(1-1) Gwinnett Braves 1, (1-1) Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders 2
- Rio Ruiz, 3B: 1-3 2B
- Chris Ellis, SP: 6.0IP 0H 0R 4BB 5K
[Deep breath] Ok. I think I can get through this recap for you. This game featured the worst half inning of baseball I have ever seen transpire however I will start with the bad and get to the worse.
Gwinnett was dominated through the entirety of this game and almost managed to escape with the win. Phil Coke was far too much for Gwinnett absolutely dominating the Braves offense to the tune of 7.1IP 3H 1ER 0BB 9K. He worked ahead to nearly every hitter, induced tons of bad swings, and lots of weak contact. Yes, that Phil Coke. Yet he left trailing the game 1-0 in the 8th inning. How you may ask? In the most comical fashion possible. With 2 outs in the 4th the one and only Ronnier Mustelier hit an “infield single” to deep second base. I use quotes because if the second baseman makes a clean play, Ronnier is out by a couple of steps. The play isn’t made, so Ronnier is on first. Sean Kazmar follows that with a lazy pop up to right fielder Clint Frazier that ends the inning, or so everyone thought. On what should have been an easy play, Frazier and first baseman Chris Parmelee have a communication break down and the ball drops between the two of them and Ronnier, to whose credit ran as hard as he could as soon as contact was made, scored easily from first on what was hilariously ruled as a double. Other than that Phil Coke had no problem with the Gwinnett offense. With 1 out in the 8th inning Phil Coke gave up his first hard hit ball of the game to, most surprisingly, Rio Ruiz who hit a gapper between the left and center fielder. I say surprisingly because Rio Ruiz appeared over matched by the left handed pitcher in his previous at bats, a troubling trend for Rio. For the season against left handed pitching Rio hit .203/.293/.229 against lefties and tonight just looked uncomfortable against Phil. He had several ugly swings, and struggled with breaking stuff away from him. Luckily, Rio mashed against right handed pitchers and is still just 22. Okay, back to the game.
After the praise I just gave Coke, who left trailing the game, surely I must be using this paragraph to praise Chris Ellis, right? I mean Ellis had a no hitter through his 6 innings of work, and looked good his last outing (where I did praise him) so surely there is more praise headed his way. Unfortunately, no. Ellis struggled a lot with his command of his change and curveball and was reduced to a fastball only pitcher. He hung a few curveballs, including one really bad one to Clint Frazier, but managed to escape any damage. As sharp as his curve was in his last game, it was much flatter with little downward movement. He struggled to control it and left it up in the zone multiple times. As a result Ellis was working deep into counts throughout the game simply because he couldn’t put a batter away as they were able to sit on his fastball. The times Ellis normally goes to his change or curve later in a count to get weak contact or to induce an ugly swing because of its break, weren’t there tonight as the RailRiders just did not offer at it which of then ended up with him walking 4. He was also saved by a brilliant play in right by Mel Rojas Jr. who timed a leap perfectly to rob Chris Parmelee of a 2 run homerun.
WITH ALL OF THAT SAID Ellis still limited the RailRiders to 6 no hit innings without letting them really mount any type of real threat with not a single ball really hit hard. Madison Youginer came in, and we also got frustrating Madison, as he struggled with his fastball command. Madison also worked deep counts to seemingly every batter, but was still able to limit the damage to just one double that trickled down the right field line and he promptly retired the following batter to keep the game 1-0 into the 9th inning.
[Do not read past this if you value your sanity]
Here we go. Gwinnett leads 1-0. It seems like a game of destiny. They are leading despite being out played in every facet of the game. Bradley Roney enters the game. Roney has had a solid 2016 campaign that has seen him limit hitters to a .212 BAA, and .307 SLG rate. The only knock on him this season has been his walks, and it’s been rather significant as he finished the 2016 regular season with a 7.74 BB/9 in 27 games but the good days have outweighed the bad days. Roney takes a deep breath and fires a pitch to the first batter he faces, Donovan Solano. Outside. Ball 1. Without wanting to re-watch the ninth to give you a full breakdown of what happened I will be brief - needing just 11 pitches (2 strikes) Roney loads the bases without giving up a single hit. Roney walks Donovan Solano, Chris Parmelee, and hits Kyle Higashioka in the midsection to load the bases. John Moses makes the long journey to the mound to replace Roney with Maikel Cleto. That’s right, a pitcher with a walk rate of 5.57 BB/9 was brought in with the bases loaded and none out. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT WILL SHOCK YOU. Cleto throws 10 pitches, 1 strike, and walks in the game tying, and game winning run for the RailRiders. Scranton wins 2-1 despite having just 1 hit, and for what it matters, could have won this game without the benefit of that one hit.
It was one of the most disappointing baseball games I have ever witnessed. If you actually made it this far into the recap I want to thank you for allowing me to take you on this tale of sheer disappointment. Re-living it while writing about it was oddly therapeutic. The rage that filled me while I watched ball after ball being thrown was lowered a bit. Luckily for Gwinnett they can put the game behind them as they face off in game 3 tomorrow night with Tyrell Jenkins set to start the game.