I took advantage of "feels like" 106 Sunday afternoon weather and took in the final match of a 6 game series between the Amarillo Sod Poodles and the Padres' AA affiliate San Antonio Missions. Some Texas league offense ensued, though it appeared to be mostly aided by pitcher command and poor defense.
Originally I was looking forward to seeing Jordan Lawlar for this series, but a promotion to Reno dashed those dreams. It was enjoyable to watch 3B/1B Ivan Melendez (Dbacks #8) get more cheers than some of the Padres prospects, given Ivan's El Paso/University of Texas connections. 3B/1B Deyvison De Los Santos (Dbacks #5) sat out today, but SP Yu-Min Lin (Dbacks #4) got the start. Other Dbacks familiar at the major league level in the game were Seth Beer at 1B and Juan Centeno at catcher.
The Padres rolled out their top 2 prospects in this game: 17(!) year old, $5.6 million bonus baby C Ethan Salas (Padres #1, MLB #5), who got the start at DH, and 2B Jackson Merrill (Padres #2, MLB #9). Other than that, easily the best name in the game between both teams went to SS Ripken Reyes. Wonder who he's named after...
Easy first innings for both starters: 1-2-3 without any solid contact. Sod Poodles got rolling in the 2nd with a Melendez HBP and a Beer single to right. Centeno drove in Melendez with a single before J.J. D'Orazio loaded the bases on an infield single. Cam Duzenack brought everyone home with a double down the right field line barely out of the Missions 3B's reach. I don't know if this is something that gets better with practice, or it was just so hot that players had other things to pay attention to, but defensive positioning was not consistent on both sides. On foul balls to infielders that they had to retrieve to toss out of play, they often didn't return to the exact same spot they were before the pitch. Don't know if it was an important factor, but defense certainly wasn't very sharp overall. 4-0 Sod Poodles
After the 4-spot 2nd inning by the Sod Poodles there was no scoring action through the bottom of the 5th. The Missions had two runners on in both the 2nd and the 3rd. Sod Poodles reciprocated in the 4th with a single by Centeno and a walk to Jancarlos Cintron, but a GIDP by 2nd inning hero Cam Duzenack ended the threat. Lin was handling the traffic well, but pitch count was rising going into the bottom of the 5th.
The fact that the wheels fell off in a 6-run Mission 5th inning was mostly due to defense, however. Aforementioned wunderkind Ethan Salas led off with a single, which was followed by a bloop to right that fell in for a hit. The throw back in was to cut off man 2B Tim Tawa, who then airmailed his throw to second base, which left runners on 2nd and 3rd, no outs. A groundout scored one run, a bunt hit that Lin took a poor angle on scored a 2nd run, and then the circus erupted. With 2 outs and runners on 1st and 3rd, Lin caught the runner on first off the bag. However, the pickle was so poorly executed that the runner on 3rd scored without a throw, and then SS Cintron threw the ball away. Lin walked the next guy, was pulled, and RP Dillon Larsen gave up a 3 run homer. 6-4 Missions.
Over the next 3 innings it became evident that the big league bullpen struggles extend to the minors. 2 runs scored without a hit off of walks and wild pitches in the 6th inning, another came in on a HR in the 7th, and a HBP scored on another HR in the 8th. 11-4 Missions
I was ready for my son to run the bases and get out of the heat after a quick 9th inning, but the Sod Poodles had other ideas. A Beer double was followed by a walk, a groundout, and a 3 run JJ D'Orazio HR. A single was then followed by 2nd-inning hero Cam Duzenack hitting a 2-run HR. Two singles and a double steal brought Ivan Melendez to the plate ready to be hero. He battled, but went down swinging. Beer time! Until it wasn't - word of his 9th inning Padre-nemesis prowess has clearly filtered to the minors, as they walked him. A bases-loaded walk brought the Sod Poodles within 1 run, but Centeno struck out swinging on a full count to end it. 11-10 Missions.
All in all, a good day at the ballpark despite the heat. The Sod Poodles ended up losing 4 of 6 in the series, but most were low scoring until Sunday. Maybe I'm being harsh on the bullpen's command - it was hard enough to sit through the sun, let alone try to grip a ball with sweaty hands. For a small sample size, the Padres prospects looked better at the plate and in the field, especially when considering that we have guys who have played at the Major League level starting in Double A...