First off, I simply want to say: God(, Allah, Budda, or whoever you believe is watching over us) Bless America.
With the important thing out of the way, let's talk baseball. After the post-season began strangely at all three levels, with Reno jumping to a 2-0 series lead and both Mobile and Missoula losing their first contests in ugly fashion, it seems that the playoffs have started playing out closer to how it should have been expected. Reno has lost two straight to allow Sacramento to even up the series, Missoula evened their series at a game apiece, and Mobile... well, Mobile's offense is still sputtering, but they took a 2-1 series lead because of this:
Snakelet of the Day:
Tyler Skaggs (Double-A): 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R (1 ER), 9:2 K:BB, 4:6 GO:AO
Triple-A: Reno 2, Sacramento 8. (2-2) Well, just like that, the series is even at two games apiece. Starter Gaby Hernandez was awful, giving up six runs in 3.2 innings on the mound, allowing six hits, three walks, and hitting two batters while striking out only a pair. That alone was enough to beat the Aces bats, but reliever Eury De La Rosa - called upon to work long relief for no discernible reason after being a one-inning guy for South Bend all year long - gave up two runs in 2.1 innings with a 1:1 K:BB ratio and a home run allowed. Reno's offense notched seven hits and three walks, but Cody Ransom's double was the only extra-base hit of the night, and a two-run sixth off of opposing starter Carlos Hernandez was all the Aces could muster. No word on who will be starting game five of the series, but I believe that every active pitcher on the roster has already pitched in the series - perhaps they go with Zach Kroenke on short rest?
Double-A (11 innings): Mobile 3, Birmingham 2. (2-1) Mobile's bats continue to be rendered powerless by the Barons' staff, notching eight hits in this game, all of which were singles. Adam Eaton led the group by reaching base three times, on two singles and a walk. Thankfully, a combination of sloppy defense for Birmingham and fantastic pitching for Mobile proved to be enough to scratch out an extra-innings victory. The incredible night on the mound began with Tyler Skaggs, who once again dominated in seven innings of work. Skaggs struck out nine and walked two, giving up just six hits and one run with a 4:6 GO:AO ratio.
The outing was encouraging for more reasons than simply what is obvious (i.e. a pleasant reminder that Skaggs is good), as Skaggs' dominance is an indication that he is in no way tiring despite seeing his innings total climb to 165.1 with this start. That's an enormous jump from his 98.1 innings of work in 2010. Before you panic, it's entirely possible that Skaggs threw a good deal of innings in Fall Instructs after the 2010 season, so his 2010 workload may have been closer to 130 innings, which would make 165.1 in 2011 quite a conservative jump, actually. Either way, his workload in 2011 sets him up to work close to a full 200 innings in 2012 if he avoids injury, although that number might be toned down if he spends most of the year in the major leagues, where the innings are a bit more stressful. Call me a homer (because I am), but Skaggs looks an awful lot like a straight Grade A pitching prospect to me.
Advanced-Rookie: Missoula 11, Great Falls 1. (1-1) Missoula's offense had clearly had enough of being shut down, as the Osprey bats combined for two homers, five doubles, and 16 hits in this game. Ryan Court and Tom Belza each had three-hit days, with Belza adding a pair of stolen bases and Court hitting one of the team's two home runs. The other long ball came courtesy of Eric Groff, who also doubled and walked once. Also contributing doubles were Jonathan Griffin, Tyler Linton, Chris Ellison, and Roidany Aguila. Groff, Griffin, Linton, and Fidel Pena each had two-hit days, with Pena adding a sac fly and a HBP to his day. The only bat to not contribute wasStephen Cardullo, who had an 0-5 day with two strikeouts, with each of the eight other hitters in the lineup accumulating at least two total bases in the game.
That offensive dominance coincided with a fantastic outing from starting pitcher Jesse Darrah, who has been fairly inconsistent - but often dominant - for the Osprey this year. Darrah gave up just three hits, a walk, and a HBP in six innings on the mound, allowing just a single earned run to the Voyagers' offense. Darrah posted a 4:2 GO:AO ratio and, best of all, whiffed eight of the 23 batters he faced in the game, a Skaggs/Bauer-esque 34.8% K-Rate. The Missoula bullpen locked things down from there, working three scoreless frames despite a wobbly seventh from Victor Lara that contained three walks.