The last remnants of the regular season wrapped up Thursday with the Pioneer League finally getting the memo to begin that whole playoffs thing. Elsewhere, Double-A Mobile began its playoff run on a surprising low note, while Triple-A Reno already took a commanding lead in their series against the Sacramento RiverCats - a complete reversal of what I had been expecting going into the post-season. No Collin Cowgill, Sean Burroughs, or Robby Hammock? No problem, says...
Snakelet of the Day:
Barry Enright (Triple-A): 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R (1 ER), 3:1 K:BB, HR, 7:7 GO:AO
Triple-A: Reno 4, Sacramento 2. (2-0) Say what you want about right-hander Barry Enright, and goodness knows I have in these reports from time to time, but one thing is for certain: he won't back down from a big situation. Enright was fabulous for the Aces on Thursday as they took a 2-0 lead over Sacramento in the first round of the Triple-A playoffs, giving up just one run in 6.2 innings of work, allowing six hits, a home run (solo, of course), and a walk, while striking out three. Call it command, call it luck, but Barry out-dueled opposing starter Tyson Ross, who the Aces bats tagged for four runs to pull away in this one. Andy Tracy had a three-hit game that included a double while Lucas May drove in two via a sac fly and a home run, also drawing a walk to finish an impressive day at the plate.
Reliever Mike DeMark continues to be a fantastic story. Signed out of Indy ball at the start of the season after years of struggling with his control in San Diego's system, DeMark was lights-out (and attacking the strike zone) at Mobile, posting a 48:9 K:BB ratio and 1.85 ERA in 34 innings for the BayBears, even collecting 15 saves (for what they're worth) after previous BayBears closers Bryan Shaw and Ryan Cook were moved up in the system. Promoted to Triple-A at the end of the year, DeMark worked a pair of scoreless outings in the regular season (both scoreless, giving up a combined one hit) before entering the post-season as the Aces' top ninth-inning man. DeMark has recorded the save in each of Reno's first two post-season wins, striking out three with one walk and a pair of groundouts over two innings of combined work - his line yesterday was three batters faced, two strikeouts, one groundout.
I don't have any sort of scouting report on the 28-year-old right-hander, but if the club has 40-man roster spots to spare (e.g. those belonging to Kevin Mulvey and Robby Hammock - assuming Arizona brings up Konrad Schmidt, who is already on the 40-man, to replace him after the playoffs end), it's not unthinkable that DeMark could join Arizona after the Triple-A playoffs end (while leaving another spot for Jarrod Parker). He wouldn't get any sort of high-leverage work, but it would certainly be a great story, and I certainly would rather watch DeMark live out his dream at 28 years young than see Zach Duke twirl another pair of mediocre, pointless mop-up innings.
Mulvey will be on the bump for game three.
Double-A: Mobile 1, Birmingham 9. (0-1) It was a rough day on the mound for left-hander Patrick Corbin, who retired just eight of the 19 batters he faced. Corbin struck out a pair, walked three, and gave up eight hits - including a homer - to get tagged with nine earned runs. Corbin's regular-season workload of 160.1 innings wasn't an enormous jump over his 2010 total of 144.2, but it's not unfeasible that he is getting tired, as his final outing of the regular season was also a disaster in which he gave up seven runs through just four innings. For someone who doesn't have superb stuff, a late-season lapse in command from tiredness could very easily lead to some very unimpressive results. Just remember that this is a guy who posted a 142:40 K:BB ratio this year and was voted by Baseball America to have the best control/command in the Southern League this year. He's a darn good prospect, even with his late-season fade.
The bullpen did its part, working 5.1 scoreless innings to keep Birmingham locked down, but the BayBears didn't record a single extra-base hit, and their nine singles weren't enough to make a serious comeback attempt. Adam Eaton led the way for the offense with three of those singles, although he did also ground into a double play. Ollie Linton was the only other BayBear hitter to reach base more than once, singling and walking. Jarrod Parker will take the mound for the BayBears in game two.
Advanced-Rookie: Missoula 8, Great Falls 11. (41-35) Right-hander Archie Bradley started this one for Missoula, and worked another dominant inning. Bradley gave up his first pro hit - a double - and saw his 27.00 K/9 rate dip, but still struck out one and induced a pair of groundouts for a relatively easy inning. Look at the bright side: he's going to have to pitch out of the stretch eventually, right? Why not start now? Things got nutty as soon as Bradley left the game, as Missoula put up three in the bottom of the first inning off of opposing starter Scott Snodgress, and had scored all eight of their runs by the end of the fifth inning. The Voyagers bats, thankful that Bradley had exited the game, also began to show up, though, putting up two run in the second, another two in the fourth, and another two in the fifth, all coming off of Johan Jaime.
The sixth inning, however, was where everything went awry for Missoula, as Conrad Flynn gave up a five-spot, blowing his two-run lead and giving Great Falls a three-run lead that would never diminish. After both teams' offenses managed a combined 19 runs within a 30-out span, it would only make sense that neither team would score for the next three-and-a-half innings, right? Because, of course, that's exactly what happened, as the bullpens traded zeros for the remainder of the game. At the plate, Missoula received a trio of home runs, coming from Roidany Aguila, Fidel Pena, and Stephen Cardullo, to go with doubles from Ryan Court and Ty Linton. Court had a three-hit day, while Eric Groff, Pena, Cardullo, and Linton each had two-hit contests.
It's hard for me to figure out which guys in this lineup - outside of bonus baby Linton and 2011 third-round pick Justin Bianco - are actually serious prospects, and who is simply a mirage of the Pioneer League's hitter friendliness. Forced to make a choice, I'd bet that Pena could amount to something, as the club seems to be doing whatever it can to find him some sort of valuable defensive home, shifting him between the middle infield and catcher spots. Perhaps even more than Pena, it's also hard to not be intrigued by a backstop who has put up a .513 slugging percentage in short-season ball at age 20 - the Cuban defector, Aguila - in what has been his first consistent playing time in pro ball.
Playoffs begin tomorrow for the Osprey, with no starting pitcher yet listed on the team's webpage.