Baseball can take crazy turns. We saw that Wednesday evening in New York, and last night in Dunedin it happened in reverse. After Dunedin did nothing offensively for literally 9 innings - just 4 hits and 2 walks - and trailed 2-0 with two out in the 9th, a routine popup to second base was muffed.Two pitches later, Juan Kelly smashed a game tying home run to send the game to extras, where Conner Panas walked off the Tampa Yankees in the 10th.
Jon Harris had a choppy outing last Tuesday, tagged for 6 runs in 5.2 innings, allowing 9 hits and 2 walks against 4 strikeouts. He simply gave up too much hard contact, with only about 40% ground balls and 7 or 8 of the 22 balls in play hit hard including a double, two triples, and a home run. Harris was around the zone (62/94 pitches for strikes), touched 95 on the Reading gun, but didn't miss many bats (9 on 50 swings) and made mistakes that got punished.
Wednesday, Shane Dawson was a study in contrasts. An error and a hard double put on with one out in the first, and Dawson gave up a 3-run homer. He struck out the next two batters, and pitched 5 more innings allowing just two singles and piling up bunch of weak contact. Alas, the damage was done as the Fisher Cats fell 3-2.
Sean Reid-Foley had another outing to forget last night, failing to make it out of first inning. He faced 8 batters, walking 3 and retiring just 2, with 4 runs scoring against him. Of his 37 pitches, just 15 were strikes and his fastball was just 92-94 MPH on the NH stadium gun on what was apparently a very pleasant evening (so weather was not a factor).
On the plus side, Blake McFarland (2 IP, 1 run, 2K) and Tim Mayza (1.1 IP, 1 hit, 1 BB, 1 K, 93-95 MPH) were solid out of the bullpen.
Another pitcher who had an abbreviated outing was Ryan Borucki on Tuesday. Unlike Reid-Foley above, he was completely electric, throwing 3.2 shutout innings with 8 strikeouts. He struck out the first 7 in a row, retired three batters on weak contact, struck out the last batter and was removed at 45 pitches. That was curious, but sounded planned since a reliever was ready, so hopefully not a sign of injury for Borucki who has missed so much time with injuries and had a DL stint earlier, missing a start
Here's how flatout dominant Borucki was: Tampa batters took 25 swings. They came up empty 15 times, for an utterly ridiculous 40% contact rate. He only averaged 4 pitches per batter, despite striking out 8 of them. His fastball was consistently 94-96 on the Dunedin gun, with swings and misses on both secondary pitches.
Jordan Romano wasn't quite as ridiculous as Borucki, but did turn him in an excellent start of his own, working into the 7th inning and allowing just 1 run (unearned, though it was his own bad decision) on 4 hits, while striking out 9 without issuing a free pass. And he might have completed the 7th had the first two batters not reached on errors. Romano was electric early, his fastball ranging 95-98 MPH on the Dunedin gun, as he struck out the first four batters and faced the minimum until a two out single in the 5th.
Romano's velocity did drop in the middle innings, into more the 92-93 range. The second time through the order, the contact he yielded shifted from mostly on the ground to mostly in the air, and he started to get squared up for hard contact including a pair of doubles starting the 6th sandwiched around a sac bunt he threw away. It seemed like the outing was about to go south, but he rebounded against the top of the lineup the third time with a pair of strikeouts. If the broadcast was correct, he shifted back to slider after using a bunch of changeups the second time though, which may have been a developmental objective since it lags behind his fastball/slider combination but will be needed if he's to remain a starter.
On the hitting front, the bats have been a little quieter the past couple days. Vladdy Jr. hit his 4th home run Wednesday, ambushing a first pitch for a no doubter. Richard Urena put together his first nice game in a while last night, with a hard line drive double and two walks drawn.