Jey Young/ Ball Boy Blog
The 6th and final game against the Hillsboro Hops featured a bullpen game. A traditional rotation for a MiLB or MLB team is five starters; however, in the High-A division, we traditionally see 6-game sets, so we saw the Dust Devils opt to go with the pen for the first Sunday Night game of the 2022 season. Manager "Cactus" Jack has had some success with this deployment of his pitching staff. The Tampa Bay Rays of the MLB go with a pen day every 5th day as they carry a 4-man rotation and are one the best teams in the MLB.
RHP Zac Kristofak got the start in the contest for the Rooster Tails and opened the game strong, going 3IP, allowing only ONE hit, and giving up 2BB and getting 2K. Early on, the Rooster Tails gave Kristofak some run support as Edwin Yon drove in the game's first run in the bottom of the 2nd with RBI single to LF with a total count.
Last night's 9-3 win momentum carried into the 4th as 6'4" RHRP Jack Smith took the bump and threw three shutout frames. Smith stranded two on in the 4th, pitched directly to contact in the 5th with a clean 1-2-3 frame. The defense couldn't back up Smith early in the 6th as 3B Guzman struggled to field two non-routine plays to start the innings. However, Smith bounced back with two quick outs, and the 6th was ended on a high-light reel throw from RF D'Shawn Knowles to C Lovelace to maintain the shutout through 6.
While Smith was sitting up almost as fast as they came up, the Rooster Tails added 1R on a Kyle Lovelace sac fly to CF to score SS Osmy Gregorio. Up the 6th, the Rooster Tails has left a RISP in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th, and went 1-5 on the night with RISP, as they also ended the game with a total 7 LOB.
Entering the back 1/3 of the game, the wind kicked up at GESA Stadium, and if you were wearing shorts like I was, you likely regretted doing so at this point. Nonetheless, the Rooster Tails had RHRP Emilker Guzman come on to begin the 7th. He worked a quick 7th with some good stuff on the mound; the breaking stuff was working; he missed bats and the zone in this one as he issued 2BB but did get 3K in his two innings. C Kyle Lovelace made a fantastic throw down to SS Gregorio to end the 7th.
Rooster Tails 1B Gabe Matthews, who somehow gets a mention in every piece so far this season, added a needed insurance run on an Oppo Taco, solo HR to extend the 3-0 into the 9th. RHRP Dakota Donovan came on to close us out at GESA Stadium. Donovan got a quick out 1 & 2 with a fly out to RF, and a chopper in front of home plate played cleanly by Lovelace. Donovan went down 3-0 against the last batter but worked back to get the strikeout and earn the Rooster Tails back-to-back wins.
Two takeaways from tonight's game, the Rooster Tails/Dust Devils play "small ball" about as well as I have seen for a club. Manager Cactus Jack gets his guys in motion, is aggressive on the bases and these players have the art of bunting down. The next is how Pitching Coach Doug Henry has adjusted his staff to pitch to contact and allow the defense to work behind them. With a speedy outfield and solid INF behind them, there is no reason they should not be attacking the hitters, and that was a big reason, to me, they were able to notch back-to-back wins.
Lastly, OF D'Shawn Knowles has looked incredibly confident and comfortable in RF compared to CF, where he played the first few games of his High-A career. Knowles has the speed and athleticism to play CF well as well. However, the approach in RF passed the eye test for me. Along with Knowles, 2B Paris has looked like Angel's #3 prospect, especially with the 2-out rope double early in the game. The move to 2B recently could be foreshadowing Angel's approach with #2 prospect SS Arol Vera who is having a decent season at Low-A Inland Empire, slashing .222/.300/.303 in 198AB across 48 games played.
On Tuesday, 6/7, the Dust Devils return for a 6-game set against the Vancouver Canadians, High-A affiliates of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Canadians feature plenty of top prospects for the Blue Jays, including LHP Ricky Tiedemann(#4), SS/2B Leo Jimenez(#6), RHP Sam Robberse(#7), RHP CJ Van Eyk(8), SS/2B Miguel Hiraldo(#12), RHP Yosver Zulueta(#19), RHP Chad Dallas(#22), all being top-30 prospects for the Jays.
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