Lucky Rabbits, 100, The Candidate

LUCKY RABBITS

Let’s get it out of the way–there was nothing normal about Saturday night’s game between the TinCaps and the River Bandits. First, there was no batting practice because of a scheduled vintage baseball game on the field here at Modern Woodmen Park:

A game of base ball. (It’s how they would want me to spell it, I assume.)

Interesting rules for this game, among a few I learned yesterday

-If you catch a ball on one hop, it’s an out.

-There’s no such thing as tagging up; you can just run on a fly ball and not worry if it’s caught.

-There are no called balls or strikes.

-The outfielders must line up straight away and the infielders can be no more than one step off of their respective base.

So, that happened.

Then the game…

Fort Wayne torched Quad Cities starter Dail Villanueva for five runs in the second inning, knocking him out after 1 2/3, his shortest outing of the year. Good start for the TinCaps, right?

The lead became 6-0 in the top of the sixth, after Ruben Mejia had departed with his best start of the year behind him: 5IP, 2H, 0R, 2BB, 1K. A sure win it seemed at the time. In the bottom of the, sixth, Dennis O’Grady allowed four runs and retired one batter, allowing the River Bandits to pull to within 6-4.

Fort Wayne made it 7-4 in the ninth, but Daniel Cropper gave up one run in the bottom of the ninth, making it 7-5. He recorded two outs, meaning Fort Wayne was just an out away from a win, before Matt Stites came in to try and get the final out. Runners were on first and second, and the runner on first stole second, putting two runners in scoring position.

Nick Martini, a former summer ball teammate of Stites when the two played together for the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League in 2010, was at the plate. Martini flared a ball into shallow center, and Travis Jankowski came sprinting in to try and get it…and missed. Two runs scored and the game went to extra innings.

By the way, not once, not twice or even three times was the game delayed. It was on four separate occasions, beginning in the sixth inning, that a rabbit made its way on to the field and held up play. The rabbit would emerge from a gate beyond the home bullpen down the left field line, and bounce around the outfield, skillfully eluding the Quad Cities grounds crew in remarkable fashion. Clearly, they were not going to catch the rabbit and their only chance was to try and guide it back from where it came.

Did someone say baseball?

Although it may have been mildly annoying to those on the field, it was thoroughly entertaining to me, if for no other reason than that I might never see a rabbit on a baseball field four times in one game ever again. Also, watching groundskeepers futilely chase after a rabbit does have a certain comedic value.

So, Jace Peterson had an RBI double to score Tyler Stubblefield in the top of the 10th, and Matt Stites, who was charged with a blown save in the ninth, pitched a perfect 10th for his second win of the season.

The TinCaps have now won five games in a row for the first time all season. They’re hitting .290 on the winning streak and haven’t scored fewer than six runs in any of the five games.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, I talk with Pitching Coach Willie Blair, who gives thoughts on Ruben Mejia, Chris Fetter, Adys Portillo and roles in the bullpen:

100

This picture comes courtesy of Cody Hebner, who snapped it while down in the TinCaps clubhouse after last night’s game. Matt Stites’ final pitch of the night, a called third strike on Jeremy Patton, registered at 100 MPH on the team’s radar gun that was being used by the pitchers who were tracking the game in the stands. Matt’s parents, Mark and Rita, had driven up that morning from his hometown of Festus, Missouri, to see him throw. That’s getting your money’s worth right there.

THE CANDIDATE

Speaking of closers like Stites, Bill Center of U-T San Diego offers a good look at some of the potential Padres closers of the futures who are currently in the minor leagues:

“Right-hander Kevin Quackenbush, 23, is 3-1 after 38 games with high Single-A Lake Elsinore. The Padres’ eighth-round pick in 2011 has a 0.63 earned run average, 19 saves in 21 attempts and 50 strikeouts in 43 innings. He was a member of the California League All-Star team.

Matthew Stities, the 17th-round pick in 2011, is 1-0 with a 0.61 ERA and eight saves in 26 relief appearances with low Single-A Fort Wayne. The 22-year-old right-hander has 36 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings and eight saves in 10 attempts.

And right-hander Ramon Madrid, the seventh-round pick in this June’s draft, is 1-0 with a 1.23 ERA and nine saves in 10 attempts for short-season Single-A Eugene.

All three were college closers when they were drafted by the Padres.”

If you haven’t yet taken the chance to listen to today’s podcast, I asked Willie Blair what he thought of assigning roles to pitchers this early in their careers, and whether he thought it was good to label a player who is a few years away from the major leagues as a closer. He offers some good insight into the pros and cons of having pitchers work in designated roles.

MUSICAL GUEST

Eric Clapton…take it away!

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me at Couzens@TinCaps.com or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

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