Diamonds in the Desert: A Baseball Blog from Tucson

Something to Talk About!
June 4, 2008, 18:35
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Tucson Sidewinders have won their last two games and have lost only one since they departed Tucson following their first home-series win of the season on Friday night.  That, in itself, is great news:  they’ve won two consecutive series, one in Tucson, one away.  But I want to focus on the game they played Monday night at Fresno because it shows a side of the team that we’ve not seen but that I’ve believed in this whole dismal season.  Yes…I am the eternal optimist.  But the boys finally delivered on the promises given us based on their talent!

Hot on the heels of the team’s first home-series victory, the Winders rolled into Fresno Saturday night and beat the Grizzlies, 6 to 5.  Easy for me to think that something foundational about the team had changed, since they appeared to be on a REAL winning streak.  But then they lost the Sunday game one to two, and I was no longer so sure about the streak concept.  Monday night didn’t help clarify matters initially…  Yusmeiro Petit started for the Winders.  He’d recently taken the Winders forward for a win and I’d thought his presence might guarantee a win for the team on Monday.  Unfortunately, he was roughed up for five earned runs in his six innings of work.  And it looked very much like he was going down with a loss when Plum pulled him on pitch count.  Yusmeiro allowed two homers…walked his FIRST (two) batters in his AAA season…and struckout nine Grizzlies.  Not a horrible evening’s work.  Except that the Winders were down zero to five at the end of his outing.  Even though relievers Connor Robertson and Brandon Medders (pitching in his first game for the Winders since the D-Backs released him) worked two spectacular one-two-three innings following Yusmeiro, nothing was working for our boys offensively.  And, let’s be frank, it was basically an ugly game.  NO ONE was happy with the home plate umpire, John Coons, at any point during the game.  In fact, the Grizzlies’ manager, Dan Rohn, was ejected in the 2nd;  Grizzlies right fielder Nate Schierholtz was ejected as a result of the same brawl in the 2nd;  our third baseman Jamie D’Antona was ejected in the 8th (only his second ejection in his entire professional career…those who have seen Jamie play realize how rare it is for him to lose his composure so badly); and Fresno’s pitcher Kevin Gryboski was ejected in the 9th!  Not a pretty game!  And even less so for my team.  Down zero to five in the eighth, I almost decided to turn off the radio and pick up my book.  This season Winder fans have not seen any remarkable comebacks…no sign of life in late innings while the Snakes are being drubbed by an opponent.  Surely the game was all but over.  Another loss.  Ho hum.

But NO!  For the first time this season, the Winders hunkered down and played some serious baseball!  All the pieces finally came together and our little Snakes gave us the ride of our life, as they fought back (FINALLY) to snatch a victory from the hands of defeat!  I hope my neighbors were forgiving of my disruption of their peaceful Monday evening as I LOUDLY echoed Ryan Radtke’s delight at seeing the tables turn in favor of our team.  Fresno’s starting pitcher, Matt Palmer, had probably written the Winders off, too.  He’d pitched well enough to be sure of a win, but then in the eighth…  Two out, one on, and Trot Nixon homers to right to take the Winders to within three of a tie.  Although Jamie’s then called out at the plate (and argues enough to be booted from the game), the damage is done.  The Grizzlies go down one-two-three in the bottom of the eighth and the Winders had chased Palmer from the game.  New pitcher for Fresno, Kevin Gryboski, takes on the Winders in the top of the ninth.  He immediately gives up a solo homer to Josh Whitesell, Ks Robbie Hammock, then gives up a solo homer to Wilkin Castillo before he’s tossed from the game by the home plate ump.  Winders only down by a single run!  Fresno’s Julio Mateo takes his long warm ups on the mound, then allows a double off the bat of Jesus Merchan, followed by a line ball out by Donnie Kelly.  Two down.  And Emilio Bonifacio strides to the plate…  This could be the end for the Winders.  The way things have played out for the team this year, it seemed an absolute certainty…  But Emilio had other plans, as he tied the game with an RBI single that scored Jesus!  The inning ends on that relatively high note as Tim Raines Jr strikes out swinging to end the inning.

Now comes the really scary part!  Could our bullpen actually hold on to give the Winders a shot at winning in extra innings?  This bullpen has been our profound weakness all season long.  There was still not a lot of reason to have any hope that we could hold the Grizzles at a tie…and no guarantee we could come back if the bullpen COULD get us to extras.  I was biting my nails with anxiety as Emiliano Fruto took the mound in the ninth!  He allowed a single, tossed a wild pitch to advance the runner, and I was crying in my soup.  But a foul bunt K and two pop outs later and our boys were actually facing extra innings while on an offensive roll!  Fresno brought in another reliever to try to close the game.  He issued a walk to Trot Nixon, who then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Trent Oeltjen.  He then walked Josh Whitesell!  Two on, one out!  Robby Hammock‘s up at the plate:  and he TRIPLES to score both Trot and Josh!  Sidewinders ahead by two!  Then they got a little greedy and it cost them:   Wilkin Castillo (who has done some marvelous things lately to end games with defensive plays from behind the plate!) hit into a double-play in which Robby was called out at home to end the inning.  But we were ahead by two! 

The Sidewinders sent closer Leo Rosales to the mound in the 10th.  Leo reportedly thrives on these close games, having been a closer most of his career.  Leo allows a double and a ground-out that advances the runner to third.  That runner scores on a sac fly by another of those little-Giants.  Not good, folks!  Our team is still holding on to a one-run lead.  Hold your breath, because Scott McClain, always a FORCE for the opposing team, is up to bat with two outs.  Scott can easy tie the game with a homer.  He does that kind of thing all the time.  But THIS time, our Leo wins the battle, and Scott goes down on a swinging strikeout to end the game.  Ryan Radtke and I go crazy!  (The Fresno faithful?  Well, not so much…)

And so it was, boys and girls, that the Sidewinders finally showed some of the meddle we expect from them.  Last night’s game – though another win for the boys from Tucson – didn’t display the same heroics.  But knowing these guys CAN actually come from behind is incredible.  Yes indeed.  I think something has changed for our team.  And if that win on Monday doesn’t get them STOKED, nothing will.  GO SNAKES!!!

The PCL has an off day today, so there are no games to listen to.  You’ve already missed today’s D-Back game.  Our parent unit lost against the Brewers…in fact, they lost the series.  As the tide has turned toward the positive for the Winders, the D-Backs have gone a little south.  Such is baseball.

ALUMNUS PROMOTED!  Those of you who followed the 2006 and 2007 Sidewinders will remember “our” Chris Carter…  Not the greatest at defense (no matter where he was placed…but – give him credit – no matter where he was positioned he worked HARD to improve those defensive skills), Chris had an uncanny ability to slug balls out of the ballpark.  That was clearly what the Boston Red Sox had in mind when they worked a trade that took CC to their AAA affiliate last season.  Unfortunately, CC didn’t make the MLB BoSox out of Spring Training.  BUT.  Chris has been called up to DH in the place of David Ortiz, whom the BoSox recently put on the DL.  I know CC will never see this, but there are a LOT of folks here in Tucson that are delighted about the news of his promotion and wish him the very best in the Bigs!

(Disclaimer – this posting not reviewed/approved by the Sidewinders, Diamondbacks, PCL, MiLB, MLB, National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, SK Baseball LLC, or any other baseball official and represents the views and biases of the author alone)


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