Nine to Go, College Football Craziness, Boston Farewell

Like opening a nicely wrapped Christmas present and expecting something on your list, only to find a pair of wool socks from your great aunt, the TinCaps found Aaron Sanchez on Saturday night. Hang with me here…

The TinCaps encountered the unexpected in their series opener, facing a starter who was 8-3, but lasted just three innings, taking the loss.

After losing five of six against Dayton and West Michigan, Fort Wayne stormed to a 7-2 win over Lansing in the opener of their four-game series. Seven of the nine members of the starting lineup had a base hit, and the TinCaps piled on six doubles. Only Duanel Jones and Mike Gallic did not hit, with Gallic striking out five times in five at-bats. Gallic is two for his last 39, his average having dropped from .309 to .279 in the last 10 games. On a positive note, Travis Jankowski extended his hitting streak to nine games, and now has a hit in 12 of the last 13 games.

Erik Cabrera was once again impressive, working 5 1/3 innings to earn his first win on U.S. soil. This was just his fourth start since coming over from the Dominican Summer League. Cody Hebner followed with 3 2/3 innings of relief and did not allow a run, although he did permit an inherited runner to score. Hebner earned his first career save. That Hebner, a former starter, was the only man to pitch out of the Fort Wayne bullpen, provides much-needed rest for the other members of the ‘pen. With nine games remaining in the regular season and a trip to the postseason looking more and more probable by the day, any extra rest for those arms is a positive.

Sunday’s game provides perhaps the most intriguing pitching matchup of the series, with each team throwing its front-line starter to the mound, as Frank Garces faces Noah Syndergaard.

Garces, who had never pitched in the U.S. before this season, lost for the first time since June 6th in his last start. He gave up a season-high five earned runs to Dayton on Monday. Despite that, he put together a stellar stretch from June 12 to August 13th, where he went 8-0 and allowed only nine earned runs in 10 games. When he’s on, he has the potential to easily slice through any Midwest League lineup.

Syndergaard, all of 19 years old, has a major league-ready fastball right now. It sits around 95 miles per hour, and has a very sharp late movement on it, according to some of the TinCaps hitters. His other pitches still need refining, but he has struck out at least three batters in 12 straight starts. The native Texan is the real deal.

Lansing may have an edge with starting pitching in this series, but it’s a team that has struggled to produce offense in the second half, with most of its talent having been promoted to Advanced-A Dunedin of the Florida State League.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, I sit down with Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, the voice of the Lansing Lugnuts. We talk about the lack of offensive production from Lansing in the second half, and about a potential playoff matchup between the TinCaps and Lugnuts:

COLLEGE FOOTBALL CRAZINESS

I’ve never been to an SEC football game, but based off of this article describing the fan bases of LSU and Alabama, it sounds like I’m going to have to make my way down there one of these days. Growing up in New York, college sports aren’t all that big with the abundance of pro teams in the area. There are two baseball teams, two football teams, three hockey teams and two NBA teams, leaving college sports on the back burner. Perhaps that’s why this piece from The New York Times gets me to raise my eyebrows:

“In the event that you, dear reader, need any further convincing of just how seriously SEC country takes football, consider this: While I was standing along the brick partition that separates the spectators in the stands from the field inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, casually watching the team practice while eavesdropping on a conversation to my left, a conversation in which a stadium usher optimistically described to a fan how Saban has recently begun to exhibit the characteristics of an amiable human being (“When he first came here, it wasn’t a good idea to speak to him unless you were spoken to, but lately, he’ll look right at you and say, ‘Hi,’ every now and then”)”

Oh, and this:

“Just as I approached a fence on the perimeter of the practice fields and began to lift my phone into the air to take a picture, I was startled by an ill-tempered voice barking at me from behind. I was not sure if, unnoticed by me, a corndog-like odor was emanating from my skin — popular college football myth suggests that all L.S.U. fans smell like corn dogs — strong enough to set off alarm bells inside the facility, but suddenly I felt like a C.I.A. operative who had brazenly strolled into the Kremlin at the height of the cold war. I turned to find a quite displeased-looking Alabama athletic department official. The exchange that followed went something like this:

Hey, what are you doing?

I was going to take a photo of the practice field to send to a friend, I answered.

Well you can’t do that.

Are you serious? Why not?

Because Coach Saban doesn’t like that, came the response.

Surely this man must be kidding, I thought. He was not. I know this because he began berating someone through some sort of walkie-talkie about the absence of a campus police officer — one who was apparently supposed to be stationed nearby to shoo away troublemakers like me. All the while, he was eyeballing the iPhone in my hand like something he would very much like to toss into a caldron of acid.”

Roll Tide, I suppose.

BYE, BYE BOSTON

In the wake of the mega-trade between the Red Sox and Dodgers, it seems the folks in Boston are pretty pleased to have Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett playing baseball in the National League and across the country:

“Desperate to make a dent in the short-attention-span capital of North America, the Dodgers took the remaining six seasons and $127 million of Gonzalez’s deal, the remaining five seasons and $102.5 million of Crawford’s contract, and the remaining two years and $31.5 million of Beckett’s contract. They also agreed to pay a portion of the salaries of all four Sox players’ salaries for this season.

Instead of “Sweet Caroline,” the Sox should now play Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” in the eighth inning. These contracts were thought to be the definition of untradable.”

That’s a pretty strong column there from Christopher L. Gasper of The Boston Globe.

MUSICAL GUEST

Led Zeppelin…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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