Two weeks ago, in 6th start in 2016 at the AA level, Conner Greene took a no-hitter into the 6th inning. He got the first batter of the inning, before it totally fell apart as five straight batters reached to end his outing. Two starts later, Greene took another no-hitter deep into the middle innings last night. This one too eventually fell apart in pretty epic fashion, but not until Greene had long departed the game.
It was no obvious in the early going that it was going be a great outing for Greene. He walked a batter in the first inning, and ran deep counts (6+ pitches) against all three batters in the 2nd and to start the 3rd. He was having trouble finding the zone, falling behind the first five batters (and 9 of the first 11). However, he made pitches to get some key strikeouts, and otherwise kept the ball almost totally on the ground.
Despite that, he was rolling through a decent Trenton lineup, with his fastball in its usually mid-90s range up to 95. He seemed to be really finding a groove in the 5th and 6th innings, needing just 20 pitches total to pile out two strikeouts, two popouts, a groundout and routine fly out. However, the early issues caught up to him, as he was already up to 90 pitches, and after a very long top of the 7th his night was over.
The final line: 6 innings, 0 hits, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts. 12 of 16 balls on the ground (67%), with another two weak popouts and tow routine fly outs. Nothing was really even close to a hit. He did a good, if not dominant job missing bats (9 swinging strikes; 76% contact).
Brady Dragmire, added to the 40 man last November but not having a particularly good year, replaced him and carried the no hitter through the 7th and 8th. He too induced a bunch of ground balls. But the first batter of the 9th hit a clean single to end the no hitter. An error and walk sandwiched around a strikeout loaded the bases, and Billy McKinney hit a grand slam that not only ended the shutout, but made it a 5-4 game. Happily, that ended up the final.
Meanwhile, down in Bluefield, 17-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr was at the centre of an offensive outburst in a 18-5 rout of the Pulaski (it may be just rookie level baseball, but as far as I'm concerned thrashing the Yankees is always a good thing). On the night, Guerrero went 3/4, with two home runs, a walk, and a strikeout. It's worth pointing out that on the night the teams combined for 8 home runs, all to left field, so the ball was clearly flying carrying well on the evening.
Guerrero's first home run came in his second at-bat, as he jumped on the first pitch that Yankee RHP Rafael Lara threw in the game. That came after he singled his first at-bat, a shallow Texas leaguer that fell in left field after he worked the count full. He walked his third time, an eight pitch battle he won after falling behind 1-2. He wasn't so fortunate the next time, striking out swinging. Then in his last at-bat facing RHP Miles Chambers (NOT Canadian Jeff Degano, as the box score reflects, who was relieved the inning before), an experienced high level college performer at Cal State Fullerton, Guerrero smashed an 0-1 pitch over the left-centre field wall.
That effort pushes Guerrero's season line to .267/.358/.471, with 7 home runs (19 total extra base hits) and 24 walks against 26 strikeouts. There's some definite things to work on - a lot of popups, and a propensity for wild swings at breaking balls out of the zone, which pitcher had been increasingly exploiting - but merely holding his own would be impressive at 17, much less ~20% above average.
Finally, it was a busy night for significant pitching performances across the system, so let's go around the affiliates:
The newly acquired Mike Bolsinger made his second start for Buffalo as he continues to be stretched out. The peripherals were mediocre and he was knocked around some, but kept the ball down int he zone and did a good job staying the zone and getting ahead of batters.
Justin Shafer was listed as the scheduled starter, but after a 30 minute rain delay it was Francisco Rios on the mound, apparently to throw two innings (with the implication it would have been more but for the rain delay) that became one inning. The good news is, he's not hurt or anything. Dunedin's been doing some weird stuff lately stacking their usual starters on top of each other, so I'm not sure exactly what's going on. Rios had a couple of grounders find holes, but was otherwise fine and ran his fastball up to 95.
Shafer followed in the 2nd inning, and was masterful, facing just one over the minimum, until 5th overall draft pick Corey Ray took him deep with two out in the 8th. To that point, he has worked 6.2 innings, just 2 hits, no walks and 4 strikeouts while getting batters to pound the ball into the ground. He wobbled some at the end, allowing three more hits after that home run and narrowly missing closing out the game. Still, it was a great start as he missed a strong number of bats while piling up weak contact, mostly on the ground. His velocity did seem down a little, 90-91 touching 92.
In Lansing, the game was suspended due to rain tied 3-3 after 10. Josh DeGraaf started for Lansing and has some success with his slider early, but gave up a lot of hard contact and was probably lucky to give up only 3 runs and 8 hits. Tayler Saucedo followed with 4.2 very good innings, generating weak contact, only yielding a little at the end.
Vancouver lost their 8th straight game, and will try to avoid a second 9 game losing streak in the last month tomorrow. Denis Diaz simply couldn't find the strike zone with any consistency (6 walks and 2 HBP), yet was allowed to muddle through 4 innings. After getting hit hard to open the game, he had some success leaning heavily on his secondaries, but then just lost the zone.
Finally, in the aforementioned Bluefield game, Juliandry Higuera turned in a solid start. He was touched up for two solo home runs, basically the only damage on the night. Of his eight strikeouts, six were looking as he was particularly dominating despite what the stat line may imply.