark and Mitch’s fat from the fire … that’s just an expression fellas. With one out in the bottom of the fifth Aplin singles again, moves to second on an out and scores on a single to tie the game at 6-6 … the Rafters add singletons in the sixth and eighth and win the game 8-6. But nothing I will see Halloween night will be nearly as frightening as the performance I witnessed this afternoon … burn the film and bury the ashes – oh, that’s right, everything is digital these days. Then burn those digitals and bury them.

~ Wallee Wright ~

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