Nate Pearson continued to lay waste to the Northwest League, turning in his longest and best (if perhaps not most dominant) start in his 6th start. Extended to 4 innings for the first time, the only blemish on his outing was a walk as he struck out 5 including the side in order in the 1st inning. He didn't really give up any hard contact - there's a couple lineouts recorded in GameDay, but neither broadcast made the contact sound more than routine.
Pearson didn't touch triple digits, topping out (that I heard) at 98 and 99, but had a really effective breaking ball that accounted for about half of his 11 swinging strikes (on 32 swings, 66% contact). This runs his line in the NWL to 16innings, 3 hits, 2 walks and 19 strikeouts. That's really impressive regardless, but I'll be interesting in seeing how his stuff holds up over longer outings, as he faces batters multiple times. He should have one regular season start left next week, and then one playoff start the week after with potentially a second. Hopefully he's allowed to go 4-5 innings a couple more times.
Following Pearson was Travis Bergen, the 7th round pick out of Kennesaw State back in 2015. He's a name to keep an eye now that he's seemingly back and healthy. He got off to a dominant in Vancouver, striking out 11 over 5.1 innings while piling up swinging strikes left and right, but left his second appearance with an arm injury, and has barely pitched since.
He too only had one blemish, a single in the 6th inning to break out the combined no-hitter. He too struck out 5, albeit with only 6 swinging strikes (on 25 swings, 76% contact). Hopefully, he can stay healthy and get back on track, I would think as part of Lansing's 2017 rotation.
So Vancouver's pitchers went 8 shutout innings, striking out 10 while allowing just a single and walk. In what was the theme of the day (see below), there was 9th inning drama as Orlando Pascual gave up a home run to dead centre to end the shutout, and had the tying run in scoring position with two out but held on for the save.
Meanwhile, there was a series of wild games across the system, involving New Hampshire, Dunedin, and Bluefield.
Sean-Reid Foley turned in one of his better starts of the season. Through 6 shutout innings, he allowed just 3 hits and a HBP while striking out 5 on just 62 pitches. He was more "in control" than flat out dominant (9 swinging strikes on 34 swings, 75% contact) as he frequently was in previous years, but still much better than recent starts.
He gave up a home run leading off the 7th to cut the lead to 3-1, but retired the next three in order and came back of for the 8th. An infield single and a line drive single ended his day at just 81 pitches through 7+ innings, and in hindsight the Fisher Cats probably wish they left him as Andrew Case second pitch was a double that cleared the bases and tied the game. SRFs final line was 7+, 3 earned, 5 hits, 6 strikeouts.
From there, the game stayed tied in extras, and into the 12th as it became NH's longest game of the year. Daniel Young negotiated through 3 shutout innings despite 5 walks (two intentional), and they got a leadoff triple in the bottom of the inning, followed by Hartford intentionally walking the bases loaded to set up the force with Anthony Alford up. But he didn't need to do anything, as this happened with a two strike count:
Your New Hampshire Fisher Cats: The Official Team of the Walk-Off Wild Pitch.— NH Fisher Cats (@FisherCats) August 25, 2017
It's a 4-3 win in 12 innings! pic.twitter.com/sWTTJAAgiy
In Dunedin, the game was delayed by an ugly weather system for an hour, which seemed to sap the Dunedin bats. Going to the home 7th, they trailed 1-0 but broke out for six runs, highlighted by a Bo Bichette double to the gap. That seemed to put the game in cruise control given how Dunedin pitching was stifling Fire Frog hitting. Until the 9th when Dan Lietz came into the game.
He threw 14 pitches, four of which were strikes, and of those four two went for base hits. All four batters reached, and he exited with the bases loaded and one run in, so it was 6-2 and the tying run at the plate. Not ideal but not completely dire either. Even if you trade three runs for three outs, you still win. Alas, Kirby Snead couldn't do that. A wild pitch and three consecutive hits tied the game; the go ahead run came a little later on a bases loaded walk (after an intentional walk, albeit it only from a 2-0 count).
After that gut punch, you had to figure Dunedin was done. But Vladimir Guerrero Jr. lead off with a line drive single, followed by another single, and then a mishandled sac bunt by Juan Kelly loaded the bases with none out. Our own Minor Leaguer was on hand, and despite his better judgment stuck it out after the meltdown to capture this:
Dunedin walked off an improbable 8-7 win. Bichette finished 1/5 with the double, Vladdy 2/4 with two singles and a walk.
Lastly, Bluefield just barely won an 11-10 shootout, hanging on by their white knuckles in the 9th. They jumped out to a 4-0 lead, punctuated by a three run home run by Ryan Noda. They extended it to 6-1 in the 2nd, but that was down to 7-6 after three innings. The ball was flying in Kingsport, Tennessee and Josh Winckowski was victimized for three home runs. The score with knotted by the bottom of the 5th.
The Bluefield lineup continued its onslaught, aided by the leadoff hitter reaching in every inning but one. They put up two spots in the 6th and 8th, and carried an 11-8 lead to the 9th. With one out, a line drive single was followed by a two run home run, to narrow the lead to a single run. With two out, a double put the tying run in scoring position. But he was stranded.
Thee wild games, three Blue Jays affiliate victories.