It was a successful day on the farm for the D-backs affiliates, with all four clubs winning their contests, and three of them doing so in walk-off fashion. Further, the final affiliate did their late surge an inning earlier, going from three down to two up in one inning. With so many heroics taking place on the farm, there were a fair number of impressive performances - four, in fact - on the farm worth noting.
Snakelet of the Day:
Randy Ruiz (Triple-A): 3-5, 2B, GS, 1 R, 5 RBI. GS took the lead in the bottom of the 8th.
Matt Davidson (Double-A): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. Scored tying run in bottom of the 9th after 2B.
Gerson Montilla (Low-A): 3-6, 2B, 3B, R, 2 RBI, K. Walk-off 2B in the bottom of the 12th.
Jeffrey Shields (Low-A): 7 IP, 9 H, 2 R (2 ER), 3:1 K:BB, 10:4 GO:FO, 3 GIDP. Umm... just pitched well.
Triple-A: Reno 11, Tacoma 9. (12-17) The Aces entered the bottom of the eighth down 9-6, but rallied off of Rainiers relievers Cesar Jimenez and Oliver Perez - yep, that Oliver Perez. In perhaps the world's must unsurprising event, Perez gave up the lead on a two-out grand slam to Randy Ruiz that inning, the only hit he allowed in the inning while walking two. Ruiz had a great game, falling a triple shy of the cycle on a three-hit day, while Cole Gillespie singled and doubled. Started Zach Kroenke had a poor outing to put the Aces down early, allowing eight runs - all earned - in just 5.2 innings on the mound, surrendering ten hits. Thankfully, the bullpen did a sterling job to give the bats a chance to rally back, giving up just one run in the following 3.1 innings to seal the win.
Double-A: Mobile 6, Mississippi 4. (17-12) BayBears starter Chase Anderson had his first wobbly outing of the year, allowing four earned runs in seven innings on six hits and three walks, striking out three. Give Anderson credit, though - after giving up three runs in the fourth inning, he settled down and worked three more quality innings to give the BayBears bats some time to rally. The bullpen also held up its end of the bargain, with Kevin Munson striking out two in a 1-2-3 inning and Yonata Ortega striking out the side in the ninth.
The star at the plate for the BayBears was Matt Davidson, who fell a single shy of Ruiz's outing with a double and a two-run home run, with Brent Clevlen and Alfredo Marte each adding doubles. The BayBears went into the bottom of the ninth down by one run, but a Davidson double and Marc Krauss single quickly tied things up. That gave Yazy Arbelo the chance to be the hero, and he responded by launching a two-out, two-run, walk-off home run - to left-center, shocking and encouraging for someone who was so pull-focused when I saw him a year ago at South Bend - that was his first since joining the BayBears.
Hi-A: Visalia 6, High Desert 5. (13-16) Lefty Andrew Chafin's line wasn't particularly pretty - 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R (4 ER), 1:4 K:BB, HR - but the SnakePit's very own blue bulldog was listening in to the radio feed online (Donny Baarns is one of the better/more accessible radio guys in the minors) and had this to say about his impressions:
The numbers in the outing today are going to look ugly. However, there's a bright line in all of this. The ugliness was because the fastball command was not there. But I'm listening to the game on audio, and he's throwing plenty of changeups and actually generating a lot of swings and misses on the changeups early in the count. That's definitely we want to see from Chafin. Slider is of course as good as always.
My response: this is legitimately encouraging. Chafin's upside as a starter is quite high, but the changeup is going to be necessary if he's to reach that upside in the rotation. His previous outings have shown that he is plenty good at working off of his fastball and slider - last night excepted - but to see his third pitch generating positive results is encouraging.
The bullpen held the Mavericks to one run over the following four innings, setting up an opportunity for the Rawhide to come back in this contest. Jonathan Griffin hit a solo home run in the second, which Chris Owings followed up with a three-run blast in the third to put Visalia 4-0. However, the Rawhide trailed 5-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth, but loaded the bases off of Mavericks reliever Jonathan Arias with one out, setting up Garret Weber's walk-off two-run double. Keon Broxton also added a two-base hit to the Rawhide's offensive cause.
More on Owings for a brief moment: the 20-year-old shortstop is still very young for the Cal League and absolutely setting the league on fire thus far. Owings' 1-4 night dropped his batting average below .300 (to .299 - for shame, Chris), but through 29 games, Owings has now cranked six home runs and eight doubles among his 35 hits on the season, good for a slugging percentage of .521. His on-base skills are lacking - he's drawn six walks thus far in 2012 and hasn't walked since April 28 - but the reports on his defense remain promising and a consistent bat that hits for both average and power at shortstop is incredibly valuable. With his age, Owings has to be considered neck-and-neck with Davidson and A.J. Pollock for the title of the best position player prospect in the system.
Low-A (12 innings): South Bend 4, Bowling Green 3. (17-11) Right-hander Jeffrey Shields was good once again, allowing just two earned runs in seven innings on the hill to lower his ERA on the year to 3.16. Shields allowed nine hits, one walk, and hit a batter while striking out three. More importantly, Shields again did a great job of keeping the ball on the ground, inducing ten groundouts and allowing just one extra-base knock while using three ground-ball double plays to wipe out extra baserunners. Having finally seen him this year after missing him in 2011, I can say with certainty that his sinker has some heavy action on it, and his 2.91 GO/FO ratio thus far this year is no fluke. Don't be surprised if Shields heads to Hi-A Visalia mid-way through the year.
The bullpen did solid work in relief of Shields, although the bats didn't give them much cushion, with D.J. Johnson's ninth-inning earned run tying the game up and sending it into extra innings. Johnson worked a scoreless tenth, with Kable Hogben working two more scoreless frames before the bats ended the game on a walk-off double from Gerson Montilla. Montilla ended his day a home run shy of the cycle, continuing his impressive season in what is a pitcher-friendly league. Ender Inciarte was also solid, tripling and drawing a pair of walks.