Captains Continue Strong Season
However, while Charles I had his Cromwell and Napoleon his Waterloo, the Captains have the Great Lakes Loons. So far this season, the Captains have gone 2-5 against the Dodger affiliate located in Midland, Michigan. That means the Captains have an incredible 18-3 record against the rest of the Midwest League. Currently, the Captains are two and a half games ahead of the Loons in the Eastern Division. That’s the good news. The bad news: The Captains opened up a three game series in Midland this weekend, and their woes against Great Lakes continued on Saturday, blowing a 3-1 lead and losing to the Loons in the bottom of the ninth 4-3.
The recent seven game homestand started out with an exciting come from behind 10-7 win over Great Lakes. Coming from behind seems to be a specialty of this year’s team But unfortunately, the Captains lost 3 in a row to the Loons, the longest losing streak of the year. But, the homestand ended with a bang, as the Captains swept the Dragons, coming from behind in two of the wins.
The Captains got outstanding pitching in the Dayton series. The starting pitching, which has been questionable for most of the year, came through like gangbusters. The series began with an outstanding performance by right handed starter Trey Haley. Haley, drafted by the Indians in the second round of the 2007 draft as a 17 year old out of Texas, went seven strong innings on Tuesday. He gave up only 3 hits and no runs, while striking out a season high 7 batters and walking only one. This was by far the best game of Haley’s young career. Things appear to be looking up for Trey, as he looked strong in his previous start, also against Dayton. In that game, Haley went seven innings, giving up only one earned run. In winning these two games, Haley lowered his ERA from 6.00 to 3.66, while improving his record to 2-0, with 22 strikeouts and 12 walks. The Midwest League is hitting .246 against him. Haley has been considered a top level, but raw, prospect. He doesn’t turn 20 until late June, and has a long way to go, but all Indians fans should be excited by Haley’s performance.
The improved starting pitching continued in Wednesday’s game with a superb outing by Joe Gardner. Gardner set the world on fire in his first appearance, striking out 11 in his four inning professional debut against West Michigan. Gardner, who had a difficult preceding outing against Great Lakes, threw three scoreless innings against Dayton, striking out two and walking none. Unfortunately, a downpour, complete with thunder, lighting, and gale force winds caused the game to be suspended after 3 innings. With a 1-0 record and 3.24 ERA, the 6’4”, 220 pounder out of UC Santa Barbara earned a promotion to Kinston on Saturday, the first Captain of the year to get the call to the K-Tribe.
Danny Salazar, a 19 year old out right hander out of the Dominican Republic, kept the streak going with a quality start, and his best performance of the season, in the series wrap up on Thursday. He went 5 innings in a 7 inning game. (The Captains and Dragons played a doubleheader on Thursday, completing Wednesday’s game and followed by a seven inning game.) Salazar gave up 3 runs, all earned, on 4 hits. Salazar also struck out a season high 6 batters. He earned the victory on Thursday, evening his record at 1-1, with a 6.06 ERA, 16 SO and 7 BB. The league is batting .306 against him.
The bullpen, which had been a strong point for the Captains earlier in the season, showed a little weakness during the Dayton series, but fought back and remained strong. Trey Haley turned a 6-0 game over to the usually reliable Francisco Jimenez, who gave up 2 runs on three hits in his one inning of work. Closer Corey Burns, the right hander with the Louis Tiant delivery and Bob Wickman results, saved two out of the three victories against the Dragons. He gave up a run on two hits in saving Tuesday’s win. In Thursday’s first game, Burns loaded the bases with no outs before striking out the next three batters to earn his 9th. Left hander Chris Jones was on the mound when the suspended game picked up on Thursday.
Jones, who gave up 4 runs, all earned, in 3 innings in his previous outing against Great Lakes, bounced back with three strong innings, giving up no runs and 2 hits. He struck out one and walked none. Jones is having a pretty solid year, appearing in 7 games so far this year. In 5 of those games he didn’t give up a run, but unfortunately, each of his two poor outings resulted in losses. The 21 year old Jones left the game in a scoreless tie, so he didn’t factor into the decision. Right hander Rob Bryson, who came to the Indians organization from Milwaukee in the 2008 CC Sabathia trade, pitched 2 scoreless innings to earn the win. Bryson also had a couple of rough outings earlier in the season, but since giving up 4 runs in 2 innings on April 20 against Great Lakes, Bryson has only given up 1 run in his last 4 appearances, covering 6 2/3 innings. The victory raised his record to 4-0, with a 4.05 ERA. Better still, Bryson has struck out 21 batters in his 13 1/3 innings pitched, while walking only 2. Let’s hope his comeback remains on track.
Matt Packer, a 21 year old left handed product of the University of Virginia, continued the bullpen’s strong performance earning his first save in Thursday’s seven inning game. Packer has been a pleasant surprise so far this year as he’s made 8 appearances, all in relief. He gave up 4 runs in 2 1/3 innings on April 17 against Ft. Wayne. He hasn’t given up a run in his other 7 games, and now sits with 1-0 record, with 2.19 ERA, striking out 10, while walking only 1 in 12 1/3 innings pitched.
The gopher ball continues to be the Captains nemesis. Overall, the staff has given up 28 home runs, more than any other team in the Midwest League. Burlington is a distant second with 21. Lake County pitchers gave up 13 dingers in the recent homestand, 10 of them to Great Lakes in last weekend’s four game series. On the flip side, the Captains have middling power, belting only 15 homers in 28 games, good for 8th in the Midwest League.
The offense continues to be a strength. Outfielder Bo Greenwell leads the Midwest League with a .361 batting average, with 4 homeruns, 7 doubles and 2 triples for an OPS of 1.025. He also leads the league with 27 RBI and is second with an OPS of 1.25. The versatile Casey Frawley is 8th in the league with a .338 batting average. The right handed Frawley, out of Florida’s Stetson University and the Indians 17th round draft pick in 2009, has surprised most observers and played himself into an everyday guy. Manager Ted Kubiak, wanting to utilize Frawley’s bat, has played Casey at third, shortstop, the outfield, as well as his normal position at second base. First base remains a problem, with Adam Abraham (.131 BA/471 OPS) and Ben Carlson (.183 BA/..520 OPS) continuing to struggle.
The team has a “never say die” attitude and have made several come from behind wins this season. In the first game of the recent homestand, Great Lakes lead 6-0 after 3 innings, but the Captains battled back to win 10-7. In fact, they came from behind in 3 of their 4 victories in that homestand. With a record of 20-8, the Captains are off to a great start. With the starting pitching starting to come around to go with an outstanding bullpen, strong offense, and never give up attitude the Captains have become a force in the Midwest League.
Now if only they can do something about the Loons.