Friday, November 7, 2014

Astros Arizona Fall League Game 26 Eyewitness Report

Wallee is back to weigh in on last night's start by Astros RHP Mark Appel ~

Mark Appel went to the mound this evening to face the resurgent, second place, Mesa Solar Sox with the opportunity to cut the ‘magic number’ between the Salt River Rafters and the Solar Sox in half … and unlike his last two starts, Mark did not let men on base disrupt his rhythm and slow his offerings to the point of throwing batting practice. From a full wind-up Mark is virtually untouchable, deliberately gathering himself and shoving 94-to-97 MPH pitches down the throats of prospective hitters … but pitching from a stretch in order to hold the runner he has been losing at least five miles-per-hour off his power pitches and had become altogether much too hittable – but not tonight.

The Solar Sox first two hits were upon, not by, the top of their order … hit batsmen put two men on in the first for the Sox and Appel was forced to throw from the stretch most of the inning. But instead of becoming focused on the base runners, and losing his rhythm and velocity by doing so, Mark seemed to become more confident in his situation not less so, throwing strikes and forcing an inning-ending ground out. And this was the story of the full five innings Appel threw, needing only 53 pitches, 37 of them strikes, and giving up only one hit while striking out four … and leaving the game after five with a 1-0 lead.

But tonight the bullpen work by the hometown D-back relievers was uncharacteristically bad … Jimmy Sherfy coughed up three walks and a hit in the seventh to knot up the game at 1-1, then after the Rafters pulled ahead in the bottom of the eighth Enrique Burgos gave up three hits in the top of the ninth to knot it up again at 2-2, and two more hits and two more runs in the top of the tenth to give the game to the Solar Sox.

Neither Burgos nor Sherfy had surrendered a run in their previous seven and eight appearances, respectively, so their performance compounds the mystery of the disappearing home field advantage … the Rafters are now 6-5 at home and 10-2 on the road this fall, and have tied three games – and there have been only four ties total in the AFL this year. But for Astros fans the news is all good … Appel has bounced back and appears to have mastered whatever had been ailing him with men on base.

~ Wallee Wright ~

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