It was a successful week for both the Sod Poodles and the Aces, both of whom won their respective series. The Sod Poodles also clinched a postseason spot, while the Aces moved to just 2 games out.
With the decrease in teams playing, I am not going to name prospects of the week, and due to writing-time constraints, I did not highlight any players this week. I will return to doing so in the future, and I even have some offseason plans, so keep an eye out.
Also, with the Sod Poodles in the playoffs, I will try to pay more close attention to their games this week and give a more detailed write-up the day following the games.
Tuesday: Salt Lake 8, Reno 6
The Aces’ attempt to raise themselves into postseason position got off to a rough start, courtesy of Nabil Crismatt, who allowed 8 runs (7 earned) in 2.2 innings. 4 relievers held the Bees scoreless for the remainder of the game, but it was not enough for the offense to recover. Although they certainly made an effort, as they drew 8 walks and picked up 12 hits, but only 6 runs. Adrian Del Castillo hit his second home run at AAA. Jorge Barrosa, batting leadoff as Jake McCarthy was recalled to the major league club, hit his 11th. And David Martin, promoted all the way from Hillsboro as catching depth as Herrera was recalled because of Moreno’s placement on the paternity list, had a successful AAA debut, going 2-for-4. However, he also grounded into an inning-ending double play when batting in the seventh inning with two on and the score 8-6. There wouldn’t be another good chance for Reno to tie the game.
Wednesday: Reno 8, Salt Lake 2
In a bullpen game, both runs allowed were charged to Mitchell Stumpo, who worked the eighth inning with the Aces already up 8-0. Tyler Gilbert struck out 4 in 3 innings to pick up the win. Only Tristin English and David Martin failed to get on base multiple times, and they each picked up a single. Martin was also able to ground into double plays twice, but a run scored each time, so the Aces had 8 runs scored but only 6 driven in.
Thursday: Reno 5, Salt Lake 2
Slade Cecconi allowed just 1 run in 5.2 innings and Tristin English homered and doubled as the Aces took the series lead and stayed in the race. Adrian Del Castillo had 3 hits. Kyle Backhus and Austin Pope had scoreless outings. Blaze Alexander also picked up 2 hits in the win.
Friday: Salt Lake 6, Reno 4
Peter Solomon was the primary culprit as the Aces wasted a chance to get closer to Las Vegas, who lost in Round Rock. (Round Rock is currently in between Vegas and Reno in the standings.) Solomon surrendered 5 runs in 3 innings. The Aces outhit the Bees 10-9, with Blaze Alexander picking up 3 hits and Pavin Smith, in his return to AAA, picking up 2. The Aces fought to come back in the ninth inning, as they scored their fourth run and loaded the bases against former Diamondback Reyes Moronta, but Alexander struck out and Adrian Del Castillo grounded out to end the threat and the game.
Saturday: Reno 6, Salt Lake 4
Apart from a rough fourth inning, Blake Walston was excellent, as he worked 5.2 innings and struck out 5 while walking just 2. The bullpen was generally excellent thereafter, with Austin Pope allowing a solo home run and everyone else pitching scoreless frames. Justin Martinez struck out 2 and picked up his 7th save. Pavin Smith homered and drove in 3, Adrian Del Castillo doubled and drove in 2, and Blaze Alexander and Sergio Alcantara had 2 hits apiece.
Sunday: Reno 10, Salt Lake 4
It was a big win for Reno to conclude their final home series of the season. Nabil Crismatt came close to turning in a quality start, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits in 5.2 innings. Pavin Smith, Jorge Barrosa, and Philip Evans all homered. Smith went 4-for-5 on the day and finished a triple short of the cycle. The Aces currently trail first place Round Rock by 2 games and second place Las Vegas by a single game, and will head to Las Vegas with everything to play for. The Express will be in Tacoma, who are 3 games back. Oklahoma City is at Albuquerque, and they just so happen to be 4 and 3 games back, respectively. So all six teams that are still alive are playing another one of the six teams that are alive. However, Oklahoma City won the first half of the season, so they will be resting and preparing for the playoffs instead of hanging on to a long-shot effort to win both halves.
Amarillo Sod Poodles
Tuesday: Amarillo 2, Frisco 1
Dylan Ray put together his best start since being promoted as the Sod Poodles clinched a postseason spot. Ray worked 5 scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits. The bad news was another pitching injury, as Will Mabrey, who had worked 1.2 scoreless innings and was one strike away from making it two innings, went to the ground clutching his side. On the one hand, at least it wasn’t has elbow, but on the other, the Sod Poodles lost a key arm for the upcoming postseason, as he’s almost certainly done for the year. Michel Otanez came on to throw one pitch (following a balk) and end the inning, and Raffi Vizcaíno worked the final two innings, giving up the lone run, on a
home run from Wyatt Langford.
Wednesday: Frisco 10, Amarillo 1
Gunnar Groen made his AA debut in the first of five dead rubbers the Sod Poodles have to conclude the regular season. It didn’t go particularly well, nor was it horrible. It simply was, much like this game. He gave up 4 runs (3 earned) in 3 innings. Juan Centeno pitched a scoreless ninth inning. Kristian Robinson, after a solid AA debut on Tuesday, struck out 3 times in his 4 plate appearances. Deyvison De Los Santos hit his 19th home run of the season for the Sod Poodles’ lone run. In further disappointing news, Josh Barfield announced that Ivan Melendez is done for the season, at least in Amarillo, due to a minor ankle injury. He may be healthy for the Arizona Fall League.
Thursday: Amarillo 2, Frisco 1
For the third game in a row, the losing team at Hodgetown scored just a single run. That might be a record for what is one of the most batter-friendly parks in professional baseball. Yu-Min Lin showed that he is returning to form just in time, as he put together one of his best starts, working 7 innings, striking out 8, and allowing just 3 hits and 1 run. He did walk 4, which prevented him from getting his highest game score since his promotion. Christian Montes De Oca pitched the final 2 innings for his 9th save. Caleb Roberts went 3-for-4 and Deyvison De Los Santos, Seth Beer, and Neyfy Castillo all picked up doubles in the win.
Friday: Amarillo 5, Frisco 4
Normal service resumed at Hodgetown, as Camden Duzenack, Seth Beer, and Deyvison De Los Santos all homered (thereby extending further the franchise record for home runs in a season. But the Soddies held off until late, as after Duzenack’s leadoff home run, they didn’t score again until the eighth inning. Trailing 4-1, Beer and De Los Santos went back-to-back to tie the game. In the bottom of the ninth, the Sod Poodles loaded the bases with no one out, and then Duzenack scored on a walk-off balk. But the final frame was crazy before then. A single and a sacrifice bunt had a runner on second base for Wyatt Langford, who lined a single to left. Roberts was able to get the ball in quickly enough for there to be a late stop sign, and Jancarlos Cintron and Duzenack caught the runner going back to third base. Langford attempted to steal second, but was cut down by J.J. D’Orazio to end the inning. Oh, it was also pouring rain in the final inning. Duzenack got on base with a perfect bunt. Tim Tawa singled to put runners on the corner, and Roberts was intentionally walked. The balk-off followed.
Saturday: Frisco 4, Amarillo 3
Christian Montes De Oca picked up his 4th blown save of the season, as a 3-2 lead entering the ninth became a 4-3 loss. It was an unusual night in Amarillo, as the top four hitters combined to reach base just once in 16 plate appearances. Kristian Robinson picked up his first AA home run, Jancarlos Cintron had 2 hits, and Sheng-Ping Chen drove in a run. Yilber Diaz had gotten the start for the Soddies and was again excellent, working 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, and striking out 6.
Sunday: Amarillo 11, Frisco 5
The Sod Poodles ended the regular season in winning fashion thanks to a huge fifth inning, in which they plated 6 runs. Kristian Robinson and Tim Tawa homered, Caleb Roberts had 2 hits. Gunnar Groen got the start in a bullpen game and allowed 3 runs; Zach Barnes pitched the final 2 innings and allowed the other 2 runs. In between Michel Otanez and Dillon Larsen stood out; Otanez struck out 2 in his inning to earn the win, and Larsen worked 2 innings, struck out 2, and allowed just a walk. The Sod Poodles will return to action at Hodgetown on Tuesday, hosting San Antonio. After a single game in Amarillo, the series will move to San Antonio on Thursday and Friday (if necessary). The Sod Poodles went just 4-8 against the Missions this season, with one of those series just last month, so San Antonio starts as the favorite.
Prospects Who Might Be in the AFL
Ivan Melendez, despite his injury, has already been identified by Josh Barfield as likely to be appearing in the Arizona Fall League. Generally, seven players will be assigned from the Diamondbacks to the Salt River Rafters. Most of the time they are players who have not seen any major league time, but last year, one of the players was Cooper Hummel, which was likely part of an attempt to showcase him before trading him, as he was eventually dealt to the Mariners in exchange for Kyle Lewis.
I am going to go off of the assumption that the Diamondbacks will assign four pitchers and three position players, although they might have a different mix.
Ivan Melendez, assuming his ankle is healthy enough, is going to be there. We know that much. On the pitching side, I feel Justin Martinez is the most sure thing; I’m tempted to say Blake Walston as I think the Diamondbacks are willing to extend him somewhat if Reno doesn’t make the postseason, but starters are always questionable. I think Kristian Robinson is another lock to be on the Salt River roster; his development is being fast-tracked and the Diamondbacks need as much information as they can get before deciding whether or not to add him to the 40-man roster.
Potential Position Players
Caleb Roberts, Dominic Fletcher, Adrian Del Castillo, A.J. Vukovich, Blaze Alexander, Tim Tawa, and Christian Cerda are all players that I think would be under consideration. Wilderd Patiño is a long-shot. It really depends on how Mike Hazen and the rest of the brains trust wish to use the roster spots. Are they wanting to showcase for a potential trade? Look for Roberts or Fletcher. Are they wanting to provide a test to a player under consideration for a roster spot next year? Look for Alexander or Vukovich. Are they wanting to give a catcher more development time? Look for Del Castillo or possibly Cerda.
Most of the starting pitchers are running into innings limits, and if Amarillo and Reno both make deep postseason runs, that would become even more true. Relievers are far more likely to make an appearance; last year’s roster featured Kyle Backhus and Mitchell Stumpo. Out of pitchers who have been primarily starters, Blake Walston is the only one who I can see being extended by much. Ricardo Yan has a relatively low number of innings under his belt, but I doubt that a pitcher who has only spent a few starts in Hillsboro and has never appeared above A ball gets the call. I’d also be surprised if any of this year’s draftees are on the roster, although the trio of Dallas Baptist relievers have all shown excellent stuff and will likely all be fast movers (Kyle Amendt, Zane Russell, Alec Baker). Will Mabrey would have been a lock prior to his injury. Look for at least two out of Christian Montes De Oca, Liam Norris, Michel Otañez, Carlos Meza, Jake Rice, and Billy Corcoran. There’s a good chance that Bryce Jarvis, Andrew Saalfrank, or Slade Cecconi make it, or Backhus or Stumpo return to the AFL.
Of course, there are also plenty of longer shots who might be on the roster. Deyvison De Los Santos, Tommy Troy, Yilber Diaz…the list could go on.