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Old 04-07-2016, 03:53 PM   #1801
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In mid-January, I became convinced that our current rotation was insufficient to make another run for the division. Brownie is amazing, Umberger is usually pretty darn good, but after that you enter “Yes, but…” territory for three days, and it can be three long days, without water, without conveniently spaced restrooms, and with rattlesnakes along the way.

The key was to find a rebuilding team that had a starting pitcher of at least Umberger quality, who was not on a minimum salary, because we didn’t have enough prospects to ice a minimum salary #1/#2 starting pitcher from any team.

First, one that might not be obvious: Juichi Fujita, on the Canadiens. The Canadiens had finished the 2010 season over .500, but had lost a few key free agents, including half their lineup (Josh Thomas, Tom Johnson, Julio Mata, and others, plus starter Dave Crawford) and were now recognizing that they were drifting backwards. And Fujita, the 29-year old right-hander, was as good a #1/#2 starter (more #2, especially when compared to Brownie), as you could have. His numbers were virtually unchanged since 2004, his sophomore season (all with the Elks). He would put up 250 innings (leading the league three times), win 16 games (leading twice in the last three years), have a low-3 ERA, 60-some walks, 180-some strikeouts, and a 1.20-ish WHIP. Every. Year.

Fujita was due $2.48M annually from now through 2013, but the Raccoons, after giving up on Takeru Sato, who was almost ten years Fujita’s senior, and certainly not any better in any category, could actually take on the salary – just barely. We would try to send one major league player back to keep the budget damage at least for this year down a bit.

And I was after Fujita rather than their other top notch starter, Rod Taylor. While Taylor had blistering stuff, regularly out-whiffing Nick Brown, he also had led the league in home runs allowed three times in the last six years. I didn’t like that so much. No, I liked Fujita.

The other two pitchers I had focused on now where Salem’s Max Shepherd and Tijuana’s Jaylen “Midnight” Martin.

The latter was 27 years old and pretty much a copy of Fujita for most purposes, the main difference being Martin’s changeup being much better than Fujita’s, who hardly ever used it. Their stat output was largely identical, but “Midnight” had been to arbitration for the first time this fall and was going to make $610k. The Condors were loaded with bad deals, and were $2M over their budget at this point. Icing off Martin would probably meaning to take on a broken wreck along with him to free them up a bit. I’d rather have Martin than Fujita, but I’d rather pay $2M to Fujita than to SP Harry Wentz, who was hardly ever getting a ball past anybody.

Max Shepherd was a different story. He was 31, and also a right-hander. His raw stuff wasn’t as good, but he used six different pitches more or less well, and was always able to keep hitters guessing. He was a groundballer, but his stamina was on the short side. He was due $1.22M in 2011, and would be a free agent afterwards.

My top target would be Martin, but Fujita was nothing to shove off a bridge, either. Shepherd, while largely consistent apart from a spotty 2006 season, was the oldest of the group, and the most mysterious, if not to say strange.

Which is an awfully long way to introduce the sad fact that our farm system was hardly worth the oxygen they were consuming. This was especially alienating to the Condors, who quickly made it clear that we didn’t have anything that could net us Martin. The best pieces I could find in our system, all three of Rich Hood, Jason Seeley, and Ricky Moya (excluding 2010 picks who weren’t trade eligible), weren’t nearly enough to even get them talking. So, “Midnight” Martin wouldn’t become a Coon, that much was clear.

The situation wasn’t much different with the Wolves, although they were well aware they weren’t going anyway in 2011, and Shepherd was gone afterwards anyway. But even they weren’t pleased with Moya and Seeley alone (I wasn’t offering them Rich Hood, since we were also only in for one year of Shepherd after all), and I couldn’t seem to throw in enough extras for them.

No, we were really down to Fujita and the Elks.

Jason Seeley, who really hadn’t set anything on fire since getting taken #21 in the 2008 draft, roused their interest, but one youngster wasn’t going to be enough for them. We had shortstops to spare, and they were wondering what in the heck had happened to Gary Rice in 2010, dropping 70 points of average and almost 100 points of OPS since 2008.

But Seeley and Rob Howell were by far not enough to get this deal done. Again, the shallowness of our farm system hurt us greatly.

We had only eight top 200 prospects before the 2010 season, and of those, four of the highest five were no longer eligible, migrating to the bit league roster on a permanent basis (Thrasher, Canning, Slayton), and in one case right onto the DL (Santos). We were in for a drop right to the bottom of the prospect rankings come Opening Day anyway, and basically the Elks were asking for all that was left right now.

After some good long deliberations, the deal fell apart. They were pretty much asking for Rich Hood on top of Moya and Seeley, AND Rob Howell. That was just too much. Another option would have been to include Colin Baldwin or Angel Casas in the deal, and I wasn’t willing to do either.

The only signing that happened in January (outside of Ricardo Huerta) was on the 31st, when we added a minor leaguer, 21-year old southpaw Francisquo Bocanegra, a Venezuelan international signing by the Wolves, who had released him late in the minor league season in ’10.

Which is a very long story that could have been shortened to “January sucked”.



January 11 – The Indians ink ex-NAS LF/RF Clyde Brady (.258, 143 HR, 667 RBI). The 34-year old will earn $1.12M over two years.
January 14 – 33-year old ex-DEN/IND 1B/3B Daniel Sharp (.279, 61 HR, 498 RBI) lands himself a 2-yr, $2.92M gig with the Loggers.
January 24 – The Crusaders sign 38-yr old ex-OCT SP Takeru Sato (167-158, 4.28 ERA) to a 2-yr, $2.62M contract.



Okay, I failed the entire offseason. I should have realized earlier that our entire farm was ridiculously shot and that we weren’t going to trade for a starting pitcher. I should have been after the top level guys earlier. Well, except Hamlyn, whom we just couldn’t hope to pay. Terrible shortsightedness, and the team will pay for it. And the fans, I guess. It’s not like we’re cheapening the food and drinks just because we have a soft middle and bottom of the rotation.

I failed, and now I will get to complain three out of five days for an entire season. Poor Coons.
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Old 04-07-2016, 05:47 PM   #1802
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As the calendar turned to February, the biggest free agent of the winter was still out there. Jose Morales, former Knight, sterling outfielder, but fragile, had started looking for $5M per year, and surprisingly nobody had made a serious offer to him yet. He had cut his asking price in half by now, but there were still no teams saddling up.

I was trying to grab anything, the most meager thing, for one of our spare shortstops. Honestly, I’d rather trade Rob Howell than Walt Canning, but if push comes to shove, Howell can be a backup to Michael Palmer just as well.

There were two possible trades that materialized for Walt Canning as the month of February progressed. One was for Blue Sox closer Robbie Wills, who was on a very friendly deal, but I really didn’t feel like spending even more money on the bullpen. The other was for the Pacifics’ Ricky Mendoza. He had been called up in ’07 by the Warriors and had started since then and through 2009 for them, and in 2010 for L.A., but the Pacifics’ acquisition of Jack Berry during 2010 and the emergence of rookie Bruce Mark rendered him somewhat expendable for them. Not that they were really in need of a shortstop or a third baseman. If you had Jens Carroll and Adriano Lulli on the roster for these jobs, you were pretty happy. So we’re talking about a backup infielder for a long man and spot starter, although it was probably the luxury version of a long man and spot starter. Mendoza was 49-38 with a 4.15 ERA, the walks and homers both being a bit higher than you’d like. Right-hander, neutral GB/FB ratio, four pitches, very good circle change.

Was he worth dealing Canning? Yes.

Was he going to help us? No.

Was anybody going to offer something helpful for Rob Howell? No.



February 4 – The Knights pick up the former Thunder C Pablo Ledesma (.259, 135 HR, 739 RBI). The 35-year old signs a 2-yr, $3.24M contract.
February 12 – The Pacifics sign ex-VAN RF/LF Josh Thomas (.274, 228 HR, 1,060 RBI) to a 2-yr, $2.6M deal.
February 13 – Ex-POR MR Ray Kelley (21-30, 3.35 ERA, 5 SV) wins a 3-yr, $2.5M contract from the Rebels. The Raccoons receive a supplemental round draft pick.
February 16 – The Knights trade for the Wolves’ SP Art Cox (24-33, 4.77 ERA), parting with 1B/3B Kenneth Younger (.307, 12 HR, 133 RBI).
February 17 – The Indians sign ex-MIL INF Antonio Luján (.263, 67 HR, 507 RBI). The 31-year old will earn $550k in 2011.
February 26 – For $268k, 36-yr old ex-IND OF Ramiro Cavazos (.264, 123 HR, 711 RBI) will suit up for the Crusaders in 2011.



Long forgotten, Ramiro Cavazos has won a single Gold Glove in his career, coincidentally in the only season he was a Raccoon, in 2001, many moons, and even more tears ago.

Well, with Ray Kelley getting adopted by foster parents, at least it looks like the Raccoons could have five of the first 50 picks in the 2011 draft. None in the top 15, mind that, but five in the top 50 is pretty swell.

Of course, I haven’t drafted somebody who wasn’t junk in a number of years now…

Really. Since taking Angel Casas at #7 in the first round in 2003(!!), the Raccoons have not selected ONE player that did not crap out or is in the process of doing so. It is truly staggering…

It’s all the GM’s failure, of course.
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Old 04-08-2016, 11:08 AM   #1803
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As March marched by, three type A free agents remained on the market. In two cases this was not phenomenally outrageous. 40-year old Dan Morris had still hit 26 homers for the Elks in 2009, but in 2010 had cracked up completely and by now was largely skillless. Jose Lopez was only 35, but aching badly and battling constant soreness. He had hit 30+ homers six times in the 2000s, but by now was largely unable to play a position. He basically offered his services for free by now.

And then there was the curious case of Jose “Dingus” Morales. “Dingus” being Dominican slang for “dingers”, I assume. Nobody was eager to take a flyer on the guy who had led the CL in OPS three years in a row. Money was not an issue. While there were a few teams (Condors, Stars most notably) that were completely broken by now, the Raccoons were by far not alone among teams with 7-figure budget space.

Isn’t it shocking? All these years the Raccoons lacked the funds to make all the moves they wanted, and this winter they didn’t even make any meaningful moves, and now sit on roughly $2M they can’t spend.

And Morales was not the best fit for them. His range was limited, and his arm was rather weak. He was best placed in leftfield, but leftfield was already occupied by Matt Pruitt. And while we already played Tomas Castro in centerfield while knowing better, there would be the slight issue of where to ship Castro to. My stomach revolts at a $1M bench player.

Also, Morales comes with the loss of a first round pick. By now his asking price was under $2M, but he was also not seeking more than a 1-year deal. Was it worth it to forfeit a first round pick for a 1-year contract on a fragile outfielder that had no obvious position on the roster?

Nah, probably not. Although that brings us back to my inability to draft any meaningful talent at all.

March 3 – At 37, SS/2B Ron Brantley (.293, 21 HR, 316 RBI) picks the Titans’ 1-yr, $252k offer. Brantley was with the Crusaders in 2010.
March 5 – The Warriors trade 29-yr old 1B Raúl Bovane (.301, 89 HR, 508 RBI) to the Scorpions for MR Brian Page (26-35, 5.55 ERA, 6 SV) and a second-rate prospect.
March 26 – The Warriors sign 40-yr old 1B Dan Morris (.314, 407 HR, 1,561 RBI) to a 1-yr, $476k contract.
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Old 04-08-2016, 01:42 PM   #1804
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2011 PORTLAND RACCOONS – Opening Day Roster (first set shows 2010 numbers, second set overall; players with an * are off season acquisitions):

SP Nick Brown, 33, B:L, T:L (20-6, 2.70 ERA | 134-81, 2.92 ERA) – the 2010 Pitcher of the Year started like a swarm of bees and won his first eight games before he retreated into a more or less average four months. At least he laid claim to two World Series wins. His stuff remains blistering, the control at times an issue. His quest to 3,000 strikeouts will begin anew on Opening Day, with the counter resting at 2,072 right now.
SP Jong-hoo Umberger, 33, B:R, T:R (18-8, 3.28 ERA | 50-21, 2.93 ERA) – very good #2 starter that will not cause too much trouble and remains under team control until he will reach the “best before” date.
SP Colin Baldwin, 28, B:L, T:L (8-7, 3.83 ERA | 29-32, 3.62 ERA) – more or less the definition of average, Baldwin will sometimes amaze you, sometimes upset you, but mostly will do his job more or less well.
SP Bill Conway *, 25, B:R, T:R (8-13, 4.37 ERA | 10-19, 4.40 ERA, 2 SV) – acquired in trade from the Rebels, Conway doesn’t possess supreme command and will sometimes struggle to throw his breaking balls for strikes or something other than the batters’ feet at all, but at least he keeps the ball on the ground.
SP Gil McDonald, 27, B:L, T:R (8-3, 3.07 ERA | 8-3, 3.07 ERA) – McDonald made his major league debut at 27 in a tight spot for the team around the All Star break and did well enough to stay aboard in the bottom slot despite getting shelled in the World Series; could use some more movement on his fastball.

MU Pat Slayton, 25, B:R, T:R (2-0, 2.59 ERA | 2-0, 2.59 ERA) – taken as a rule 5 pick in December of 2009, Slayton’s rookie season saw him in long relief for four months before he vanished onto the DL; control could be a lot better.
MR Ted Reese, 27, B:R, T:R (3-3, 3.00 ERA | 4-6, 3.46 ERA, 1 SV) – this run-of-the mill right-hander spent his first full season in the majors in 2010 and did a solid job.
MR Ricardo Huerta *, 37, B:R, T:R (4-1, 2.06 ERA | 42-36, 3.21 ERA, 44 SV) – Huerta starts his third tour of duty with the Raccoons after 2002-05 and the latter half of 2009; he remains a rock solid right-handed reliever that will do the dirty work around the seventh inning.
MR Luis Beltran, 31, B:L, T:L (5-1, 2.73 ERA | 5-2, 2.80 ERA, 1 SV) – another pitcher to not make his major league debut until age 27, Beltran pitched his first full season in the majors in ’10. Mostly utilized as a left-handed specialist, Beltran often struggled against right-handers and immediately took a step back compared to Ron Thrasher, when the latter made his debut.
SU Lawrence Rockburn, 30, B:R, T:R (4-3, 3.68 ERA, 4 SV | 33-14, 2.75 ERA, 15 SV) – Law was slapped around brutally in April, so badly that his ERA never recovered; but overall he remains a strong setup guy with impeccable control and a K/BB of almost four for his career.
SU Ron Thrasher, 23, B:L, T:L (1-3, 1.86 ERA, 1 SV | 1-3, 1.86 ERA, 1 SV) – Thrasher replaced the veteran Sims mid-season and immediately made himself liked well; struck out 38 in 29 innings in his rookie season, and the Canadiens will probably regret the 2009 trade that brought him into our system.
CL Angel Casas, 28, B:S, T:R (0-3, 1.37 ERA, 54 SV | 14-13, 1.62 ERA, 266 SV) – Angel broke the single season saves record in 2010, although the memory will probably be tarnished by the Dave Fletcher homer forever; will be in the first year of a new 3-year deal.

C Craig Bowen, 30, B:S, T:R (.232, 11 HR, 63 RBI | .235, 89 HR, 353 RBI) – Craig Bowen’s return was not all wonderful, and he struggled not only with the batting average (which was to be expected) but also with the power in his age 29 season, while the Raccoons are stuck with his luxurious contract through 2015.
C Travis Owens, 32, B:R, T:R (.262, 7 HR, 31 RBI | .275, 11 HR, 54 RBI) – did a thoroughly solid job as a backup for Craig Bowen and we didn’T feel like making any changes to this roster spot.

1B Adrian Quebell, 28, B:L, T:L (.325, 14 HR, 82 RBI | .299, 69 HR, 371 RBI) – Gold Glove defense and a very good OBP netted him a 6-year contract starting in 2011, despite lacking in home run power. He did lead the league in doubles in 2010, though, smacking 49 of those.
2B Ieyoshi Nomura, 27, B:L, T:R (.291, 4 HR, 63 RBI | .273, 13 HR, 240 RBI) – hit over 20 doubles for the first time since 2006, when he smacked 35; but his main qualification is a good singles bat with enough walks to reach a .350 OBP and really honest defensive work.
2B/SS/1B Michael Palmer *, 28, B:R, T:R (.311, 6 HR, 55 RBI | .299, 15 HR, 171 RBI) – acquired from the Scorpions, Palmer is a strong defensive middle infielder who will slap a whole lot of singles; extra base hits and walks are not quite his strength…
1B/3B/2B Jon Merritt, 34, B:R, T:R (.280, 3 HR, 40 RBI | .270, 47 HR, 641 RBI) – contributed an .807 OPS and led the league with 18 triples in his first season in Portland, while walking more than he struck out and playing strong defense. His career OBP remains over .380, but he has never been a home run hitter, and will never be.
1B/3B/2B/SS Manuel Gutierrez, 30, B:L, T:R (.225, 0 HR, 8 RBI | .258, 9 HR, 62 RBI) – his main qualification is defensive adeptness all around the infield; in a pinch, he can also pinch-run; he was a waiver claim in 2007, and so far has passed through waivers several times while in the Raccoons organization.
SS/1B Rob Howell, 26, B:R, T:R (.237, 2 HR, 26 RBI | .272, 10 HR, 100 RBI) – Rob Howell didn’t do a whole lot to follow up his productive 2009 season, and we soon enough set in motion a carousel of new attempts to fill the shortstop position; he remains aboard as a backup mainly because Walt Canning had options and Howell doesn’t.

LF/1B Matt Pruitt, 27, B:L, T:R (.317, 10 HR, 75 RBI | .301, 36 HR, 245 RBI) – Matt Pruitt was in the batting title race for a while despite missing a few weeks early in the season, but completely fell dry in the last six weeks of 2010, and the playoffs; he has never consistently shown the desired corner outfield power.
LF/CF Tomas Castro, 27, B:S, T:R (.253, 8 HR, 41 RBI | .302, 62 HR, 345 RBI) – Castro had a horrible season, struggling to hit, struggling to steal bases, and struggling to stay healthy, eventually missing 61 games plus the entire playoff run; he needs to show something or we will try to find a better solution for centerfield sooner rather than later, although he remains under contract through 2012.
LF/RF Logan Taylor *, 32, B:L, T:L (.275, 16 HR, 57 RBI | .302, 80 HR, 410 RBI) – nobody can quite replace Ron Alston in the sense of matching his (pre-2010) productivity, but Logan Taylor nevertheless gets thrown into rightfield with little more than the task to make us forget about Alston as soon as possible. His defense is nothing special, either.
LF/RF/CF Pat White, 28, B:S, T:R (.263, 5 HR, 54 RBI | .301, 12 HR, 132 RBI) – White remains the primary outfield backup for pretty much everybody, but we lack a true defensive beast in centerfield.
RF/LF Keith Ayers, 28, B:R, T:R (.255, 9 HR, 42 RBI | .266, 16 HR, 87 RBI) – has some pop, but isn’t overly reliable, and frequently out at home; he will start pretty much every game against left-handed pitchers, though.

On disabled list:
SP Hector Santos, 22, B:S, T:R (1-4, 6.17 ERA | 1-4, 6.17 ERA) – had a horrible debut in 2010, then headed for Tommy John surgery and is not expected back before August

Otherwise unavailable: Nobody.

Other roster movement:
CF Santiago Trevino, 28, B:L, T:L (.225, 2 HR, 18 RBI | .232, 5 HR, 72 RBI) – waived and DFA’ed; definitely a terrific defensive centerfielder, but that is his only skill…

Opening day lineup:
Vs. RHP: 3B Merritt – CF Castro – 1B Quebell – RF Taylor – LF Pruitt – C Bowen – 2B Nomura – SS Palmer – P Brown
Vs. LHP: 3B Merritt – SS Palmer – 1B Quebell – RF Ayers – LF Pruitt – CF White – C Bowen – 2B Nomura – P Brown

We still have only two right-handed batters in our primary lineup, and we really can’t load our lineup against left-handers to satisfaction, with three left-handed-batters remaining unless you substitute for Quebell with Howell, which will usually not be desirable.

OFF SEASON CHANGES:

The Raccoons began the offseason quickly with the deals that brought in Logan Taylor and Bill Conway, and then rapidly fell asleep. They couldn’t sign Ricardo Garcia, they couldn’t sign Takeru Sato, they couldn’t deal for Juichi Fujita or “Midnight” Martin. Somehow, they still have money, and nothing to do with it. They finish a flummoxing offseason in eighth place in BNN’s team ranking, gaining 1.2 WAR.

Top 5: Pacifics (+8.9), Bayhawks (+7.5), Crusaders (+6.2), Titans (+5.5), Falcons (+3.7)
Bottom 5: Canadiens (-5.5), Thunder (-5.9), Gold Sox (-6.2), Capitals (-6.9), Aces (-8.3)

PREDICTION TIME:

My string of missing by five games and alternating over/under has now run for three straight years. But hey, at least the Raccoons finally made the playoffs for the first time in 14 years! They didn’t win 101 games, finishing 96-66, but they made it to where it counts.

Since then, the Raccoons have lost Javier Cruz and Ron Alston, mainly. Cruz was a solid #3 starter in his three years in Portland, but Bill Conway doesn’t look like an equal replacement at all. Our AAA depth in terms of starting pitching consists largely of tried failed personnel like Brendan Teasdale.

Ron Alston had his worst season since being a sophomore at age 21 and we still managed to stave off the Crusaders. “Monti” Alston flipped us off in the offseason, and the Raccoons had to look elsewhere, but there’s no doubt that Logan Taylor is a downgrade. There are pretty big question marks when it comes to both the second half of the rotation and whether the lineup can this time overcome runners on second and third and one out for more than a sad face.

The Crusaders aren’t letting up, and the Titans have improved quite well, and we might have a 3-way battle at the top of the division, but who will come out on top?

Prediction: the Raccoons continue to be less than the sum of all their parts, will finish 92-70 and miss the playoffs by less than a handful of games.

PLAYER DEVELOPMENT:

After a number of years around of being around the bottom end of the top 10 systems, the Raccoons exploded mid-air and crashed into the ocean with a biting scream. This year, our minor league system is officially shot and ranked dead-last.

Compared to the 2009 list, most of our then ranked players migrated off the list for various reasons: #3 Hector Santos (service time), #28 Ron Thrasher (service time), #69 Walt Canning (service time), #117 Pat Slayton (service time) all don’t qualify anymore. Kevin Denton and Dave Roudabush dropped out of the top 200. And there is only one addition for THREE top 200 prospects… (gasp!)

123rd (-33) – AAA SP Rich Hood, 24 – 2009 first round pick by the Raccoons
177th (-9) – A INF Ricky Moya, 20 – international discovery by Whitebread
178th (new) – A OF Martin Sorto, 20 – international discovery by Whitebread

The farm top 10 are completed by AAA SS/3B Dave Roudabush, A SP Dan Moon, AAA LF/RF Jason Seeley, AA RF/LF/1B Jimmy Fucito, AAA CL Mike Cole, A SP Francisquo Bocanegra, INT SP Juan Mendoza, and AA SP Lance Meyer.

Atlanta’s Devin Hibbard migrated from last year’s #1 prospect to CL Rookie of the Year, but it’s perhaps a bit early for Dallas’ 20-year old OF/1B Hugo Mendoza, who was an international discovery in 2008 and takes over the top rank. PIT OF/3B Dave Carter and SAC SS Gabriel Sauceda round out the top 3. The northern California teams in Sacramento and San Francisco combine for five of the top 10 prospects.

Next: first pitch!
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Old 04-08-2016, 02:43 PM   #1805
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Westheim View Post
I must admit I have NO clue what Mr. Cuban is talking about.

Also, yesterday's update was washed out when I was battling with the MLB.tv man-bots to get tech support, which I didn't. Then I went to bed.

You've never seen or heard of major Major League, the best baseball movie of all time? You should watch it sometime.

All I can really say is "good luck" in 2011. Things look dire, and it would not surprise me to see this middling squad squarely out of contention by the all-star break.

Then again, I want kind of want that to happen because I enjoy watching teams get blown up. I may be biased.
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Old 04-09-2016, 03:01 PM   #1806
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Raccoons (0-0) @ Crusaders (0-0) – April 5-7, 2011

Right on, boys! Turn the mill stone! There won’t be time to ease in gently, this one will start hot right away! (whips Logan Taylor away from his trash can and onto the Wheel of Pain)

Projected matchups:
Nick Brown (0-0) vs. Kelvin Yates (0-0)
Jong-hoo Umberger (0-0) vs. Pancho Trevino (0-0)
Colin Baldwin (0-0) vs. Takeru Sato (0-0)

Sato is a left-hander and should have been ours, but uh, what are you gonna do…

Meanwhile Jose Morales remains on the free agent market, courted by several teams all of a sudden now that he only seeks a $1M deal for 2011. I still consider a pick in the second half of the first round more valuable than one year of Morales over Castro in centerfield. Truth be told, they just might both end up on the DL at the same time…

Game 1
POR: 3B Merritt – CF Castro – 1B Quebell – RF Taylor – LF Pruitt – C Bowen – 2B Nomura – SS Palmer – P Brown
NYC: CF R. Pena – 2B Caraballo – LF M. Ortíz – RF S. Martin – 1B Manfull – C G. Ortíz – SS Nunez – 3B Bond – P Yates

The season started with a Merritt single to center before Castro hit into a double play, and everybody felt right at home again. At least Tomas Castro showed some D in the second inning. Brownie had allowed a 2-out single to 32-year old Henry Nunez, who made his major league debut(!), and Nunez was turning to get to third base when Kevin Bond singled to center. Castro unleashed a good hard throw and Nunez was out to end the inning. Nobody else reached base until the fourth, when B.J. Manfull got onto the first sack on a bobble by Yoshi Nomura, also getting that first error of the year out of our system. With one out, Brownie would strike out Gabriel Ortíz and Nunez to end the inning.

Meanwhile Kel Yates, Brownie’s former co-ace, faced the minimum until giving a 2-out walk to Craig Bowen in the fifth inning, but the inning ended quickly with Nomura’s groundout to Kevin Bond. The Raccoons definitely weren’t showing offensive prowess in their opener, and their pitching threatened to turn sour in the bottom of the inning, when Roberto Pena’s 2-out double was followed by another deep drive, now to center, by Francisco Caraballo, but Tomas Castro got that bomb defused. Top 6th, the Coons finally stretched their paws and trudged off and into scoring position. Michael Palmer started with a walk, but our hit-and-run with Brownie batting didn’t work and he flew out to shallow center. Yet, Merritt also walked, and Tomas Castro singled, loading the bases for what we were hoping was a productive middle of the order, especially against a right-handed pitcher, three on, one out, and nothing on the board. Quebell grounded out on the first pitch (at least scoring a run) before Logan Taylor struck out.

Out of the blue, one of the former co-aces then suffered implosion, and it was Yates. Matt Pruitt led off the seventh with a shy single before Craig Bowen clubbed the first jack for the Coons and ramped the score to 3-0, but Yates failed to remove anybody after Yoshi’s fly out to left. Granted, Palmer reached on a Bond throwing error, but after that Kel allowed three straight singles to Brown, 4-0, Merritt, and Castro, 5-0, and got chased. Quebell then rapidly hit into an inning-ending double play against lefty Francois Picard. Nick Brown turned in eight shutout innings, and while the gap was big enough to leave him in, his pitch count had approached 110 in a long and arduous eighth, and he was not sent back out for the ninth.

And then the Raccoons made a horrible mess. Ted Reese got the bottom of the ninth assigned, and it started with a Stanton Martin triple. Manfull popped out to Keith Ayers in right to keep Martin pinned, but Reese left after walking Ortíz. Ron Thrasher took over and retired nobody, allowing Nunez on with an RBI single and Bond on an infield single. The bases were loaded when Angel Casas was thrown in to face pinch-hitter Jose Flores, ran a full count before striking him out, and then got a slow grounder from Pena to Nomura that thankfully ended the game. 5-1 Brownies! Merritt 2-4, BB; Castro 2-4, RBI; Brown 8.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K, W (1-0) and 1-3, RBI;

The Crusaders out-hit us 9-7, but sometimes a win is a win is a win…

Game 2
POR: 3B Merritt – CF Castro – 1B Quebell – RF Taylor – LF Pruitt – C Bowen – 2B Nomura – SS Palmer – P Umberger
NYC: CF R. Pena – 2B Caraballo – LF M. Ortíz – RF S. Martin – 1B Manfull – C J. Flores – 3B Bond – SS Nunez – P P. Trevino

The Coons loaded the bases in the first with basically nothing – Quebell singled, Taylor, who had pretty good past success against Trevino with a .375 clip and three homers, was drilled, and Pruitt reached on an E-4 – and scored nothing from it when Bowen struck out. They wouldn’t amount to anything until the Crusaders took the lead in the bottom 3rd. The irritating Nunez led off with a single and went to third when Pena also singled. Pena then stole second base, and Umberger got unnerved by some thing or other and walked Caraballo on four straight. When Martin Ortíz bounced to Quebell, that should have been at least one out, but Quebell fuzzed it up and all hands were safe while he scurried after the ball. That was all the Crusaders got: Stanton Martin struck out and B.J. Manfull bounced another ball to Quebell and this one was used to end the inning. After Umberger struck out to strand two runners in the top 4th, the bottom of the inning began with a Merritt throwing error that put Flores on second base. The nervous Umberger walked Bond before Nunez hopped one into a double play and the Crusaders didn’t score once Pancho Trevino grounded out to Palmer, who was now the last infielder without an error to his ledger, 13 innings into the season…

Tomas Castro briefly tied the score in the top 5th, hitting a solo home run, but Umberger issued a leadoff walk to Pena in the bottom of the inning and Stanton Martin wasn’t going to let him get away with everything. Down 2-1, Umberger also walked Bond in the sixth and then had Trevino at the plate with two outs – and walked him as well. That was more than enough! Luis Beltran came in to get the last out from Roberto Pena, which he did. Umberger got off the hook in the top 7th, when the Coons tied the score at two after a Castro triple and Quebell single. The Coons weren’t doing much in these late innings, but at least the pitching worked, despite some rocky circumstances. Ricardo Huerta logged three groundball outs in the seventh while Trasher survived a leadoff walk in the eighth and Rockburn got around a leadoff single by Gabriel Ortíz in the ninth, and the game was sent to extra innings. Once in the 10th, Quebell led off with a single off Scott Hood, who was in his second inning of work and was run for by Rob Howell, who was in motion when Logan Taylor singled to left and reached third base with no outs. The Coons made a hard attempt at not scoring when Pruitt popped out to Martin Ortíz in left, and Bowen lined out softly to Nunez at short, but Yoshi squeezed a single through between Caraballo and Manfull to plate Howell from third with two outs. That was all the Critters got once Palmer grounded out. Angel Casas started the bottom of the 10th facing Stanton Martin, with Manfull and the pitcher’s slot after that. After a K to Martin, Manfull doubled into the rightfield corner. Ramiro Cavazos hit for Hood and grounded out, with Manfull moving to third. Kevin Bond was the money batter and worked a walk, but that only had the effect of bringing up Henry Nunez, who popped out easily to Logan Taylor. 3-2 Critters! Castro 2-5, HR, 3B, RBI; Quebell 3-5, RBI; Nomura 3-5, 2B, RBI;

Jong-hoo walked five and struck out only three, which is not quite what I imagine my #2 pitcher to do, and only now will we venture into the truly squishy part of the rotation.

Game 3
POR: 3B Merritt – SS Palmer – 1B Quebell – RF Ayers – LF Pruitt – CF White – C Owens – 2B M. Gutierrez – P Baldwin
NYC: CF R. Pena – 2B Caraballo – LF M. Ortíz – RF S. Martin – 1B Manfull – C G. Ortíz – SS Reed – 3B Bond – P Sato

Takeru Sato struck out Raccoons in droves while B.J. Manfull took care of an early lead with a solo homer in the second inning. The Coons had had Merritt and Palmer on base in the first before failing their way out of that situation, then racked up seven strikeouts in four innings. Baldwin was in no way, shape, or form ever even slightly close to dominant, but he kept generating easy balls for the fielders, and held up through seven innings, getting the score tied in the fifth when Sato finally not only befuddled the batters, in this case Jon Merritt with two out and Gutierrez on second base, but also his own catcher. Gabriel Ortíz had to chase after a wild 0-2 pitch, giving Gutierrez the extra base necessary to score on Merritt’s blooper into shallow right on the next pitch. Sato was still pitching with 9 K in the eighth, but allowed a leadoff double to Merritt, a dangerous thing to do in a 1-1 game. Pruitt managed to slap a pitch into shallow center with two outs to bring in the go-ahead run. The bottom 8th had Martin Ortíz up first, so we retained Baldwin for one more batter, resulting in a grounder to second, before Rockburn came in for Stanton Martin, who popped out on the first pitch. Manfull singled but was stranded when Gabriel Ortíz rolled a ball to Palmer. The Coons had another leadoff double in the top 9th, Owens getting on, and after Gutierrez was K’ed by Manuel Reyes, Yoshi hit for Rockburn, but was put on intentionally, and that gamble worked, as Merritt and Palmer made two outs without generating anything.

So we arrived in the bottom 9th ahead 2-1 and would not go to Angel Casas. Ever since he got hurt in consecutive seasons in April by pitching three days in a row, I wasn’t pitching him three days in a row in April, and this was the third day. Instead, facing the bottom of the order, we’d mix and match, with Luis Beltran being assigned Jeffrey Reed and Kevin Bond. Beltran came through, netting a pop and a fly to center, then handed the ball to Ricardo Huerta against PH Jose Flores, who bounced to Merritt, whose throw to Quebell completed a slow-motion sweep of the Crusaders. 2-1 Raccoons!! Merritt 3-5, 2B, RBI; Palmer 2-5; Baldwin 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, W (1-0);

We are 10th in runs scored a few days into the season, but **** offense, we’re 3-0!

Raccoons (3-0) vs. Aces (1-2) – April 8-10, 2011

The Aces’ pitching had suffered in their season-opening series against the Knights, with their #1 and #2 starters getting routed for double-digit ERA’s. They were one of two teams in the CL with less runs scored than the Coons after a few games. We had beaten them 5-4 in 2010.

Projected matchups:
Bill Conway (0-0) vs. Nehemiah Jones (0-0)
Gil McDonald (0-0) vs. Bob Bowden (0-0)
Nick Brown (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Juan Valdevez (0-1, 15.00 ERA)

Their rotation is entirely right-handed, and Valdevez aside could well make a run for most walks by a starting five…

Game 1
LVA: 1B McDermott – 2B Downing – 3B F. Soto – RF Bednarski – C Durango – CF Sambrano – LF Richards – SS D. Ortega – P N. Jones
POR: 3B Merritt – CF Castro – 1B Quebell – RF Taylor – LF Pruitt – C Bowen – 2B Nomura – SS Palmer – P Conway

The Coons’ home opener started with new acquisition Bill Conway beaning Sean McDermott on the very first pitch. McDermott’s remains were wiped into a bucket, upon which Howard Jones replaced him, but the Aces never moved him off first base. They would only amount to two singles off Conway early on, but the Raccoons’ offensive attempts always seemed to come down to runners on the corners, two outs, and Conway batting. It happened in the second inning, resulting in an easy out, and it came to be again the fourth inning, then resulting in Eduardo Durango’s pickoff attempt of Palmer sailing into rightfield, which allowed Craig Bowen to score and Palmer to move up to second base, from where he came home on Conway’s double, and the Raccoons had a 2-0 lead. Conway kept maintaining a shutout through six, was batting again with two outs and one man on in the bottom of the inning and made the last out. He never logged another out in the game, though. Francisco Soto and Mike Bednarski hit singles to start the top 7th, and with left-switch-left coming next, I was looking for another option. Beltran came in and blew up the game in just three pitches. The first was hit for an RBI double by Durango, and the third was a bloop single to center by Sandy Sambrano. The Aces were up 3-2 and things looked pretty bleak now. But no bleak outlook can’t be made worse, ever. Pat Slayton replaced Beltran, who logged only one out, and Slayton conceded another run in the seventh, then was busted for three more runs in the top of the eighth. Down 7-2, the Raccoons somehow loaded the bases in the bottom 8th, chasing Jones with two out. Pat White batted for the battered Slayton, facing right-hander Zack Entwistle. He lined out to Josh Downing, who would plate another run off Ted Reese in the ninth. 8-2 Aces. Nomura 3-4;

After this comprehensive bombing, in which the rest of the team amounted to as many hits as Yoshi Nomura, we have three relievers with ERA’s of 13 or more and a middle of the order that is batting a collective 8-for-52. Is it too early for panic?

Game 2
LVA: 2B H. Jones – CF Melendez – 3B F. Soto – RF Bednarski – C Durango – LF Hill – 1B Sambrano – SS D. Ortega – P Valdevez
POR: 3B Merritt – CF Castro – 1B Quebell – RF Taylor – LF Pruitt – C Bowen – 2B Nomura – SS Howell – P McDonald

Bob Bowden wasn’t getting a turn, as the Aces skipped back to their Opening Day starter who had allowed five runs in three innings to the Knights. Three innings in, he had cut his ERA in half to 7.50, also leading 2-0 after an Artie Hill homer in the second inning. McDonald had started well with three strikeouts in the top of the first, but the Aces had no trouble seeing him well and were increasingly making good contact, while the Raccoons were getting 1-hit through five innings. Somehow they mustered two runners with two outs in the sixth, but Logan Taylor, the former Ace, feebly struck out to leave them stranded. The top 7th saw Reese issue a leadoff walk to Howard Jones, which quickly cost another run, 3-0, yet this hardly mattered. The Raccoons were completely clueless at the plate, and would end up being shut out on two hits. They never even reached third base in the entire game. Thrasher and Huerta kept the Aces, who had 11 hits, away in the last innings, but this loss was even worse than the one on Friday. 3-0 Aces.

Yeah, I think panic would be called for right now. The Raccoons still weren’t the worst offensive team in the league (that trophy going to the Loggers), but … wow!

Is Morales still out there?

Game 3
LVA: LF Sambrano – 2B H. Jones – 3B F. Soto – RF Bednarski – C Durango – 1B McDermott – SS D. Ortega – CF Struck – P Wagoner
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – LF Castro – RF Ayers – 1B Quebell – C Bowen – CF White – SS Palmer – P Brown

Jaquan Wagoner (0-1, 10.13 ERA) would face a desperately reshuffled lineup in vain hope to generate anything for Brownie, who got booked for a run in the second. Bednarski’s leadoff triple could not be compensated for and he scored on a Durango sac fly to Pat White, who would be the first Coon batting in a RISP situation in the bottom 2nd. Ayers had singled through Francisco Soto and Bowen had drawn a walk to bring up White with one out. White’s grounder got Bowen forced out at second base, and Palmer struck out to end the inning. Brownie struck out the side in the top of the third, then led off the bottom with a single in typical “Do I have to do it ALL?” fashion. Merritt also singled, prompting an even better chance for Yoshi, who grounded out, Castro, who bounced right back to Wagoner, and prevented Brown from scoring, and Ayers, who whiffed outright. Brown was then the final out in the bottom of the fourth, grounding out to strand White and Palmer on the corners.

Brown had nine strikeouts through five innings but also an elevated pitch counts after a number of 3-2 counts. The Aces had two hits, the Raccoons had eight once they loaded the bags with one out in the inning. Quebell was batting, struck out, and left things to Bowen, who chopped a sorry bouncer just past the mound, but Howard Jones had to pick it twice before making a play – costing him any play. The game was tied, White grounded to Ortega, who bobbled the ball for an error and the go-ahead run to score. Palmer then flew out to Geoff Struck. The chances just kept coming! Jorge Cortez pitched in the bottom of the sixth, a left-hander that ironically put Nomura and Castro on with two outs after retiring Brown and the right-hander Merritt. Keith Ayers was sent to bat and dished a ball into the gap in left center. Sandy Sambrano got the ball in well, while we sent Castro around third. Yoshi scored, but Sambrano’s rocket led to Castro being out at home on Ayers’ double … wait, there’s something wrong.

Brownie struck out 11 in seven innings, but was already approaching 110 pitches again and wouldn’t come back out – although, wait. The left-handed Struck led off the top 8th, and Brown’s spot didn’t come up to bat in the bottom 7th. I always hate the lefty-for-lefty pitching changes. So of course, once Brown was sent in, Struck reached on an infield single after being down 1-2. Law Rockburn now took over, walked on base the tying run in Sambrano, got a good hopper from Jones that was only good enough for one out, but then struck out Soto in a full count with the runners in motion. Right-hander Chris Spindler was put into the bottom 8th by the Aces, with Logan Taylor batting for Palmer to get going, and he instantly cracked his first homer as a Raccoon. So he DOES have a pulse! Pruitt hit for Rockburn and didn’t show any sign of life, but Angel Casas had this anyway. 4-1 Brownies. Merritt 2-4; Castro 2-5; Ayers 3-4, 2B, RBI; Taylor (PH) 1-1, HR, RBI; Brown 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, W (2-0) and 1-3;

Raccoons (4-2) vs. Knights (2-4) – April 11-13, 2011

It was early, but the Knights’ rotation had allowed quite a few runs so far, ranking 9th with a 5.35 ERA in the league. Overall they had scored 24 runs and conceded 28, compared to 16 each for the Coons. We haven’t lost the season series against the Knights in five years, beating them 6-3 in 2010.

Projected matchups:
Jong-hoo Umberger (0-0, 1.59 ERA) vs. Johnny Krom (0-1, 4.05 ERA)
Colin Baldwin (1-0, 1.23 ERA) vs. Art Cox (0-0)
Bill Conway (0-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. Ted McKenzie (0-1, 4.76 ERA)

The series will start with a left-hander on the mound in Krom, followed by two right-handed pitchers.

Game 1
ATL: RF Arnette – SS J. Hernandez – 1B G. Munoz – LF M. Reyes – 3B J. Garcia – 2B C. Martinez – C Ledesma – CF Kelsey – P Krom
POR: 3B Merritt – SS Palmer – 1B Quebell – RF Ayers – LF Taylor – C Bowen – CF White – 2B Nomura – P Umberger

The Knights were already ahead 2-0 in the top of the second, with Pablo Ledesma’s home run the first run going onto the board, when Palmer’s error not only completed a full E sheet around the infield for the team, but also led to another run when Gonzalo Munoz singled to center to plate Pat Arnette from second base. Arnette would have been out if Palmer’s lob to Nomura hadn’t been well over poor Yoshi’s glove. Down 3-0, the Raccoons didn’t amount to anything in the first inning, a Merritt triple with two outs in the third inning the exception. Yet, that came with nobody on and Palmer couldn’t drive him in, either. White and Yoshi reached base with singles in the bottom of the fifth, but Umberger and Merritt both struck out to end the inning.

Umberger was chased in the sixth after a leadoff triple by Ledesma and a walk to John Kelsey. He accepted Krom’s bunt that moved the runners into scoring position, then saw Luis Beltran strike out both Arnette and Julio Hernandez to resolve the inning. The Coons had yet to mount something of substance, but they merrily kept striking out against Johnny Krom. The Knights added a fourth run in the seventh that was charged to Beltran, who fell to 3-0 on the left-handed Munoz before the Knight chipped a hopper into play and reached on an infield single. Krom went untouched through eight, striking out ten, before Patrick Mercier blew the shutout on the final batter of the game. Matt Pruitt on first base, Yoshi Nomura lined a ball to deep center and past Kelsey for an RBI double. Travis Owens then struck out to end the game. 4-1 Knights. Pruitt (PH) 1-1; Nomura 3-4, 2B, RBI;

That’s some atrocious batting going on right here. The Loggers shoved a dozen down the Thunder’s neck on this Monday, officially placing the Raccoons in last place in runs scored in the country.

Game 2
ATL: RF Arnette – SS J. Hernandez – LF M. Reyes – 3B C. Martinez – 1B J. Garcia – C Delgado – 2B Hilderbrand – CF Kelsey – P Cox
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – CF Castro – RF Taylor – LF Pruitt – 1B Quebell – SS Palmer – C Owens – P Baldwin

The Raccoons took a 1-0 lead six pitches into Art Cox’ season debut. Merritt had tripled, then scored on a wild pitch. Cox would uncork another wild one in the bottom 2nd, then not leading to damage, and the Raccoons then had a little snooze. Baldwin was not fantastic, but held up in the early innings, and didn’t allow much hard contact at all. In the bottom of the fifth he was batting with Travis Owens on first base after a walk, but bunted quite badly, yet not as badly as Carlos Delgado’s throw to second base was. Julio Hernandez couldn’t come up with it and it was into centerfield, John Kelsey picked it up and tried to get the sluggish Owens at third base, but his throw was short, and Baldwin moved up to second base by now. No outs. Guys, SERIOUSLY.

No, they didn’t score. Merritt popped one up, Nomura bounced one right back to Cox, and Castro also popped out. Carlos Martinez’ bright grin when he clutched Castro’s pop probably hinted at some kind of plan in place to overcome Baldwin after all. Martinez hit a 2-out single in the top 6th, moving Hernandez, who had also singled, to third base, but Baldwin prevailed with a strikeout hung on Jorge Garcia. One inning forward, Baldwin retired Delgado to start the seventh before T.J. Hilderbrand singled and Jesus Alvarez doubled. The Knights fabulously did not bat for Art Cox, befuddling Baldwin to the n-th degree, and he promptly tied the score with a wild pitch. It was fabulous! It was a grand scene! One fan in leftfield threw his beer at Matt Pruitt, but missed by 40 feet. Cox would strike out and Gonzalo Munoz popped out to Logan Taylor, but the game was tied.

Ricardo Huerta got the ball for the eighth (and we hoped for also the ninth in case of active refusal to score runs continuing through the bottom of the inning). The Knights started by sending switch-hitter Jaime Kester to bat in Hernandez’ spot, he grounded out to Quebell on the first pitch and Huerta was out of the inning in just four pitches in total. Five left-handed batters were lined up for the bottom 8th, but the Knights didn’t budge with Art Cox, not even when Castro singled with one out, not even when he stole second base, and they were really hating the idea to bring a left-hander like Ed Bryan really hard even when Castro was at third after Taylor’s groundout. Bryan didn’t come until after Matt Pruitt’s RBI double that gave the Coons the lead and sent Angel Casas stretching. Casas wasn’t quite as efficient as Huerta, but struck out two in a perfect 11-pitch ninth. 2-1 Blighters. Quebell 2-4, 2B; Gutierrez (PH) 1-1; Baldwin 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K;

With our perceived heart of the order (Quebell, Bowen, and the corner outfielders) now batting a combined 15-for-98, I think panicking is the least we can do…

Game 3
ATL: RF Arnette – SS J. Hernandez – 1B G. Munoz – LF M. Reyes – 2B C. Martinez – C Ledesma – 3B Kester – CF Kelsey – P McKenzie
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – CF Castro – RF Taylor – LF Pruitt – 1B Quebell – C Bowen – SS Howell – P Conway

The 22-year old Ted “Trey” McKenzie had made his debut at 20 years old in 2008, and since then had been in 16 ABL games, including six starts. A groundball pitcher with on-and-off control, he had gotten shuffled a few times in his brief previous excursions into the major leagues. Here he entered a rubber game that was a disaster for the home team before he ever took the mound. “Flipper” Conway allowed a leadoff double to Arnette before Bowen was charged a passed ball during Hernandez’ at-bat. Munoz drove in the runner with a single and Marty Reyes added another single before Martinez fed a sure double play grounder to Rob Howell, except that Yoshi Nomura dropped the feed and the Raccoons didn’t get anybody. In that highly fatal situation with three on and one out, Ledesma popped out to Howell before Kester was called out on a borderline pitch in a full count. Jon Merritt then led off the bottom 1st with a single, only for Yoshi, who messed up the double play in the top of the inning, to hit into one. Castro walked and Taylor singled to left, with Reyes botching the pickup for an extra base, but Pruitt rolled out to Munoz to keep two runners in scoring position. What a fail inning.

There was still room for everything to get that much worse, though. Conway drilled the opposing pitcher in the second inning, then was the first of back-to-back strikeouts in the bottom 2nd when we had two on again with one out. Top 4th, the Knights had runners on second and third with two outs and the speedy Arnette batting. Arnette chopped a ball back to Conway, but beat out his clumsy play for an infield single and gave the Knights a 2-0 lead. I was checking the markets for slugging outfielders in the bottom of the fifth when Jon Merritt reached with one out on an infield single. That brought up Yoshi and a liner into the gap in right center. Arnette slipped when the ball went past him and that left John Kelsey to scurry after the ball as it rolled all the way to the wall. Merritt scored and Yoshi slid into third base with an RBI triple, representing the tying run with one out. Of course that run remained on base. Castro grounded out to first and Yoshi retreated, and Taylor rolled a ball to Carlos Martinez to end the inning. Conway was yanked in the top of the sixth after walking Hilderbrand with two outs. Luis Beltran came in and allowed a single to Pat Arnette, another one to Hernandez to score Conway’s run, then a 3-bomb to Munoz that sealed this deal, most likely. Okay, the Coons had the tying run in the on-deck circle after a Castro sac fly and with two on, but Pruitt floated out to Kelsey to keep the score at 6-2 Knights. In the bottom of the eighth we had Quebell on after a leadoff double. Gutierrez hit for Howell against the right-hander Alex Glaviz and cracked a homer to right to cut the gap in half. Bottom 9th, lefty Patrick Mercier closing. Keith Ayers hit for Rockburn in the #3 hole and struck out. Logan Taylor struck out. Matt Pruitt lined a ball to the left side and into Hernandez’ glove. 6-4 Knights. Merritt 3-4; Nomura 2-5, 3B, 2B, RBI; Quebell 2-4, 2B; Gutierrez (PH) 1-1, HR, 2 RBI;

The amount of fail on this team is alarming.

For the moment, Luis Beltran, after not retiring anybody in this game, went straight from the mound onto waivers and was designated for assignment. Tommy Ward was promoted from AAA to join the team in Indianapolis. Ward, 25, had been a minor league free agent signing on March 29 and hadn’t even been in a game with the Alley Cats yet. He had been the Gold Sox’ eighth rounder in 2004 and would make his major league debut. He was a groundballer who threw about 92 and had a treacherous sinker, too. He had a changeup somewhere, but better stayed away from it.

And for the offense? Nobody on this team has more than 3 RBI, and we are ranked last in … no, let me start with the things we’re NOT last in, that’s quicker.

Oh what the hell do I know …

Raccoons (5-4) @ Indians (6-1) – April 14-17, 2011

The Indians had won five in a row (and skipped a few due to rain). Their 38 runs scored ranked them only sixth in the CL, but easily dwarfed the Coons’ output, while they had only allowed SIXTEEN runs so far. The odds on them staying under 20 while the Coons were in town were pretty good.

Projected matchups:
Gil McDonald (0-1, 3.00 ERA) vs. Tom Weise (1-0, 1.13 ERA)
Nick Brown (2-0, 0.60 ERA) vs. Román Escobedo (1-0, 2.25 ERA)
Jong-hoo Umberger (0-1, 2.45 ERA) vs. Bob King (1-1, 1.15 ERA)
Colin Baldwin (1-0, 1.26 ERA) vs. Curtis Tobitt (2-0, 3.00 ERA)

What a wicked world we were wandering in – Curtis Tobitt had the worst ERA in the Indians’ rotation! The mind was boggling! Escobedo, usually a pushover, is the only left-hander we are going to face.

The Coons arrived in Indy having forgotten a bag with the bats of Matt Pruitt, Logan Taylor, and Keith Ayers in Portland at the airport, but would anybody even notice the difference? Matty was doing batting practice wielding a cucumber, and Taylor resorted to reading “Cashball” hoping for inspiration how to lift his .206 WOBA, and Ayers figured he was going to be out at home anyway and had double lunch.

Game 1
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – RF Taylor – LF Pruitt – C Bowen – CF White – SS Palmer – P McDonald
IND: 1B Tsung – 3B Luján – C Paraz – RF J. Ortíz – LF Graham – 2B Butler – CF Luxton – SS R. Miller – P Weise

McDonald showed ill control and allowed hard contact at the same time – a pretty bad mix. Jose Paraz doubled in Antonio Luján in the first inning, sending the Indians up 1-0. The Coons’ outrageous middle of the order stranded Yoshi at third in the first inning, and Merritt and Yoshi on the corners in the third inning. The Indians were begging them to score in the fourth. Taylor led off with a single before Pruitt grounded behind first base. Tsung’s throw was pretty low and unhorsed Tom Weise, and the Critters had runners on the corners with nobody being goddamn out. Things got crowded when Weise lost Bowen in a full count. Pat White hit a cheap bloop to left center, no chance to catch that one before it would dig itself a hole and go into hiding – Taylor scored, Pruitt scored, the Coons had the lead, somehow. Palmer singled through Luján to load the bases before the Indians finally logged an out as McDonald grounded out, but Bowen scored on the play and we had runners in scoring position for the only two batters in the lineup that weren’t completely dysfunctional, so of course Merritt lined out to Mun-wah Tsung and while Yoshi walked, Quebell popped out to center.

McDonald stumbled on into the fifth inning, which he started with a four-pitch walk to Miller. Weise’s bunt glanced off Merritt’s glove and everybody was safe on the error. Tsung bunted the tying runs into scoring position before Luján bounced back to McDonald for an easy second out. But when McDonald walked Paraz, clearly missing the zone, and Juan Ortíz (.286, 4 HR, 6 RBI) came up, McDonald was yanked. Ron Thrasher came into the game, with Pruitt disappearing in a double switch that put Castro in left. And then Ortíz singled in the tying runs anyway… Nothing went wrong for two innings after that before Tommy Ward then made his unexpected major league debut in the bottom 8th, facing the 3-4-5 batters, starting with the switch-hitter Jose Paraz. Ward was hit hard by all three batters he faced. Paraz singled, Ortíz singled, but Graham hit into a double play with a ball that almost devoured Yoshi with all his hair, and his hat. When Rockburn came out to face Bob Butler with the go-ahead run on third base, Clyde Brady hit for Butler, a left-hander of course. Brady was batting .200 on the year and flew out to center to end the inning. The Coons had Castro on in the top 9th until he got caught stealing by the jelly-armed Paraz. Two outs, no one on against Salvadaro Soure, Merritt singled, Nomura walked, and Quebell reached on Soure’s error. Logan Taylor came to bat, and goddamnit Taylor, I swear, if you don’t get a hit, I’ll cut your ****ing tail right off! Taylor blinked, grabbed Pruitt’s cucumber and lined a 2-1 pitch into left for a single! Merritt scored, Yoshi was sent and thrown out. Thankfully, extra runs were not longed for by Angel Casas. He liked the challenge, and he shut down the Indians for the night. 4-3 Coons. Merritt 2-5; Nomura 2-2, 3 BB; Taylor 2-5, RBI; Castro 1-2; Reese 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K;

Game 2
POR: 3B Merritt – SS Palmer – 1B Pruitt – RF Ayers – LF Taylor – C Owens – 2B Nomura – CF White – P Brown
IND: 1B Tsung – 2B Butler – LF Graham – RF J. Ortíz – C Paraz – 3B Luján – CF Luxton – SS R. Miller – P Escobedo

… and another game that went out of wonk early. Tsung and Butler BOTH reached on infield singles, and Brown wasn’t getting out of that mess. After Graham grounded out to first, he balked in the first run, and Ortíz plated the second run on a sac fly. Then Paraz reached on an error, but somehow the inning ended before the scoreboard could run out of space. Bottom 2nd, Robbie Luxton flew to right, where Ayers appeared to catch it, except that the ball went over his glove while he leisurely stood there and waited for impact. Luxton reached second base and scored when Miller’s grounder was completely thrown away by Nomura. Brown sat in a 3-0 hole, and there was really not much hope for recovery from this mess. Consider that Escobedo was casually facing the minimum through three innings, and Jose Paraz hit a homer off Brown in the third inning to move the Indians up 4-0. In a complete clunker of a game, Brown struck out two (Tsung, twice) and was booked for five runs (four earned) in six innings. The Raccoons through six innings had three hits, all singles, and twice hit into a double play right after the single. They scored a run in the seventh off Escobedo, but by then the presses were already printing a victory notice. 5-1 Indians. Taylor 2-4, 2B;

Three errors in two innings, plus two infield singles, and two whiffs. Boy. Good Brownie has that ****ty start out of his system…

Robbie Luxton is batting .034 with a homer. He might be an improvement over what we have. I feel the urge to put up traps in the locker room and throw whomever taps into one while looking for foodstuff into the White River, with trap and all still attached.

By the way, that was the bad pitcher in the series. The repeatedly decorated ace is coming now.

Game 3
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – RF Taylor – LF Pruitt – C Bowen – CF White – SS Palmer – P Umberger
IND: 1B Tsung – 3B Luján – C Paraz – RF J. Ortíz – LF Graham – 2B Butler – CF Luxton – SS R. Miller – P Tobitt

The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the second inning while the only Coon to reach base the first time through, Pruitt, was swiftly picked off first base by Tobitt. Starting the fourth, Tobitt retired Yoshi before Quebell hit a ball to deep right that Ortíz caught just as he crashed against the fence – and dropped the ball! Quebell was assessed a double while a shaken Ortíz felt out whether his shoulder was still where it ought to be. Taylor’s single up the middle gave the Coons runners on the corners and a perfect double play chance, but to anybody’s surprise they flipped the score with a Pruitt RBI single and a Bowen RBI double. When Pat White struck out, the Indians didn’t feel the need to pitch to Palmer, and Umberger was a quick third out, and also blew the 2-1 lead quicker than Dave Graham could say “I’m gonna hit a 1-out triple now”.

While we were tied at two through four, things couldn’t remain like that forever. Matt Pruitt led off the sixth with a single, but Quebell hit into a double play. Pruitt was up to bat again with two out in the seventh and the tie already broken after Logan Taylor had driven in Yoshi with a triple off the wall in centerfield. Now of course, a 3-for-3 Pruitt struck out. Umberger lasted seven with only two strikeouts (where did I see that before?), before Ron Thrasher walked his only batter, Mun-wah Tsung, at the start of the bottom of the eighth. Ricardo Huerta came in and logged three groundball outs to keep the Indians behind in the 3-2 game. Soure sat down the Coons 1-2-3 in the ninth before Angel came in and issued a 1-out walk to Clyde Brady. He got Luxton on a grounder, but was clearly limping after the last pitch to Luxton. The trainer was all over him and Angel admitted to a pinch in his thigh. So, with the tying run on second and two outs, Angel left and Law Rockburn came in to hopefully nip Ryan Miller. Grounder to short, Palmer to first, done. 3-2 Coons. Taylor 2-4, 3B, RBI; Pruitt 3-4, RBI; Umberger 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, W (1-1);

Angel Casas had a very mild tweak in his hammy. He was listed as DTD, but if we leave him be on Sunday, he should be good to go again.

True awesomeness is sometimes hidden deep beneath the detritus. Craig Bowen might be batting .129 right now, but he co-leads the team with 4 RBI.

Err…

Game 4
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – RF Taylor – LF Pruitt – CF Castro – SS Howell – C Bowen – P Baldwin
IND: 1B Tsung – 2B Butler – RF J. Ortíz – LF Graham – 3B Luján – CF Luxton – C R. Speed – SS R. Miller – P King

Tsung and Ortíz both cracked home runs off Baldwin in the first inning to give the Indians a speedy 2-0 lead. No Furball reached base the first time through the order, but Merritt would lead off the top 4th with a single. Yoshi flew out to deep left before Quebell singled and Logan Taylor doubled past Dave Graham to plate a run and give Pruitt runners in scoring position with one out. Pruitt used this splendid chance to pop out on the first pitch, but Castro snuck a groundball past the reach of Bob Butler and into centerfield for a score-flipping 2-run single. The Raccoons would load the bases before Baldwin struck out to end the frame. But Pruitt escaped a buttload of lead shot with an RBI single in the next inning, running the score to 4-2.

While Baldwin kept allowing hard contact without being punished after the early double-blast, the Raccoons had Rob Howell on in the sixth inning. Him and Castro had pulled off a double steal in the fourth and Howell swiped another one here, then was sent when Baldwin singled to right, and thrown out at home by Juan Ortíz. Baldwin would get stuck in the bottom 7th. Having Miller on first base already, he walked Tsung with two outs. With a right-hander next, Ricardo Huerta was sent to replace him, but the Indians replaced Butler with Clyde Brady, and now they had three left-handers in a row coming up. Brady’s grounder to right was too hard to be intercepted, and the Indians cut the lead to 4-3 on the single, with Huerta staying in the game. Thrasher had been in eight games already and I was trying not to kill him right now, and I wasn’t trusting Ward any. Huerta allowed another hard grounder to right to Ortíz, but Quebell was well positioned for this one and ended the inning.

Castro was on after a single in the eighth inning, but Howell hit into a double play. Huerta retired the Indians 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, giving us free choice for whom to use in the ninth. In the ninth we got Jon Merritt on with a 2-out single. Gutierrez ran for him and reached third base on Yoshi’s single to right. The Indians stuck with their right-hander Helio Maggessi even with four more lefties waiting for him, but Quebell grounded out already. There was a desire not to use Angel Casas, who was eager to pitch anyway, so Law Rockburn was assigned to PH Jose Paraz, Miller, and the pitcher’s slot, while we made the dubious decision to put Law in the #3 hole removing Quebell while Pat White, who had made the second out in the top of the inning, remained in center with Castro and Pruitt being shoved the usual ways. If it goes on, we don’t have the pitcher batting in the tenth. We didn’t play on.

Paraz grounded out on the first pitch before Miller singled to left. Luis Lopez walked in a full count before Rockburn also threw a wild one, moving the winning runs into scoring position for Tsung. A true gambler would walk Tsung intentionally in the now 2-2 count, but that was probably a nuts move. The count ran full before Tsung looked at a low pitch … on which he was called out! Law got the call, now needed to find a way to get an out from right-hander Jim Phillips, but instead he allowed a single to center on the first pitch. The Indians only scored the tying run, stopping Lopez at third base. Juan Ortíz was up again and lifted a fly to left – and Castro had it dink off his glove for the fatal error. 5-4 Indians. Merritt 2-5; Taylor 2-4, 2B, RBI; Castro 2-4, 2 RBI; Howell 2-4;

(calmly rolls a sheet of paper to a cone and fills lead shot into the muzzle of a 16th century arquebus) Tomas, may I talk to you?

In other news

April 6 – The Falcons lose SP Larry Cutts (0-0, 0.00 ERA) for the season after only two innings. Cutts has suffered damage to an elbow ligament and is likely out for a full year.
April 6 – Often-injured SFW INF Oliver Torres (.250, 0 HR, 1 RBI) will be out for three weeks with a tear in his hamstring.
April 8 – Sioux Falls’ SP Ian Ward (1-0, 0.00 ERA) shuts out the Miners on three hits in a 3-0 Warriors win.
April 8 – TIJ SP Harry Wentz (0-0, 12.00 ERA) will have Tommy John surgery for a torn UCL and will be out for at least a year.
April 10 – SFB LF/RF Ron Alston (.444, 2 HR, 7 RBI) knocks his 300th longball, a 2-run shot off the Loggers’ Rodrigo Gomez in the second inning of a 6-1 Bayhawks win. Alston, who was the 18th overall pick in the 1997 draft, and spent his time with the Indians and Raccoons before signing up with the Bayhawks, is only 31 years old and might be challenging for the career home run lead before long.
April 12 – With two hits in the Canadiens’ 5-2 win over the Bayhawks, 1B Ray Gilbert (.531, 1 HR, 3 RBI) has stitched together a 20-game hitting streak dating back to last season.
April 14 – DEN SP Curt Powell (0-2, 7.04 ERA) had been uncomfortable since the start of the season. Tests now reveal a small tear in his labrum and he has to get it fixed. He will miss four to five months with the procedure.
April 14 – SFB OF Don Cameron (.297, 2 HR, 11 RBI) will miss the rest of the month with a strained oblique.

Complaints and stuff

So “Monti” Alston can still whack ‘em, hear, hear. The Raccoons aren’t whacking anything, except my nerves and patience.

We might really be mere days away from me unloading a shotgun full of buckshot into a random Critter in the locker room, then fashion his butt and tail for a cap. I call it designating them for accessories.

Baldwin’s W in the third game of the season was the 2,777th win for the franchise. Not that that’s a particularly round number, but I was pleased a lot then.

Despite being handed the loss on Opening Day, Kel Yates signed a 2-yr, $4.48M extension a few days later. The Crusaders seem to try to keep their house in order for the time being.

Both Santiago Trevino and Luis Beltran reached St. Petersburg without getting abducted, unfortunately.
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Raccoons (7-6) @ Loggers (5-7) – April 18-20, 2011

What does it take to breath some life into this offense? Perhaps they can get going against the worst pitching team in the league, two weeks in. The Loggers’ rotation had run up a 5.20 ERA so far, which was bad enough, but their bullpen was really outdoing itself producing an ERA of almost NINE. Needless to say, their 6.33 runs allowed per game had them rock bottom of everything and they were likely to drop into last place sooner or later. Provided that the Coons could actually score anything in this set. But while we have won the season series against the horrendous Loggers four years in a row now, we actually only went 10-8 against them in 2010.

Projected matchups:
Bill Conway (0-1, 3.86 ERA) vs. Roy Thomas (0-1, 12.60 ERA)
Gil McDonald (0-1, 2.53 ERA) vs. A.J. Bartels (1-1, 1.38 ERA)
Nick Brown (2-1, 2.14 ERA) vs. Rodrigo Gomez (0-2, 4.50 ERA)

This is three right-handed pitchers coming at us, but we are likely getting at least one left-hander this weekend in Charlotte.

Game 1
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – LF Taylor – RF Ayers – CF Castro – SS Palmer – C Owens – P Conway
MIL: SS Ito – 3B Sharp – 1B Catalo – LF Davenport – RF Locke – C R. Hernandez – CF Covington – 2B C. Miller – P R. Thomas

In the first four innings the Raccoons would get three base runners, 67% of which reached by virtue of being hit in the thighs by Roy Thomas. Yoshi Nomura’s single in the first was the only thing that actually deserved merit. Bill Conway was perfect through the first three innings, but Suketsune Ito opened the bottom of the fourth with a single to right. Sharp struck out, but the Loggers would still load the bases with two outs, getting Philip Locke on just because Adrian Quebell dropped his easy-as-pie pop. But someone apparently yelled at Quebell that this one was easy-as-pie, and “pie” distracted him greatly… Obviously, Raúl Hernandez would hit a 2-run single to center, and the Loggers had a 2-0 lead. Sharpie, who came in batting .298, upped to 3-0 with a 2-out RBI single in the fifth inning. Thomas hit a third batter in the top of the sixth, and revenge was now called for. Willie Davenport got a blow in the bottom of the inning, but the Loggers would hit into a double play in due time and didn’t add on to their lead. But they would in the seventh… The ****ty Raccoons remained completely clueless for the entire game and didn’t score until the ninth inning when reliever Micah Steele served up a few goofballs to the Raccoons not even they could miss. By then it was much too late, though. 5-2 Loggers. Pruitt (PH) 1-1, 2B; Owens 1-2, 2B; Conway 7.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, L (0-2);

I’m not quite able to find words right now…

Game 2
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – RF Taylor – LF Pruitt – SS Palmer – CF White – C Bowen – P McDonald
MIL: SS Ito – CF Brissett – 1B Catalo – LF Davenport – RF Locke – 3B Cuevas – C Lemberger – 2B Simon – P Bartels

The Loggers romped all over McDonald, who allowed four line drives to start the second inning, and those fell in for two singles and two doubles and scored three runs. Another run scored in the third before Arthur Simon lined out to Pruitt with the bases loaded to end the inning. McDonald was hit for in the top 5th in the most promising spot yet, with White and Bowen on base and one out. Palmer had led off the inning with a single, but had gotten forced by White. Bowen had then singled to center. Tomas Castro batted for McDonald, flew out to Davenport in left, and Merritt popped out to shallow center, and nobody scored. Tommy Ward pitched two scoreless innings afterwards to pin the Loggers in place with their 4-run lead. But what was it good for? Absolutely nothing.

The Raccoons would scratch out a run in the seventh inning, that was really badly unearned. Palmer had reached again and reached third base when Tommy Lemberger threw away the ball on his steal attempt. Pat White brought him in with a sac fly. That was the complete and total report for all the Raccoons’ offensive exploits in this middle game. They managed four hits in total, no walks, and another plunked batter. 4-1 Loggers. Palmer 2-3; Ward 2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K; Thrasher 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K;

Amari Brissett broke his ankle in this game. He had batted squid so far this season (in 9 AB) and I had already been on a trade for him to improve our lineup.

Logan Taylor was drilled in both this and the first game. Listen, Loggers. At least hit him in a way which allows us to collect an insurance reimbursement. Otherwise fudge up.

(Quebell has heard something about fudge and stampedes past)

No, we had reached a point where some move – any move, really – was needed to breath live into the offense. Manuel Gutierrez was waived and designated for assignment (together with 33% of our home runs), and Pat White, who had one last option, was sent to St. Petersburg outright. Instead, we added SS/3B Dave Roudabush (batting .531 through seven games) and OF Jason Seeley (.441, 2 HR, 12 RBI).

Seeley had been our 2008 first rounder, the 21st overall pick in that draft. He brings pedestrian defense and never showed big power at any level before. He has an explosive first step that helps him to swipe a base if necessary. He bats left-handed, but at this point I’m only hoping for any contribution from anybody, regardless whether their batting left-handed, right-handed, or just fall into a pitch.

Game 3
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – LF Seeley – RF Taylor – 1B Pruitt – SS Roudabush – CF Castro – C Bowen – P Brown
MIL: CF J.R. Richardson – 1B Catalo – RF Locke – 3B Sharp – C R. Hernandez – LF Alires – SS Simon – 2B C. Miller – P R. Gomez

J.R. Richardson almost homered on the first pitch by Brown, but Seeley, who had made a pedestrian out in the top of the first, caught it. Brown would go on to walk Leborio Catalo and Philip Locke on eight pitches before Sharp popped up a 3-1 pitch behind home plate, but Bowen dropped that. Sharpie would strike out as the runners pulled off a double steal, but Hernandez would go down swinging on a slider. Brownie would then come to bat in the top 2nd with one out and the bags full. Pruitt and Roudabush had started the inning with singles before Edgar Alires, who was playing in his major league debut opposite debutee Jason Seeley, made a headlong catch on a Castro line to left. Craig Bowen singled in a 3-1 count to load them up then. Brown kept the inning alive with an RBI groundout to first base before Jon Merritt singled into left to plate the remaining two runners and the Raccoons had an outrageous 3-0 lead!

Of course Brown was out to blow it as soon as possible and walked Edgar Alires to start the third inning. Arthur Simon singled, but Craig Miller hit into a double play and Rodrigo Gomez struck out. While Brown out of the gate had certainly looked wonky, his situation improved dramatically by the middle innings when the Raccoons forced an early exit on Gomez. Castro was on second base with two outs and Brown batting in the fourth. Nick singled to center, and when he turned around first base he saw the Loggers had a good shot at Castro at home, and made a run for second base. Sharpie yelled out to the cutoff man Simon, who threw to second base, where Brown was out by a mile, but Castro was home with the fourth run of the game. Seeley then got his first major league hit in the next inning, a double off the fence with one out that also moved Merritt to third base. Logan Taylor singled to right on the next pitch where the ball bounced off Locke’s chest, and both runs scored, 6-0. Brownie conceded a run on two hits in the bottom 5th, but the Coons burst out for a 4-spot (error-aided as it was…) in the top of the sixth, in which Bowen homered for two, and Pruitt doubled for as many. Another two runs in the seventh on a Nomura triple ran the dozen full for the Coons, who weren’t used to score 12 runs in a game (or a week) and were slightly dizzy. 12-2 Brownies! Merritt 3-4, BB, 2 RBI; Pruitt 2-5, 2B, 2 RBI; Castro 1-2, 2 BB; Bowen 2-5, HR, 2 RBI; Brown 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, W (3-1) and 1-4, 2 RBI;

After this soul-soothing blowout, we have five players tying for the team lead with 6 RBI: Bowen, Castro, Nomura, Pruitt, and Taylor. “Monti” Alston has 20 RBI.

Free agent signing

Worked on in secrecy so far, the Raccoons announced an agreement with 28-year old OF Jose “Dingus” Morales (.323, 140 HR, 535 RBI) on Friday morning. Morales signs a 1-yr, $920k contract. The Raccoons forfeit a first round pick to the Knights.

Yeah, this one was necessary, I claim. I panicked outright after the ****ty start to the season. Now I am in a predicament, with six outfielders on the roster. Since I was against sending Jason Seeley back to St. Petersburg with only one game under his belt, he remained on the roster. Pat Slayton, who had a full slate of options still available, was optioned to St. Pete instead. We will go with a short bullpen for now, but Gil McDonald will not get a start until the 30th again (since his usual turn on Monday turns out to be another off day), and is available out of the pen for the weekend series at the very least. I want to see a few more games from Seeley before I return him.

For what it’s worth, Matt Pruitt has options.

On the draft pick… Well. I’m notorious for drafting busts (either that, or they are drinking poisoned water in Ham Lake) and what do I want to do start with the #16 pick anyway? We still have four in the top 50. Besides, if Morales puts up anything even remotely resembling a standard season for him, he will be a type A free agent for us in the fall. Right now, I have him penciled in for the centerfield job.

Side note: Gutierrez went unclaimed (so, as usual) and arrived in St. Pete as well.

Raccoons (8-8) @ Falcons (3-12) – April 22-24, 2011

Wednesday’s rout of the Loggers handed off the red lantern of offensive futility to the Falcons – by one run. We definitely had ground to make up. To that league-worst hitting they were also adding the third-worst pitching staff and slowly but surely we began to see how they had started out .200 … The Falcons were the South team the Raccoons were overall worst against, with a .484 all-time clip, but we had taken five of nine last season. No team had won more than six games from the other since 1998.

Projected matchups:
Jong-hoo Umberger (1-1, 2.50 ERA) vs. Roberto Ramirez (0-2, 11.88 ERA)
Colin Baldwin (1-0, 2.14 ERA) vs. Manuel Ortíz (0-2, 3.68 ERA)
Bill Conway (0-2, 3.38 ERA) vs. Manuel Hernandez (0-1, 4.91 ERA)

Hernandez is this week’s left-handed opponent. Their best guy, Larry Cutts, is out for the season, and the replacement bridge isn’t that strong at all…

Game 1
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – LF Seeley – CF Morales – RF Taylor – 1B Quebell – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Umberger
CHA: CF A. Solís – SS J. Amador – C F. Chavez – 1B Valenzuela – LF J. Flores – RF D. Richardson – 3B N. Chavez – 2B Jackson – P R. Ramirez

Couple o’ firsts. Jose Morales reached on a Rickey Jackson error in his first AB as a Coon, and got forced by Logan Taylor. Yoshi Nomura became the first Coon to 7 RBI (in game 17…) when he doubled with one out in the third inning and Craig Bowen scored. That also moved Jon Merritt to third, and they were coming home with a run apiece soon after when Jason Seeley hit his first major league home run, a 3-run shot that was never in doubt at all and raced to the second row from the top in the rightfield bleachers.

Umberger was mostly solid, not getting into a jam until the fourth. There, a Jesus Flores double put two on with two outs, but Daniel Richardson came up, and his “best before” date had been in about 2006. The 39-year old was batting under .100 and popped up a 3-1 pitch to shallow right and for Logan Taylor to catch. Taylor added a run in the fifth with a 2-out single to center, joining Yoshi in seventh-RBI heaven. Richardson would be up again with two on and two out in the sixth, and that time fouled out. And after reaching on an error and walking twice, Morales also got his first hit as a Coon out of his system with a leadoff single in the top 7th. Then he got forced for the third time by Taylor. Jong-hoo went seven innings, striking out six, including three times Angel Solís, always to end an inning. The Falcons didn’t score until down to their last out, when Ron Thrasher allowed three singles for a run in the ninth inning. 7-1 Coons. Merritt 2-4, BB; Nomura 3-5, 2B, 2 RBI; Seeley 2-5, HR, 4 RBI; Ayers (PH) 1-1; Umberger 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K, W (2-1);

Tomas Castro entered as pinch-hitter and stayed in centerfield afterwards, but left before the end of the game after getting oddly struck in the thumb by a fly ball. No structural damage, but the thumb was quite numb and he was listed as DTD for the rest of the weekend.

Game 2
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – LF Seeley – CF Morales – RF Taylor – 1B Quebell – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Baldwin
CHA: RF D. Richardson – LF A. Solís – 1B Valenzuela – 3B Ladd – SS J. Amador – C L. Ramirez – CF Reya – 2B D. Silva – P M. Ortíz

Quebell’s first homer put the Raccoons on top 1-0 in the first inning, and they had a good opportunity going in the third. Jon Merritt had reached on a leadoff walk, and after Yoshi struck out the bases were filled with two more walks drawn by the new arrivals. Logan Taylor singled up the middle to score a pair and take over the RBI lead on the team with a nifty nine before the inning fizzled out, although Craig Bowen, who batted with the bases loaded and two outs, drove a ball to fairly deep left center, but Luis Reya got there and made the catch.

Daniel Richardson’s old age cost the Falcons another run in the fourth inning. First he bumbled Baldwin’s leadoff single into an extra base, then he was just too slow to catch up with a deep drive by Jason Seeley that fell in for an RBI double. By the way, as we were on scum soiling the good name Daniel, that D. Silva guy was the ex-Titan Daniel Silva, washed ashore again in the Continental League after a stint with the Capitals.

While the Falcons’ Manuel Ortíz went six innings and walked and struck out seven apiece, Colin Baldwin’s game revolved around the most poor contact possible, and he had only one strikeout through five innings, then added a second one in the sixth. But he was maintaining a shutout, so… While the Coons added a run in the seventh on a Palmer single and another one in the ninth when they had Logan Taylor on third base and Eric Fontenot threw a wild pitch, Baldwin was still not scored upon. He had thrown 109 pitches though and we had right-handers up in the bottom of the ninth. He was sent back out, but Angel Casas – who really needed work! – was getting warm in the pen. Baldwin didn’t finish the shutout, partly because Adrian Quebell dropped Baldwin’s throw on a Jose Valenzuela grounder to put the first man on. Angel Casas entered after a 2-out single by Leon Ramirez, despite this not being a save situation. The game ended in one pitch, although that was a deep drive to center by Reya, which Morales caught. 6-0 Critters. Seeley 1-2, 2 BB, 2B, RBI; Taylor 2-3, 2 BB, 2B, 2 RBI; Quebell 2-4, BB, HR, RBI; Palmer 2-5, 2B, RBI; Baldwin 8.2 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K, W (2-0) and 1-4;

Game 3
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Palmer – CF Morales – RF Ayers – LF Taylor – 1B Pruitt – C Owens – SS Roudabush – P Conway
CHA: CF A. Solís – SS J. Amador – C F. Chavez – 1B Valenzuela – RF D. Richardson – 3B N. Chavez – LF DeBoer – 2B D. Silva – P M. Hernandez

After a soft single by Keith Ayers started the second inning, Taylor, Pruitt, and Owens hit three balls really hard and deep – and none reached base, all three being caught. But of course once Conway took the mound, the ****ty marbles started to fall in. First, he walked Valenzuela, and then the Falcons snipped soft singles with Richardson and Nelson Chavez (ex-Coon terror factor alive and well…), although they were ultimately held to a sac fly in the inning. However, Fernando Chavez hit a 2-piece in the third and the Coons sat in a 3-0 hole. Conway was no help in containing the fire, issuing a leadoff walk for the third time in the fourth inning, then to Silva. While the Falcons didn’t make something of it, he now had five walks in the game, more than in his first three starts combined. Fernando Chavez hit a leadoff single in the fifth inning, after which Valenzuela struck out. With Daniel Richardson down 0-2, Conway threw not one, but two wild pitches back-to-back, evoking some gruesome Juan Diaz memories, before striking him out, and the Falcons left the one Chavez at third when the other Chavez flew out to Ayers.

Morales was batting 1-for-9 as a Raccoon until he led off the top 7th with a single, only the team’s third hit off Manuel Hernandez, who quickly threw a wild pitch of his own with Ayers at the plate. While we thought for a moment that something could happen here, Ayers flew out to Richardson, Taylor flew out to Jimmy DeBoer, and Pruitt bounced right back to Hernandez to – hold on! Hernandez’ throw to first was high, and tipped off the edge of Valenzuela’s glove, and from there the ball rolled into the dugout. That allowed Morales to score, Pruitt was sent to second, and the tying run came up in Travis Owens, who singled softly to center, allowing Pruitt to score and the Coons were back to within a run. Ward and Huerta held the Falcons down, and Quebell hit for Huerta to start the eighth inning with Hernandez still in the game. Quebell grounded out, but Merritt walked. Castro ran for him, and reached third base on Michael Palmer’s single. One out and runners on the corners! And not-the-#16-pick coming up! And while his drive to center was intercepted by another pesky defender, Morales’ sac fly tied the game if nothing else. Ayers also hit a ball into the gap, and also had it caught… And then Law Rockburn threw one pitch in the bottom 8th, Daniel Richardson drilled it fantastically well and the Raccoons lost anyway. 4-3 Falcons. Owens 2-4, RBI;

By my count, we were robbed of five doubles in this game…

In other news

April 19 – Vancouver’s 1B Ray Gilbert (.481, 1 HR, 4 RBI) has run his hitting streak to 25 games after a 2-hit day in the Canadiens’ 11-9 win over the Indians.
April 20 – Game over: Ray Gilbert goes 0-for-4 in the Canadiens’ 8-5 win over the Indians, ending his hitting streak at 25 games.
April 21 – The Blue Sox acquire OF Jeffrey Matthews (.373, 1 HR, 11 RBI) from the Warriors and will send them 30-yr old AAA first baseman Bill Thomas and an outfield prospect.
April 23 – OCT SP Carlos Castro (2-1, 2.93 ERA) is placed on the DL with elbow inflammation and is not expected back before the latter half of July.
April 23 – Another hitting streak to follow now is LAP 3B/2B Jens Carrolls’ (.410, 1 HR, 12 RBI). The 29-year old has hit in 20 consecutive games (going back to the final weekend of the 2010 season) after two singles in the Pacifics’ 7-5 loss to the Cyclones.
April 24 – … or maybe not. Carroll goes hitless against the Cyclones on Sunday, ending his streak at 20 games.
April 24 – The Pacifics also place 1B Stanley Murphy (.364, 2 HR, 14 RBI) on the DL with a broken finger. He might not return until early June.

Complaints and stuff

Nick Brown’s next strikeout will be #2,100 for him. Slowly but surely the franchise record by Kisho Saito comes into view. He would need to put up a new franchise record for single season strikeouts to reach it in 2011, though.

Another idea for how to utilize our sixth outfielder would be to use Tomas Castro as million-dollar pinch-runner deluxe. Think about it: he has the paws to steal a base, but he can’t get ON base. Well, we can just PUT him there! That’s genius! I am amazed by my own intellect!

That should be worth a million bucks!
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Old 04-10-2016, 04:10 PM   #1808
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Raccoons (10-9) @ Thunder (13-6) – April 26-28, 2011

The Raccoons had taken six of nine from the Thunder in 2010, and another four of six in last year’s CLCS. They probably were out for revenge or something like that, and we’d have to see what their CL-leading offense (96 runs scored) was going to do against the far and away best pitching in the league, the Coons’. The Thunder were second in runs allowed, with 73 runs given up compared to *58* for the Raccoons.

Projected matchups:
Nick Brown (3-1, 1.93 ERA) vs. Dave Crawford (1-0, 3.55 ERA)
Jong-hoo Umberger (2-1, 1.80 ERA) vs. Antonio Donis (3-1, 2.55 ERA)
Colin Baldwin (2-0, 1.52 ERA) vs. Daniel Dickerson (1-1, 5.40 ERA)

Antonio Donis ist he only left-hander they have. We are actually not quite sure about who will pitch on Wednesday and Thursday, as they are also coming off two off days just like us. Technically, William Raven (0-0, 0.00 ERA) is still around and hasn’t pitched in a while (and hasn’t even started a game yet).

Game 1
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – LF Seeley – CF Morales – RF Taylor – 1B Quebell – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P N. Brown
OCT: SS Farias – 3B Higashi – RF V. Diaz – 2B P. Brown – C J. Martinez – LF D. McCormick – 1B T. Cardenas – CF J. Garcia – P D. Crawford

The Thunder had three singles against Nick Brown in the first inning, but didn’t score with Emilio Farias being thrown out at home by Jason Seeley. Brownie lacked stuff in the game and didn’t get the single strikeout required to reach 2,100 career strikeouts until he got the pitcher up to start the third inning. Crawford struck out in a full count, and Brownie would pitch in FOUR full counts in the inning, but the only batter that reached did so on a Bowen error. But no, Brown had nothing. The Thunder loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the fourth, and Brownie only bowed out of there thanks to Jaime Garcia hitting into a double play and that was wonderfully turned by Jon Merritt. By then, the Raccoons had actually scored, with Jason Seeley hitting his second home run to start the fourth inning. Nick Brown would only strike out one more batter, his namesake Powell Brown, to start the sixth inning, and he didn’t get through that after a Jesus Martinez bloop that fell between Palmer and Morales, and a 2-out walk to Tomas Cardenas. Law Rockburn retired Garcia on a grounder to third to keep the Thunder down, who were at that point leading the Raccoons with eight hits to their two, although the scoreboard still showed Portland 1, Oklahoma City 0.

Rockburn committed the cardinal sin of giving a single to the opposing pitcher in the bottom of the seventh, but recovered to log two outs before Tommy Ward got Vinny Diaz to pop one up in foul ground for Merritt to handle to end the inning. Matt Pruitt hit for Ward after Bowen’s leadoff single in the eighth and extended the lease on his Portland apartment with a 2-shot just a bit right of center, his first home run of the season. Crawford remained in, retired Merritt, but then Nomura singled, which brought up Jason Seeley, who cracked a goodnight homer to right for a 5-0 lead, after which the bullpen actively sought to blow the game for Brown. Ted Reese appeared to start the eighth, allowed two hard hits for a Brown single and Martinez RBI double, and was replaced by Thrasher, who allowed an RBI double to Dave McCormick right away. After that, I assume, Ron heard me barking obscenities in my suite, since the then wiggled out of the inning before it could get really ugly. Thankfully we had spent a fortune on a good closer: Angel Casas retired the Thunder in order in the ninth. 5-2 Brownies! Seeley 2-3, BB, 2 HR, 3 RBI; Pruitt (PH) 1-1, HR, 2 RBI; Brown 5.2 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K, W (4-1);

Seeley! Seeley! He has been a major league player for ONE week, and he already leads the team in home runs!

Game 2
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Palmer – CF Morales – RF Ayers – LF Seeley – 1B Quebell – SS Roudabush – C Bowen – P Umberger
OCT: SS Farias – RF Takizawa – 1B T. Cardenas – 2B D. McCormick – LF V. Diaz – C J. Martinez – 3B M. Austin – CF J. Garcia – P Donis

Jason Seeley continued his reign of terror on opposing pitching and hit an RBI triple in the second inning that scored Keith Ayers from first base. Nobody was out at home, but Seeley casually tied for the team lead in RBI. Outrageously, Seeley was left on base when Quebell rolled out to first and Roudabush and Bowen struck out. And after the Thunder had hit all those singles and hadn’t scored in the opener, the same was now true for the Raccoons, who put men on and let them die. Umberger was in turn whacked for a 2-out, 2-run double by Jesus Martinez in the bottom of the fourth, only the fifth man on base for the Thunder in the game, who hadn’t had a hit before the fourth inning. The Thunder scored another run in the fifth without any achievement of their own at all. Donis reached on a Roudabush error and scored on a Palmer error. The Raccoons weren’t getting anything done before arriving in the ninth inning down by two runs, yet ahead by four hits. Arturo Lopez struck out Seeley, struck out Quebell, and Logan Taylor rolled out batting for Roudabush. 3-1 Thunder. Palmer 2-4; Ayers 2-4; Umberger 7.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, L (2-2) and 1-3;

Game 3
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – RF Seeley – CF Morales – 1B Quebell – LF Pruitt – SS Howell – C Bowen – P Baldwin
OCT: SS Farias – 3B Higashi – RF Takizawa – C J. Martinez – 2B D. McCormick – CF J. Garcia – 1B Clarke – LF V. Diaz – P Dickerson

The Thunder had runners on the corners when Jon Merritt made a fantastic lunging grab on a Dave McCormick line drive to end the first inning in scoreless fashion. The first run wasn’t to be scored until the fourth inning. “Dingus” led off with a single to center, then stole second base, which was everything that kept the Coons out of a double play on Quebell’s grounder to McCormick. Morales then scored on Pruitt’s single to right center and the Raccoons were up 1-0. With a lineup that was going like gum, Colin Baldwin’s 1-out double in the fifth inning was a wonderful opportunity. Merritt whiffed, but Yoshi singled him in to add another run, but all that lead went out of the window instead when Baldwin allowed a leadoff triple to Vinny Diaz to start the bottom of the inning, and then even a single to Dickerson, THEN couldn’t dig out a Haruyoshi Takizawa grounder that had Takizawa safe at first while Dickerson scored with the tying run.

It was all quite simply horrible.

Like the seventh inning. The Raccoons had two men on and couldn’t shove them around the bases. The Thunder were basically assured victory when Chris Parker (ex-Coon…) hit a leadoff triple through Quebell in the bottom of the inning. Of course the run scored and the Coons trailed 3-2 after Takahashi Higashi’s single. We then had Seeley hit a leadoff single in the eighth, which prompted the Thunder to bring Ignacio Garcia, a left-hander, to face the remaining left-handers we had coming up. But we made a considerable investment for “Dingus” Morales, and damnit we’re due a homer from him! A first-pitch single to right was pleasant as well, though. That put the go-ahead run on with Quebell at the plate. No, no, no, bring somebody else. No double play now! Ayers batted for him, with the Thunder swiftly bringing a right-hander with Sergio Alvarez. Ayers made a protective jab at a 1-2 pitch, but that one actually bounced through the infield into right, and the bases were loaded WITH NO OUTS for Matt Pruitt. No pitching change, either. Matty, you want to be our first guy to double-digit RBI’s (sob), right? Nah, he lobbed out to shallow right, and all runners had to hold. Logan Taylor hit for an 0-3 Howell, popped out, and Bowen struck out in a full count. Baldwin went eight and took the loss once Jean-Christophe Fernandes was done retiring the Raccoons 1-2-3 in the ninth. 3-2 Thunder. Nomura 2-4, BB, RBI; Morales 2-4; Pruitt 2-4, RBI; Baldwin 8.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, L (2-1) and 1-3, 2B;

Let’s say there was a fair bit of crying involved late in this one.

By the way, we’re behind the Loggers.

Raccoons (11-11) vs. Crusaders (14-7) – April 29-May 1, 2011

Didn’t we sweep these guys to start the season? How are they fourteen and seven?? Well, all I know was that they led the league with 116 runs scored while ranking third with 85 runs allowed, had won their last four games and were going to leave town Sunday night with a 7-game winning streak.

Projected matchups:
Bill Conway (0-2, 3.80 ERA) vs. Pancho Trevino (1-1, 4.13 ERA)
Gil McDonald (0-2, 4.30 ERA) vs. Takeru Sato (2-2, 2.40 ERA)
Nick Brown (4-1, 1.60 ERA) vs. Ken Maddox (3-0, 4.38 ERA)

Sato is the left-hander in the middle set. By now I know that we wouldn’t be in any happier place had we signed him. It’s not like he would have scored any runs for us.

Game 1
NYC: CF R. Pena – 2B Caraballo – LF M. Ortíz – RF S. Martin – 1B Manfull – C G. Ortíz – 3B Bond – SS Reed – P Trevino
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – CF Morales – RF Taylor – LF Pruitt – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Conway

Bill Conway struck out four in the first two inning and still had two men on with two outs in the second, but Trevino floated gently out to Morales in center. On the flip side, “Flipper” batted as well with two outs and two on in the bottom 2nd, and made a rather casual out. Trevino was struggling a bit against our left-handers, put Quebell and Morales on with two outs on a single and a walk, respectively, but Logan Taylor made another ****ty floating out. Pruitt and Bowen hit singles in the fourth, Conway bunted them into scoring position, and Merritt rolled out to second base. They. Just. Could. Not. Score.

Not that the Crusaders were not guilty of failing with two men on. Morales ended the fifth inning when he caught Martin Ortíz’ fly to deep center on the warning track with two men on base. Bottom of the inning, Morales came up with Nomura and Quebell already having hit singles, and nobody out. Trevino was now scuffling and walked him, loading the sacks for Logan Taylor, who fouled out on a 3-1 pitch. Pruitt flew softly to left, but a bit deeper than medium depth, and Yoshi made a dash for it and scored the first run of the game, beating Ortíz’ throw. Palmer reached on a Jeffrey Reed error to bring the tremendous .175 threat Craig Bowen to the plate, and HE jabbed at a 3-1 pitch and lined it to left, and it BARELY got past Reed’s glove and into left, scoring two runs. Conway struck out and didn’t get the 3-0 lead further than to one out in the seventh. He did not strike out anybody past the second inning, and a walk to Reed left him in a hole he didn’t dig out of in the seventh. Neither did Ricardo Huerta, who allowed a single to Roberto Pena and a double to Francisco Caraballo, with two runs scoring and the lead being cut to 3-2.

The Raccoons proceeded with a pair of leadoff singles in the bottom of the seventh, Morales and Taylor going to the corners against Jose Ramos. Matt Pruitt went on to hit a 3-1 pitch hard to the general direction of Caraballo, but it actually went past him and into center, scoring the team’s fourth run of the game. When Palmer walked, the bases were loaded for Bowen, who remained unretired on the day when he was plunked by Ramos. Ironically, that was the final nudge the Crusaders’ pen had needed to topple over and splinter. Greg Connor – not long ago the Pitcher of the Year in the CL – appeared to pitch in long relief, but the Critters added runs with a Seeley sac fly, a Merritt double, a Nomura single, and a Quebell sac fly, taking a commanding 9-2 lead. Connor was still pitching in the eighth inning and in a hurry the bases were loaded again with no outs. Pruitt and Palmer drew walks before Bowen singled, and Jason Seeley, who had replaced Morales in center, batted with the sacks full again, but the kid was too eager here and struck out. That brought up Jon Merritt, and with a 7-run lead, even Merritt showed his home run swing. The count ran full eventually, and Merritt continued to rake until he finally met and drove one. Deep to center, deep, and - … GRAAAAAAAND SLAAAAAAAAMMMMMM!!!!! The Crusaders would kick Ted Reese into both shins before retreating to their quarters, plating two (unearned) runs in the ninth, but this one was a rout. 13-4 Blighters. Merritt 2-6, HR, 2B, 5 RBI; Nomura 4-6, RBI; Quebell 2-4, BB, RBI; Morales 2-3, 2 BB; Pruitt 3-3, BB, 2 RBI; Bowen 4-4, 3 RBI;

This was Bill Conway’s first victory as a Raccoon. Also, Merritt’s handful of RBI gave him eight for the season, after a measly three in the first 22 games.

The Loggers are STILL ahead of us. How come!?

Game 2
NYC: CF R. Pena – 2B Caraballo – LF M. Ortíz – RF S. Martin – 1B Manfull – C G. Ortíz – 3B Bond – SS Reed – P Sato
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Palmer – CF Morales – LF Seeley – RF Ayers – 1B Quebell – SS Roudabush – C Owens – P McDonald

McDonald had a runner on first base, two outs, and Takeru Sato at the plate in the second inning. Somehow, the Crusaders would score three runs off him from there. McDonald threw a wild pitch, then gave up a hard RBI single, Pena got on, and Caraballo hit a 2-run double over the head of Jose Morales. Sato would also drive in Jeffrey Reed, who had tripled, with one out in the fourth inning, hitting a fly sufficiently deep that Keith Ayers had no chance to make a throw. Ayers would hit his own sac fly in the bottom of the inning to get the Coons at least on the board in a 4-1 game. Morales had led off the inning with a triple to right center, but Jason Seeley’s liner to left was caught by Reed. Ayers flew out to left center to bring home the run, before Morales was batting as the tying run in the bottom of the fifth, with two outs, but popped out harmlessly.

Ted Reese then applied for relocation to St. Petersburg, inheriting the job on the mound from McDonald after six and a third, he allowed a single to Roberto Pena, then walked the Martin Brothers. Ron Thrasher entered in a double switch with Yoshi as Roudabush was removed, and got a grounder to Yoshi from B.J. Manfull with a single pitch, but Thrasher then allowed three singles and a run in the eighth, and Manfull got his revenge in the ninth, shooting a 2-run homer off Law Rockburn. The Raccoons weren’t really concerning everybody with their batting. Quebell drew a walk in the ninth, after which our spare outfielders Taylor and Pruitt batted for Rockburn and Owens, and produced … nothing. 7-1 Crusaders. Morales 2-4, 3B, 2B; Quebell 1-2, 2 BB;

The Crusaders made a change for game 3, sending Kel Yates into the rubber game as our former co-aces were to face each other again. Well, Brown hadn’t had anything on Tuesday, how’s it gonna be now?

But before we could find out about that, we demoted Dave Roudabush (2-for-13) and brought up Pat Slayton again.

Game 3
NYC: CF R. Pena – 2B Caraballo – LF M. Ortíz – RF S. Martin – 1B Manfull – C G. Ortíz – 3B Bond – SS Reed – P Yates
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – LF Seeley – CF Morales – RF Taylor – 1B Quebell – C Bowen – SS Howell – P Brown

The game began with two strikes to Roberto Pena and then abruptly, quickly, and definitely took a sharp turn into an excruciatingly painful blowout that had the attendance booing at their own team in the first inning. Pena singled to center on 0-2, where Morales waffled on the ball and Pena gained an extra base that ended up not mattering. Pena was safe, but injured, in a home plate collision on Caraballo’s single and replaced by Ramiro Cavazos, but Brown allowed another three singles before anybody ever made an out. When Gabriel Ortíz grounded to Yoshi Nomura, that one had two-for-one all over it, except that Rob Howell dropped the feed and nobody was out. Brown then walked in a run to fall behind 4-0, before the Crusaders started to make outs, scoring another run in the process. 5-0 Crusaders, the Raccoons had yet to bat, and it was just too much to bother.

Logan Taylor batted twice with two outs and a runner in scoring position (and once with another runner on first) and produced squid. The Raccoons had three hits through five innings, while the Crusaders romped Brown for eight hits and two walks, generating a total of seven runs in five innings, after which Pat Slayton was thrown in to pick up the slack. He started in style, walking Yates to lead off the sixth inning. The crowd grew increasingly hostile, and when Seeley made an error and dropped a pop in the seventh inning, the booing and cheering just became permanent for the rest of the game, whenever a Raccoon was even remotely close to the ball. Things didn’t get better when Slayton was sent to bat in the bottom of the seventh, actually singled into leftfield, then was collected in Merritt’s double play. If not for Slayton’s single, the Raccoons would have put as many errors as hits of their own into this afternoon game’s despairing box score. 7-0 Crusaders. Slayton 3.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 K and 1-1;

I NEED BOOZE OVER HERE!!

In other news

April 26 – CIN SP Juan Garcia (0-1, 3.28 ERA) might miss most of the season with shoulder inflammation.
April 26 – The Condors deal INF Pancho Ybarra (.310, 0 HR, 7 RBI) to the Gold Sox for 1B Nick May (.308, 1 HR, 7 RBI).
April 27 – TOP SP Victor Gonzalez (2-1, 2.33 ERA) will be out for a year with damage to an elbow ligament.
April 28 – OCT OF/1B/3B Tom Reese (.390, 3 HR, 13 RBI) goes to the DL with a fractured finger. He should miss about a month.
April 29 – Vancouver’s Rod Taylor (4-1, 1.50 ERA) sparkles with a 1-hit shutout over the Titans. With six outs to go, Gerardo Rios breaks up the no-hitter in the bottom of the eighth.
April 30 – A strained hamstring puts SFB LF/RF Ron Alston (.409, 6 HR, 22 RBI) on the DL for the next four weeks.

Complaints and stuff

Rumor has it that Jose Morales’ nickname is “Dingus” because he introduced himself to his team mates in the Knights’ international academy stating that his name was Jose and “Jose hit dingus”.

WELL THEN SHOW SOME OF THAT **** ALREADY!!

The team is an incredible pain in the ass. Yoshi Nomura has the highest OPS by all regulars – by far. And the Elks are coming in for four…

In AAA, C Tom McNeela vanished onto the DL with a broken finger and won’t be back until early June. He’s the third-string catcher for us.

Over in the FL Ralph Ford was Pitcher of the Month with a 4-1, 3.05 ERA, 33 K performance. But Greg Connor (the 2008 POTY) might be completely done. After the Raccoons ravaged him for seven runs in relief on Friday, he had a 27.00 ERA. This is the last year of his contract, in which he receives (not: earns) $2.32M to create blowouts. I doubt he gets another deal, although he’s only 34.
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Old 04-11-2016, 01:41 PM   #1809
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Jose Morales has been aboard for 10 days and has not yet homered - the Raccoon King is not amused!

More at 11.
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Old 04-11-2016, 05:04 PM   #1810
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So the madness this week escalated long enough for it to now *actually* be 11 here. Didn’t see that one coming.

Raccoons (12-13) vs. Canadiens (12-11) – May 2-5, 2011

The Canadiens had won their last four games, while the Raccoons were in the process of losing all their dignity. While the Elks ranked only 9th in runs scored, they were a strong 3rd in runs allowed, with a -3 run differential, although part of this might be that they had played the least games in the Continental League. Their starting pitcher ranked sixth in ERA, and the bullpen fourth. The Coons had taken the season series for two consecutive years, including a tied all-time best 13-5 last season.

Projected matchups:
Jong-hoo Umberger (2-2, 1.95 ERA) vs. D.J. Fulgieri (0-3, 8.38 ERA)
Colin Baldwin (2-1, 1.91 ERA) vs. Juichi Fujita (1-3, 3.38 ERA)
Bill Conway (1-2, 3.30 ERA) vs. Rod Taylor (4-1, 1.50 ERA)
Gil McDonald (0-3, 4.71 ERA) vs. Tommy Wilson (2-0, 5.32 ERA)

That was a full complement of right-handed pitchers, and they do not currently have a left-hander in the rotation (the only guy we miss is 3-2 Scott Spears and his 4.50 ERA). That’s a good thing, because the horrendous Stuttercoons have only won one game from a left-hander all year (when Baldwin outdueled Takeru Sato on April 7).

Game 1
VAN: LF Holland – 2B Dobson – 1B Gilbert – C Baca – 3B Suzuki – SS Rice – RF Southcott – CF Hudson – P Fulgieri
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – LF Seeley – CF Morales – RF Taylor – 1B Pruitt – C Bowen – SS Howell – P Umberger

Umberger allowed three singles for one run in the first inning, with the inning ending with Logan Taylor catching a Gary Rice drive right against the wall, while the fact the Jon Merritt hit a leadoff single in the bottom of the first and Fulgieri went on to issue two walks and throw two wild pitches in the inning was merely good enough for the tying run – and that scored on the latter wild pitch. While Jose Morales finally broke into the home run list on the team with a mile high solo shot to right in the bottom 3rd (just after Seeley had fallen 15 feet short with a drive that was caught by Clint Southcott), Umberger wouldn’t stop allowing hit by hit, and the Elks tied the score right back in the fourth, and then there was Mitsuhide Suzuki’s leadoff double in the sixth inning. Umberger didn’t recover from that, gave up singles to the disgusting Southcott and John Hudson and left after the inning on a 4-2 hook.

Fulgieri was still holding out in the seventh, but made a throwing error in the inning that put Rob Howell on base with one out. Adrian Quebell hit for Ricardo Huerta and walked, and the tying runs were on base for Merritt, who had one of the Raccoons three hits on the day, nursed a full count and drew a walk to fill the bags for the left-handers coming up. The Elks didn’t remove Fulgieri and paid for it with a bases-loaded walk drawn by Yoshi before Seeley popped out. Morales lined a pitch into right center, Southcott made a good play to hold him to a single, but the score still flipped in favor of the Raccoons as two runs scored, 5-4. Law Rockburn couldn’t do the eighth and was replaced after Southcott singled. Ron Thrasher took over with two outs and Jimmy Roberts batting for Hudson, threw a wild pitch, then walked Roberts anyway before Robert Rucker hit for Fulgieri and grounded out real hard to Quebell at first base. The Elks would come real darn close to a game-tying leadoff jack off Angel Casas in the ninth, with Ross Holland being robbed of a double off the top of the wall by a sprinting and leaping Logan Taylor, who had moved over from right before the inning. Angel then struck out Jerry Dobson and Ray Gilbert to end the game. 5-4 Coons. Morales 2-3, BB, HR, 3 RBI;

We basically stole this one because they didn’t go to the pen. They had 11 hits. We had four. We won because Fulgieri sucks and the Elks haven’t realized yet. Not that I’m complaining too hard.

There is, however, nobody else to sign.

Game 2
VAN: 2B Dobson – C Rucker – 1B Gilbert – 3B Suzuki – LF D. Moore – CF Hudson – RF Holland – SS Lawrence – P Fujita
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – CF Morales – LF Pruitt – RF Taylor – SS Palmer – C Owens – P Baldwin

Baldwin started the game with two walks to the first two Elks and a Suzuki single made sure he wouldn’t get out of that mess without a run conceded. There would not be a no-hitter pitched in this game, with Yoshi Nomura getting a single in the first, and in the second inning Logan Taylor went deep to tie the game at one. In an intermittent drizzle that caused considerable annoyance, neither pitcher was shy about pitching with runners on base and so both teams had their chances. The Raccoons had the bases loaded in the bottom 4th after Baldwin, batting with two outs and runners on the corners, basically fell into a real good 0-2 pitch inside to get drilled and – despite fierce protests by the red team – was awarded first base. Merritt grounded out to Jaylin Lawrence, though. Jerry Dobson singled in the fifth but ended up being picked off by Baldwin. Merritt also made an error to start the sixth inning, putting Ray Gilbert on base, although Baldwin managed to strand him. That was Baldwin’s last inning, not because he was bad (just not very good), but the Raccoons got 2-out singles from Palmer and Owens in the bottom 6th and that was not a chance to be wasted lightly, especially with a left-handed potential power bat on the bench at all times. Jason Seeley batted for Baldwin and grounded out softly. The very same situation developed in the eighth, still in a 1-1 game, this time with Taylor and Owens on the corners and Castro batting for Law Rockburn, and he managed to line a single over a leaping Lawrence and into shallow left center, giving the Coons the lead! And Fujita basically had Merritt struck out, but didn’t get the call in a full count, which meant Merritt was on with a bases-filling walk, and Yoshi Nomura snuck a soft grounder over the second base bag to plate two additional runs before Jason Long came in and retired Quebell. No issues for Angel on this Tuesday, thanks. 4-1 Raccoons. Nomura 2-5, 2 RBI; Taylor 3-4, HR, RBI; Palmer 2-4; Owens 3-4; Castro (PH) 1-1, RBI; Baldwin 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K;

Today the Coons had 11 hits (10 singles plus the Taylor homer), and the Elks had four hits, yet the result was the same. I like it.

Game 3
VAN: LF Holland – RF E. Garcia – 1B Gilbert – C Baca – 3B Suzuki – SS Rice – 2B Dobson – CF Hudson – P R. Taylor
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – CF Morales – LF Seeley – RF Taylor – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Conway

Like in every other game in the series, the Elks scored first, although it took them until the third inning this time. Conway was perfect for eight batters, just right up until the point when he very wasn’t, served a meatball to Rod Taylor, and Taylor homered to left. The Coons had yet to do anything remarkable. Bowen led off the bottom of the inning with a double though. Conway lined out to the shortstop Rice, who almost doubled off Bowen, but the runner remained on base, and when Merritt bounced to left, Suzuki had to make a bare-handed grab to have a chance at him, but the ball flipped out of his hand and the Coons had runners on the corners and Suzuki got an error. Yoshi walked, but between two deep drives by Quebell and Morales, the Raccoons only had a sac fly to show for, merely tying the game at one.

Once Conway overcame runners on the corners with nobody out in the top 4th with a strikeout, a lineout, and a pop to third, the Raccoons got an even better opportunity. Seeley and Palmer singled around a Logan Taylor walk, three on, nobody out for Craig Bowen. The living strikeout grinded out a walk in a full count, shoving in the go-ahead run for the Coons before the pitcher could harm the effort. Conway and Merritt both struck out, and Yoshi flew out to Enrique Garcia, who barely moved to make the grab. Hnnngghh!!

And it wasn’t like this was a secure 2-1 lead with an ace defending it. There was a reason why we had sought an upgrade for the bottom of the rotation for half of the last winter. Conway was close to issuing a leadoff walk to Dobson, who grounded out, then walked Hudson on four pitches, and when Taylor bunted, Conway bumbled it long enough for Taylor to reach with an infield single. Yet somehow, the Elks didn’t sink him, Ross Holland struck out, and Enrique Garcia made the last out to Merritt. Conway walked TWO in the sixth, and was saved of his bacon by Quebell, who made an amazing grab on a Dobson bouncer to end the inning. Somehow, nobody knew quite how, Bill Conway managed to nurse the lead through seven innings before being hit for to start the bottom 7th. Castro hit for him, walked, stole second, and was at third after Merritt’s super-soft single. Taylor also walked Nomura, his sixth walk on the day, which was highly unusual for him, and now the bases were loaded for the middle of the order – with no outs. Would they score now? More than one? Yep, with Quebell up, they’d score four. GRAAAAAAAAND SLAAAAAAAAAMMMMMM!!!!

While Tommy Ward pitched a scoreless eighth, the Coons romped over Dave Weber in the eighth for two more runs, which was a really good thing, since Ted Reese was warming up to pitch the ninth, and despite a 7-run lead and the willingness to let him get through, he was yanked eventually. We had to. He started the inning with a pair of walks to Suzuki and Rice, and got worse from there. He allowed three singles to plate three runs for the Elks before mercy called for Reese’s removal. Huerta came in, struck out Garcia, and the W was finally in the books. 8-4 Critters! Merritt 2-5, 2B, RBI; Quebell 2-4, HR, 5 RBI; Bowen 1-2, 2 BB, 2B, RBI; Castro (PH) 1-1, BB; Conway 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, W (2-2);

Ted Reese was off the books, though. In 9.1 innings, he had walked 10 and had posted an 8.68 ERA. It was not even that he was unlucky. He was plain bad. Since he had an option left, sending him to St. Petersburg was an easy decision by now. From there we recalled the unstoppable Sergio Vega, who had pitched 12.1 shutout innings with 15 strikeouts for the Alley Cats. Vega, almost 31, had been sticking around the organization since being a supplemental pick in the 1998 draft, and had been up and down and up and down since 2001! The only seasons he didn’t see action were ’05 and ’09. In 97 career innings he’s 2-6 with a 4.64 ERA, and he’s made three starts as well (still in the dark times).

I’m not at all sentimental towards him. He’s a mediocre pitcher by all counts. But nobody’s ever claimed him, and the one time he elected minor league free agency, he was still around in March and then happily signed a minor league deal with the Coons again so he wouldn’t starve.

So, now, a series sweep would require a decent start from Gil “Unexpected Arrival” McDonald. Gil, all other starters have an ERA under three. Show some class!

Game 4
VAN: 2B Dobson – RF E. Garcia – 1B Gilbert – C Baca – 3B Suzuki – SS Rice – LF Southcott – CF Hudson – P T. Wilson
POR: 2B Nomura – CF Castro – 1B Quebell – LF Seeley – RF Taylor – SS Palmer – 3B Howell – C Bowen – P McDonald

The first 16 batters in the game went down without a whimper before Craig Bowen hit a 1-out double in the bottom of the third. McDonald made the second out, but Yoshi singled into center to open the scoreboard on the proper side first for the only time in the series. Castro would single, but Quebell grounded out to keep it at 1-0. While the Elks continued to not get on base, Rob Howell added a run with a sac fly in the fourth inning to give Gil McDonald a 2-0 lead.

None of the Elks’ first 18 batters reached base, but Jerry Dobson, the pig, would break up the bid with an infield single to start the seventh inning. Dobson immediately gained an extra base after a passed ball, but after Garcia’s groundout, McDonald beat Gilbert for a strikeout and got out of the inning with at least the shutout still going. An insurance run would be great, though… Yet the Raccoons had nothing up their sleeve. Wilson pitched a perfect seventh, and Jason Long added a perfect eighth. The score remained 2-0 in favor of the home team with McDonald on 100 pitches, and he was not the most enduring pitcher anyway, and so… he was out. Angel Casas took over the ball with John Hudson up first in the ninth inning, and Jon Merritt’s off day ended as he replaced Howell for defense. Angel struck out John Hudson, struck out Jaylin Lawrence, and struck out Jerry Dobson to not even allow the Elks to hope to stay out of the sweep. 2-0 Furballs! Taylor 1-2, BB; Bowen 2-3, 2B; McDonald 8.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K, W (1-3);

Last year there, this year here – a 4-game sweep over the Elks! Isn’t life wonderful!?

Raccoons (16-13) @ Scorpions (12-16) – May 6-8, 2011

It wasn’t too hard to find the general weakness of the Scorpions, who had scored 143 runs (4th in the FL) so far, but had allowed a whopping 161 (dead-last) in just 28 games. Pitching wasn’t their strong suit, and the fact that they had acquired Kenichi Watanabe from the Raccoons was actually a good thing for them, since he was among their better starting pitchers. Their pen was, outside of veteran closer Johnny Smith and ex-Coon Donald Sims, a complete mess. We had played them last season, losing two of three, which ended a streak of three consecutive sweeps over them. All time we were .515 against them.

Projected matchups:
Nick Brown (4-2, 2.79 ERA) vs. Kenichi Watanabe (2-1, 3.71 ERA)
Jong-hoo Umberger (2-2, 2.58 ERA) vs. Jorge Gine (1-1, 3.23 ERA)
Colin Baldwin (2-1, 1.85 ERA) vs. William Kay (1-2, 6.94 ERA)

A full set of right-handers here. They might flip the latter two pitchers, who started both in a double header on Tuesday.

Game 1
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – CF Morales – RF Taylor – LF Pruitt – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Brown
SAC: SS V. Martinez – LF R. Lopez – 1B Bovane – 3B Whitley – C R. Gibson – 2B A. Martinez – RF Graves – CF Vieitas – P Watanabe

“Dingus” missed a dinger by not a lot in the first inning, ramming a ball just fair off the leftfield wall for a double that plate Jon Merritt for the first run of the contest. Logan Taylor popped out to short to bring in the badly struggling Nick Brown, who wouldn’t get strike three past my dead Aunt Mable. He ran 2-strike counts to the first five batters in the game, and didn’t whiff anybody. Stan Whitley singled to open the bottom 2nd and would score on Al Graves’ double, but the Raccoons had already added a run in the top 2nd after Matt Pruitt’s leadoff triple, and now led 2-1, although that score bloomed in a 3-run third. Basically, Watanabe was completely hittable, just like we had come to know him, and the Raccoons chipped and chipped, plating two runs three singles and a walk, then got another run when he brought home Pruitt with a wild pitch, 5-1. An ace worth his pelt would work comfortably with a 5-1 lead, but here Watanabe’s pop was dropped by Nomura, and Victor Martinez and Rodrigo Lopez singled to load the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the third. Raúl Bovane doubled in a pair, and Whitley brought home another one. Brown still didn’t strike out anybody, and finally Al Graves hit a game-tying 2-out single to shallow center.

So much for that ace thing.

Of course it got worse, still. Watanabe actually notched a strikeout in the top 4th, while Brown was yanked in the bottom of the inning after a Victor Martinez single and walks to Bovane and Whitley. Two outs, Law Rockburn came in to face Rodney Gibson. Of course, Rockburn gave up a 2-run single to right before ending the inning, and allowed a homer to Graves in the fifth to fall behind 8-5.

Top 6th, Seeley hit for Rockburn and singled, Yoshi singled, and the tying runs were on once Quebell reached on an Armando Martinez error. Struggling left-hander Dan Moriarty relieved Armando Pena (Watanabe had been out in the fifth), Another splendid change was wasted with ****ty groundouts by Morales and Taylor, plating only one run. The tying runs were on again in the seventh with no outs: Pruitt walked off Moriarty, and Palmer singled through Whitley. Bowen hit a perfect double play grounder to Victor Martinez, who followed his namesake in making a critical error to load the bases. And no outs! Pat Slayton was hit for by Keith Ayers, who rammed a 2-1 pitch to left, the liner fell in and raced to the wall, and Ayers tied the game with a 2-run double!! Merritt was walked to bring up the left-handers, with Kevin Beaver striking out Yoshi before Quebell and Morales hit hard, deep fly outs. The former at least brought in Bowen with the go-ahead run, but Huerta would allow two singles to start the bottom of the inning and the Scorpions re-tied the score on a groundout by Pat MacDonald. The next inning, Sergio Vega opened with a walk to Victor Martinez before Rodrigo Lopez hit one hard to Merritt that the third baseman turned for a double play. Then Vega walked Bovane… Whitley struck out to end the inning, and with the Coons idle against closer Johnny Smith, extra innings developed, with Sergio Vega somehow surviving three innings without allowing a run despite walking four batters.

With Smith out of the way by the 11th, the Raccoons got to see the squishy underbelly of the Scorpions’ pen again. Abraham McCann was a righty with a 5+ ERA and a WHIP approaching a full 2. Pruitt led off with a single, Castro singled for Vega, and then Bowen hit a double that clanked off the wall, scored Pruitt for the go-ahead run and put a pair in scoring position with no outs. Howell hit a sac fly, but Merritt grounded out. Yoshi walked, and Quebell singled, loading the bases with two outs for Morales, who dropped a grounder towards first base, but McCann and Bovane got in each other’s way trying to play it and everybody was safe! 12-9 Coons, Logan Taylor coming up, who got a new righty in Mario Perez, and hit an RBI single anyway. Pruitt grounded out. We had only two guys left to collect three outs in a 13-9 game. Despite three right-handers up to start the bottom 11th, Tommy Ward got the assignment over Angel Casas, since Angel had thrown three of four days against the Elks, and Ward only twice. And to our great annoyance, Ward didn’t get through the inning, and Angel had to pitch anyway. Whitley homered right away, and Graves and MacDonald reached with 2-out singles. Despite left-hander Francisco Ventura coming in to pinch-hit, Angel Casas replaced Ward. Ventura stroked a double to right to plate both runners to Ward’s detriment, and cutting the lead to a single run. That got us back to the top of the order, and right-hander Victor Martinez, whom Angel killed off in three strikes to end a mind-boggling game that was well into its fifth hour. 13-12 Blighters. Morales 3-7, 2B, 3 RBI; Pruitt 3-6, BB, 3B, RBI; Palmer 3-5, 2 RBI; Castro (PH) 1-1; Seeley (PH) 1-1; Ayers (PH) 1-1, 2B, 2 RBI; Howell 1-1; Vega 3.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 3 K, W (1-0);

I don’t even know where to start … Nick Brown now has the worst ERA in the rotation… swiftly ahead!

Except for one guy. Jason Seeley hit a single in this game, but the sparkle after his blistering start was off and I had to contract an outfielder SOMEWHERE. Although he led the team in homers, he had batted about squid the last week, and was sent back after a .233, 3 HR, 10 RBI audition. We certainly won’t forget about him!

Although we had squeezed 9 1/3 innings out of the pen, the situation wasn’t completely dire. Vega and Casas were the only guys completely off limits for Saturday. Huerta, Slayton, and Thrasher appeared well-rested to me. We brought up Manuel Gutierrez instead, who had batted .370 in 14 games in AAA.

Game 2
POR: 3B Merritt – LF Castro – 2B Nomura – CF Morales – 1B Quebell – RF Taylor – SS Palmer – C Owens – P Umberger
SAC: SS V. Martinez – LF R. Lopez – 1B Bovane – 3B Whitley – C R. Gibson – 2B A. Martinez – RF Graves – CF Ventura – P Kay

The Scorpions started out with a walk drawn by Victor Martinez and a Lopez double before Bovane fouled out, Whitley whiffed, and Gibson popped one out that Morales got to with a good dash into shallow center. While the Scorpions left another two runners on base in the second, in which Kay singled, and Umberger allowed four hits through three innings, the Raccoons took a 1-0 lead in the fourth while still not having broken into the H column. Kay drilled Yoshi to start the frame, then walked Morales. Quebell grounded to Armando Martinez, who only got Morales at second, and Yoshi scored on Logan Taylor’s fly to right. Castro would hit a single in the fifth inning, chasing that no-hitter ghost away, but the Raccoons couldn’t do anything by their own against Kay.

Unfortunately, Umberger was wasteful with his pitches, and while he maintained a 6-hit shutout through six innings, his pitch count had reached 105 at that point. After Palmer chased Kay with a leadoff triple in the top 7th, and Kevin Beaver conceded the run on an Owens sac fly, the Coons sent Umberger to bat, hoping to squeeze another out or two from him, despite left-handers up in the bottom 7th. He struck out Graves before Ventura reached on an infield single. Ron Thrasher faced Pat MacDonald then, allowed a single that put runners on the corners, then managed to wiggle out after a Victor Martinez pop and striking out Sonny Reece. We moved on to Pat Slayton for the eighth and the middle of the order, which did not only sound like a kid with matches being left alone in a dynamite factory. Bovane grounded hard to Merritt, who made the play, but Slayton got out 1-2-3 with a K to Rodney Gibson. The Raccoons continued to not build on their two hits so far, and the 2-0 lead was handed to Huerta in the bottom of the ninth, with at least two lefties up in the inning, and more if he were to do something dumb. He struck out Armando Martinez before Quebell couldn’t contain Yoshi’s throw on Graves’ grounder, who reached on the error and brought up the tying run in Ventura, who had done harm to us late, late on Friday night. But he hit Huerta’s first pitch right to Yoshi, and that was a double play that just could not be NOT turned. 2-0 Coons! Umberger 6.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K, W (3-2);

One more game, then we’ll have a much needed off day! Our bullpen is pretty much shot at this point, but …: just one more game, guys.

Game 3
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – LF Morales – 1B Pruitt – RF Ayers – C Bowen – SS Howell – P Baldwin
SAC: SS V. Martinez – LF R. Lopez – 1B Bovane – 3B Whitley – 2B A. Martinez – C Lopes – RF MacDonald – CF Rincón – P Gine

Gine sat down the first two Critters to start the game before Nomura walked. Morales singled to center, Yoshi went to third, drew a throw that had no chance of getting him and Morales moved up, and both scored on Pruitt’s clean line to right for a 2-run single. Ayers reached on an error, but Bowen struck out to keep two on before Baldwin opened his game with two walks which was exactly the one thing we didn’t need. From there he got a double play and another grounder to short to escape an early mess, but listen, Colin, those pitches have to last for seven innings today! Better eight. Or nine.

But for now the innings were early and pitch counts low, and Gine’s was rising quicker than Baldwin’s in any case. The Raccoons got a third run when Castro singled in Howell in the second inning, and after Baldwin had led off the fourth with a single, Castro tripled him in (and gave him a good shove down the third base line) to get to 4-0. Merritt was brushed by a pitch before Yoshi hit into a double play, on which Castro scored, 5-0. Morales also tripled but was left on by Pruitt. All looked swell for a while until the bottom 5th rolled around and Baldwin snapped. With a runner on first, he issued 2-out walks to Graves (who hit for Gine) and Martinez, then allowed a bases-clearing double to Rodrigo Lopez that got the Scorpions right back into the game at 5-3. Even more puzzling was his insistence to walk left-handed batters, another instance of which came in the bottom 7th, where he walked MacDonald to start the inning. Rincón grounded out, Sonny Reece popped out, but with the right-handed top of the order up, we looked to get seven outs from our seven ravaged relievers. With the #9 spot up in the top 8th, we brought Slayton in to face Victor Martinez, who was not a power threat, and instead popped out on the first pitch he got, ending the inning.

Martinez then started the eighth by throwing away Rob Howell’s grounder, putting an important insurance run on second base with nobody down. With Mario Perez pitching, Adrian Quebell hit for Slayton, but got four wide ones. Castro fell down 0-2 before chopping a ball into play, then legged out an infield single to load the sacks. Merritt flew out to shallow center, and Rincón’s murderer’s arm had us keep Howell at third, but things got worse when Yoshi bounced a ball back to Perez, who easily killed off Howell at home, with Yoshi barely beating the throw to first to keep the bases loaded with two down. But Morales came through with a hard single to right that scored two runs and brought considerable relief for the entire team, moving the score to 7-3. And that was not all: Matt Pruitt smashed a no-doubt home run, and the Raccoons were ready to pencil a perfect week into their books! That was, if the pen could find six outs somewhere with a 7-run lead. Law Rockburn pitched in and out of trouble in the eighth, but Ward was less lucky in the ninth. Rincón walked and then Herberto Vieitas rushed a triple to left to knock him out. 10-4, runner on third with one out, we moved on to Ricardo Huerta, who had nothing better to do than issue his first walk of the year to Victor Martinez. Lopez lobbed a ball to shallow right, where Ayers caught it – one to go – but Vieitas scored, and soon two more runs were on the board when Raúl Bovane homered to left center. Whitley would strike out to finally end a mentally and physically taxing series. 10-7 Furballs! Castro 4-6, 3B, 2 RBI; Morales 3-5, 3B, 2 RBI; Pruitt 3-5, HR, 5 RBI; Howell 2-5, 2B;

PERFECT WEEK!!

In other news

May 3 – 40-year old Warriors 1B Dan Morris (.193, 0 HR, 6 RBI) lands a single off the Scorpions’ William Kay and scores the tying run in the Warriors’ eventual 4-3 win, reaching 3,000 career base hits. Morris, the seventh overall pick in the 1991 draft, 11-time All Star and twice Hitter of the Year (1995, 1997) spent all but three years in his 20-year career with the Cyclones, with whom he won the World Series in 2010. A .314/.425/.494 batter, Morris has hit 407 home runs and has 1,567 RBI. He also won two batting titles, two home run titles, and led the league in OPS three times.
May 4 – CIN SP Javier Cruz (3-2, 4.85 ERA) 3-hits the Blue Sox in a shutout.
May 5 – Ron Funderburk (2-0, 0.34 ERA) makes a spot start for the Cyclones and casually hangs another shutout on the Blue Sox, this one a 2-hitter! Funderburk made only his second career start.
May 8 – Big day for DEN C Eugene Carter (.315, 3 HR, 12 RBI), who hits for the cycle!! The 46th cycle in ABL history comes one year and one day after the last such feat, then hit by Las Vegas’ Ricardo Garcia *against* the Gold Sox (Garcia’s second cycle). This is the Gold Sox’ third cycle in franchise history, the other two coming in the 1990s (Chih-tui Jin, 1996; Pat Parker, 1997).
May 8 – TOP SP Juan Ortega (2-3, 3.95 ERA) 2-hits the Loggers in a 2-0 win.

Complaints and stuff

Eugene Carter is the first non-ex-Coon to cycle for the Gold Sox.

When Colin Baldwin picked off Jerry Dobson on Tuesday, it was the first pickoff for a Raccoons pitcher since 2009. We had none in 2010. Bowen picked off a few, but the pitchers didn’t get anybody napping.

Ron Funderburk, who pitched a shutout for the Cyclones this week, is a very interesting case. Since his debut in 2009, they used him exclusively as a reliever, but now he has already made two starts this year. We got a glimpse of him in relief in the World Series, and he has a nasty slider. His third pitch is a changeup over which he has very little control and can’t really use it against too good hitters. He does not have Scott Wade-like control and pin-point movement, so I’d be curious to see how he does in the long run.

Speaking about Cyclones pitchers: the Cyclones are in to start the next week. After that, the Loggers, and the Titans will also follow on the homestand in May’s edition of “What the **** happened to those guys?”.

I noticed that Ron Alston’s strained hamstring sustained on April 30 means that we will in all likelihood miss him when we hit San Fran later in the month. That’s a good thing. It keeps me from climbing up that bell tower next to the park with Maud’s trusted crossbow in tow.
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Raccoons (19-13) vs. Cyclones (19-13) – May 10-12, 2011

Hello, Cyclones. Long time no see. Kinda. We have won the last three regular season series between the teams, and we won’t go into detail about any other series we might have played. No, no. I refuse the thought.

The Cyclones were in the top 4 in the Federal League in both runs scored and runs allowed. They even had the highest batting average. It was really hard to poke holes into what they had assembled, but they did have a few significant injuries with SP Juan Garcia, LF César Gonzalez, and 2B/SS Pat Morrison all on the DL.

Projected matchups:
Bill Conway (2-2, 2.92 ERA) vs. Javier Cruz (3-2, 4.85 ERA)
Gil McDonald (1-3, 3.41 ERA) vs. Ron Funderburk (2-0, 0.34 ERA)
Nick Brown (4-2, 3.61 ERA) vs. Luis Guerrero (3-2, 3.55 ERA)

All series games would match handedness for the two starters involved. I’m eyeing Thursday. If Nick Brown doesn’t rebound to decency and at least get a handful of strikeouts I will be genuinely concerned that there is more wrong with him than a simple case of suckery.

Game 1
CIN: 1B Spinu – 2B B. Hernandez – CF J. Silva – RF Bailey – C Jolley – SS Hall – LF Hiwalani – 3B Banda – P J. Cruz
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – RF Morales – LF Pruitt – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Conway

The opener saw some pretty bollocks starting pitching. Bill Conway’s expressed intent was it to blow our 7-game winning streak by walks alone, and as a matter of principle put every leadoff man on base. The Cyclones scored two runs off him in the first, but the Raccoons were quick to had Javier Cruz a start reminiscent of his playoff performance in 2010. Castro singled, Merritt tripled, and a Morales sac fly tied the score before Pruitt also got on and scored on Quebell’s homer. The Cyclones got a run off Conway in the second, but Morales’ solo shot in the third restored the 2-run lead at 5-3. But Conway tried to lose *really hard*. Top 4th, Bakile Hiwalani singled, and Alfredo Banda, who had stolen his way from first to third on consecutive pitches en route to score in the second, also hit a single that sent runners to the corners with nobody out. Dave Fletcher (brrr) hit for Cruz, but struck out. Georg Spinu singled in a run with one out, before Bartolo Hernandez (the other longtime-Logger on the roster) grounded out. Jose Silva lined a pitch to the left of second base that looked like Conway was done for the day, but Palmer made a lunging grab to end the inning with the tying run at third base. Conway still didn’t retire anybody else and was chased from the game after Will Bailey and Jayden Jolley started the fifth inning with a pair of singles. Law Rockburn was tasked with preserving the unpreservable. Bob hall bunted the runners over before Bakile Hiwalani grounded back to the mound. Law was busy looking back both runners, and Hiwalani reached first base safely to load the sacks with one out. And then just like that, Alfredo Banda and Roberto Hernandez both struck out and the Cyclones continued to trail 5-4 – for another inning. Sergio Vega was tasked with the right-handed 1-2-3 batters in the sixth inning. He walked Spinu, and Hernandez singled, sending Spinu to third. Hernandez was caught stealing by Bowen (whose CS% was a paltry 20%), but Vega just walked Silva to get back to where he came from. Will Bailey homered off Ron Thrasher to put the Cyclones over the hump. The Raccoons weren’t doing anything for a very long time. Tommy Ward allowed another run in the ninth inning in a case of “too many singles”, and in the bottom 9th Ian Johnson sat down Nomura and Quebell before Keith Ayers hit for Ward and walked. Owens hit for a horrendous Bowen and jacked a homer to left that suddenly brought up the tying run … in Manuel Gutierrez … who singled! And then Tomas Castro struck out. 8-7 Cyclones. Pruitt 2-4; Quebell 2-4, HR, 2 RBI; Owens (PH) 1-1, HR, 2 RBI;

Turns out the Cyclones were better at hitting and less **** at pitching in this one. And didn’t make two crucial errors. They had the leadoff man on EIGHT times. Pat Slayton in the seventh was the only pitcher who retired the first man in the inning. You can hardly win a game like that.

Ugh, crap game.

Game 2
CIN: 1B Spinu – 2B B. Hernandez – CF J. Silva – RF Bailey – C Jolley – SS Hall – LF P. Estrada – 3B Banda – P Guerrero
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Palmer – CF Morales – 1B Quebell – RF Ayers – LF Pruitt – SS Howell – C Owens – P McDonald

The Cyclones made a change and moved Luis Guerrero into the middle game, and he was spotted a 3-run lead in the first inning. Spinu was retired by McDonald, who didn’t retire anybody else for a long time after that. Hernandez and Silva singled, Bailey walked, and then Jayden Jolly hit a 2-run single to center. Bob Hall brought in the third run. Four hits, a walk, three runs, despair. McDonald wouldn’t do anything consoling any time soon. He ran a 3-0 count on Guerrero to start the second inning before Guerrero lined out real hard to Keith Ayers. The Cyclones’ pitcher was perfect the first time through the order, walked Merritt in the fourth, but Michael Palmer was right there to hit into a double play. The Raccoons didn’t get a hit until Matt Pruitt hit a horrendous bloop that was completely uncatchable and fell for a single between Banda and Estrada. Nothing came of that, and a leadoff jack by Bob Hall in the sixth ran the score to 5-0 and chased McDonald. The Raccoons fudged on for another inning, Sergio Vega issued another leadoff walk in the top 7th, but the game did come to a merciful end after all. It started to rain already after five innings, and it got worse by the seventh. The umpires sent the game to delay before Vega could walk the bases full, and the game was eventually called due to the bad weather. 5-0 Cyclones.

The Raccoons haven’t won a game against a left-handed starter since the first week of the season. Let’s see what their own left-handed starter can do now in game 3. A win would be very soul-soothing, but I don’t like the chances.

Game 3
CIN: CF J. Silva – LF Hiwalani – 1B Spinu – RF Bailey – C Jolley – SS Hall – 2B D. Fletcher – 3B Banda – P O’Herlihy
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – RF Morales – LF Pruitt – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Brown

Bad weather was looming, but at least Nick Brown was ahead in the count throughout the first inning, Silva grounded out on a 1-2 count, and Hiwalani and Spinu struck out. Heey, strikeouts!! He walked Will Bailey to start the second in a full count, but then struck out the next three. That looked too good to be true. Is it raining yet?

Brownie put on a show, striking out 10 batters in the first five innings, with that walk to Bailey the only runner he allowed. Offense against Nathan O’Herlihy (3-2, 4.76 ERA) was almost exclusively limited to Matt Pruitt, but it was a good one-man offense, producing two home runs to center in Pruitt’s first two at-bats, the latter of the line drive variety. Rain then started (of course…) in the bottom of the fifth inning, in which Bowen, Brown, and Crown- err, Castro made three quick outs. Brown returned to strike out Banda and O’Herlihy to run the dozen full, then got a pop from Silva to end the inning … and then tarp came on. The rain had gotten too bad and the first puddle was forming next to second base. The rain completely killed off Brown’s 6-inning, 12 K no-hit bid, lasting over an hour. The pitch count had already been over 80, so whether Brown would have lasted nine innings was up for debate, but … ****.

More **** in the seventh, as Law Rockburn allowed a homer to Hiwalani right away. Spinu singled and Rockburn was chased with a lockburn, with Ron Thrasher squeezing out of the inning. With the offense pretty dead right now, Thrasher got another two outs in the eighth before he walked Silva. Angel Casas had not pitched in either game of the set and took over, striking out Hiwalani. Casas came in along with Owens in a double switch, and Owens led off the bottom 8th. Come on guys, get two men on and bring up Pruitt, who then had 75% of the team’s hits. Owens singled, Castro hit into a double play, and there would be no additional offense against Iemitsu Rin. Angel had the 3-4-5 batters to deal with in the ninth, ran full counts to Spinu and Bailey before striking them both out, then handed Jayden Jolley a golden sombrero to salvage at least a W for Brownie in this what-coulda-been. 2-1 Brownies. Pruitt 3-3, 2 HR, 2 RBI; Owens 1-1; Brown 6.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 12 K, W (5-2); Thrasher 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K; Casas 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, SV (11);

Brownie back? For crying out loud I hope so!!

Also, Matt Pruitt took sole possession of the home run (and RBI) lead on the team, which means no current AAA player has a share of it anymore.

Raccoons (20-15) vs. Loggers (16-17) – May 13-15, 2011

The Loggers were better than anybody would have dared to concede to them: .500 in the middle of May wasn’t shabby. What was shabby was their second-worst offense in the league, and their dead-last bullpen, but the Raccoons so far were 1-2 against them.

Projected matchups:
Jong-hoo Umberger (3-2, 2.22 ERA) vs. Roy Thomas (2-3, 4.81 ERA)
Colin Baldwin (3-1, 2.15 ERA) vs. Rodrigo Gomez (1-5, 5.51 ERA)
Bill Conway (2-2, 3.51 ERA) vs. Fernando Cruz (3-3, 5.00 ERA)

Cruz is another left-hander for us, the only one they have. As a note, we are missing A.J. Bartels (3-3, 1.69 ERA), who led the majors in ERA, which was puzzling in its own right.

Game 1
MIL: 2B C. Miller – C R. Hernandez – 1B Catalo – CF Davenport – RF Locke – LF Dally – SS Ito – 3B Cuevas – P R. Thomas
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – LF Pruitt – RF Morales – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Umberger

Craig Miller’s leadoff double led to a run in the top 1st, but the Raccoons were donated a tied game in the bottom of the first. Roy Thomas drilled Merritt, who advanced on a wild pitch and scored on an error by Willie Davenport, while the rest of the team made three outs. But they did have the bases loaded in the bottom 2nd with nobody out, but unfortunately that was with Umberger batting. The pathetic Umberger struck out feebly, and then Castro hit into a double play…

The Loggers would get a knew lead in the fourth. Justin Dally, who had missed the first series between the teams on the DL, but was batting under .200 anyway, hit a leadoff double and came in to score. But just like in the first, the lead didn’t survive for any length of time. While Umberger was shoddy on the mound and at the plate (though he would hit a single in a meaningless spot later in the game), Roy Thomas was guilty of conceding a leadoff jack to Yoshi Nomura that tied the score. The Loggers got right back with another leadoff hit off Umberger, who was no help in trying to turn our season record against the Loggers around, allowed another run in the fifth inning to fall behind 3-2 and even walked Roy Thomas in the sixth just before going extinct as far as this game was concerned. Logan Taylor hit for Umberger in the bottom 6th with Quebell and Palmer on base and two outs. Bowen had just hacked out and Taylor was down to two strikes in a hurry before zinging a grounder past Miller into right. That scored Quebell and tied the score at three, while Palmer was thrown out at third base on the play to end the inning.

Pat Slayton was in for the top 7th with three right-handers up to bat, and issued another leadoff walk. Guys. The next guy to issue a leadoff walk will be put on half rations! I MEAN IT! HALF RATIONS!! Slayton got the next two and Tommy Ward retired Philip Locke to end the inning. The Coons actually took a LEAD in the bottom 7th, with Merritt reaching on a single and again advancing on a wild pitch. Morales would drive him in, Nomura also got on, but Quebell struck out against newly-sent-in reliever César Fuentes, who would allow two runs in the eighth inning that started so innocently with Manuel Gutierrez hitting for Palmer and reaching on an infield single. He stole second and scored on Keith Ayers’ double. When Castro singled to left, Ayers was sent around third and was SAFE AT HOME. SAFE!! Have you ever seen something like that!? Angel Casas never allowed any suspense to creep into the ninth, striking out the side. 6-3 Coons! Nomura 2-3, BB, HR, RBI; Gutierrez (PH) 1-1; Taylor (PH) 1-1, RBI; Ayers (PH) 1-1, 2B, RBI; Ward 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K, W (1-0);

Game 2
MIL: 1B Catalo – C R. Hernandez – CF Davenport – RF Locke – SS Ito – LF Dally – 2B C. Miller – 3B Cuevas – P R. Gomez
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – LF Pruitt – 1B Quebell – 2B Nomura – C Owens – RF Taylor – SS Howell – P Baldwin

Colin came in with the third-best ERA in the Continental League, but fell behind 1-0 in the first inning after Leborio Catalo hit a leadoff double and Baldwin couldn’t keep him from scoring. The Raccoons had three singles through five innings, but were never in a position where the Loggers would begin to shiver. The score remained the same into the bottom 6th, when Tomas Castro’s leadoff double was the first genuine threat coming forward from the home team. Merritt grounded out and Pruitt flew out to right, but at least deep enough to tie the game with a sac fly. That bit of hard, tedious work was nixed in a blink in the top 7th on a really stupid error by Quebell, who dropped a Craig Miller pop. Fernando Cuevas singled, Miller went to third, Logan Taylor’s throw was crap and the runners were in scoring position. The Loggers were held to a sac fly eventually before Ricardo Huerta retired Catalo, but still regained the lead at 2-1, and scorched Huerta for three hits and two runs between the first three batters in the eighth inning. The Raccoons had no response to that at all. 4-1 Loggers. Castro 2-4, 2B; Baldwin 6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, L (3-2);

Oh great. Another series loss to the Loggers. How do I know that after splitting the first two games? Why, there’s a left-hander up in the rubber game!

Game 3
MIL: 2B C. Miller – C R. Hernandez – 1B Catalo – CF Davenport – RF Locke – LF Dally – SS Ito – 3B Cuevas – P F. Cruz
POR: 3B Merritt – SS Palmer – 1B Pruitt – LF Morales – RF Ayers – CF Castro – C Bowen – 2B Nomura – P Conway

Conway was put on half rations for a leadoff walk in the second inning, although the Loggers didn’t score when Davenport was thrown out stealing by Bowen, who had already killed off Miller in the first. The Coons were up 1-0 at that point after Matt Pruitt’s third homer of the week. They got a stellar chance in the bottom of the second inning. Yoshi was on base with one out and Conway was to bunt him over. The bunt was on the poor side, Cruz threw to second, but wildly, and into center. Merritt singled to load the bases with one out for Palmer, who also singled to left center and plated the second run of the game. Pruitt struck out but Morales singled to right. Conway scored, and Merritt was sent, but was rammed a pair of fists and the ball into the abdomen by Raúl Hernandez, and had to be dragged off the field in a serious bit of pain. He was out, too. Gutierrez replaced him defensively, and the Coons led 3-0.

Suketsune Ito hit a leadoff single in the third and finally got a base stolen off Bowen, and promptly scored to cut the gap to 3-1. The Loggers would have the leadoff man on with more singles in the fourth and the fifth. Conway, who was crumbling badly, also walked a man in the fourth, was helped out phenomenally with a double play, and the Loggers stranded a man in scoring position, while the Coons ran up two CS’ when Castro and Gutierrez were caught in the third and fourth, respectively, and didn’t put up any threat. Conway got struck for good in the top 7th after a 1-out single by Ito. Thrasher replaced him, struck out Cuevas and got the third out from Fernando Cruz. Rockburn faced only one batter in the top 8th, Craig Miller, allowed a single, then left with discomfort. Huerta got a double play from Hernandez when he entered and got through the inning without any more bad things happening. The Critters produced a run with two PH at-bats in the bottom of the inning: Howell doubled in place of Castro, and Taylor drove him with a single in place of Nomura. Angel Casas ended his string of EIGHT consecutive strikeouts with a leadoff walk to Willie Davenport (so: half rations!), but the game would eventually end when Justin Dally hit into a double play to Palmer, positioned at second base. 4-1 Raccoons. Ayers 2-4; Howell (PH) 1-1, 2B; Taylor (PH) 1-1, RBI; Conway 6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, W (3-2);

Yes it’s true. Angel Casas had struck out 8 consecutive batters before walking Davenport. If not for that Ventura double in the 11th inning in Sacramento last Friday, the string would have been 11.

In other news

May 14 – IND SP Curtis Tobitt (5-2, 2.85 ERA) has a sore shoulder that doesn’t get better. The Indians will shut him down for now. He is not expected back before July.
May 15 – The Titans deal 1B Tony Ramos (.293, 1 HR, 21 RBI) to the Capitals for MR Chikara “Dodo” Iwase (0-0, 0.52 ERA) and right-hander Dusty Balzer, 24, the #13 prospect, who appeared in three games for Washington in 2010, and will move onto the Titans’ major league roster immediately.
May 15 – ATL OF Marty Reyes (.272, 0 HR, 13 RBI) has suffered a strained oblique and might not be back until around the All Star break.

Complaints and stuff

Good news on Jon Merritt, who took a hit into the naughty zone by Raúl Hernandez. He cried some, iced the offended area a good bit, and *might* be able to play on Monday, although this would be a good spot to give him a day off in the middle of a 13-game string. No news on Law Rockburn, who needs to be squeezed into one of those tubes with the maddening lights.

On half rations: Bill Conway and Angel Casas. They are under the table, crying and clamoring and clawing my shins, but I’m not budging. Half rations!

Not all struggles he has might be Brownie’s fault. He is pitching with a .317 BABIP, the worst he’s been subjected to outside his cup of coffee in ’01. While .307-ish seems to be the league average, I find that groundballers tend to have a slightly better average. Brownie’s career BABIP is .284. That’s a hell of a lot of bad contact.

Unrelated, the Kounter is at 2,120 after his truncated outing on Thursday. He’s 202 behind Kisho Saito for the franchise mark, which is about five months’ normal work for him. He’s been a Coon for about 10 1/2 years, while Master Kisho was with us for 15 1/2 seasons.

Pitchers by seasons with the Raccoons:
17 – Scott Wade
16 – Kisho Saito (HOF), Grant West (HOF)
12 – Logan Evans, Wally Gaston, Daniel Miller
11 – Nick Brown, Miguel Lopez, Juan Martinez
10 – Christopher Powell

We established that A.J. Bartels was leading the ABL in ERA, but who led in the Federal League? Salem’s Max Shepherd, 1.88 ERA. Despite the loss on Saturday, Colin Baldwin moved into second place in the CL in terms of ERA.

We play the Titans and Condors next week. The Raccoons are in a position to reach another “100” milestone for wins with a winning week.
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Just a single series in this update. I’ve worked increasingly late all week, I’m dead tired now, and I might not get to the Coons tomorrow at all, so I will just leave this here rather than not report anything for three straight days.

Raccoons (22-16) vs. Titans (14-24) – May 16-19, 2011

We had the Titans in the thick for a 3-way battle for the division before the season, and that had not happened, at all. They were dead-last in the division, and the reasons for that were somewhat puzzling. They were batting .240 as a team, rock bottom in the league, and thus weren’t scoring many runs at all (3.85 R/G, 10th in CL). Tony “Ratface” Hamlyn, their BIG signing before the season, was scuffling so badly – he had a 5.8 K/9 and a 3.15 ERA. Why is a 3.15 ERA so bad? Well, that’s merely his worst single season ERA … ever. The pen was a mess, and they were neither playing the power game, nor the running game very well. They were a complete dumpster fire. We have beaten them in the season series three years in a row, including 10-8 in 2010.

Projected matchups:
Gil McDonald (1-4, 4.19 ERA) vs. Jesus Cabrera (2-5, 4.38 ERA)
Nick Brown (5-2, 3.17 ERA) vs. Ron Carter (2-3, 5.55 ERA)
Jong-hoo Umberger (3-2, 2.49 ERA) vs. Chester Graham (1-2, 4.03 ERA)
Colin Baldwin (3-2, 2.05 ERA) vs. Mauro Castro (2-4, 5.36 ERA)

We won’t have to see Hamlyn to return to dominance in Portland, though, unless they would send him in on short rest. Chester Graham should be the only left-hander for the Raccoons in this series.

Jon Merritt was not in the lineup on Monday, being officially listed with a “mild abdominal strain” after taking one in the nuts on Sunday. He was given as being day-to-day.

Game 1
BOS: SS M. Rivera – CF J. Gusmán – RF R. Garcia – C Suda – LF G. Rios – 1B Hayashi – 2B J. Ramirez – 3B E. Salazar – P Cabrera
POR: CF T. Castro – SS Palmer – LF Pruitt – RF Morales – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – C Bowen – 3B M. Gutierrez – P McDonald

McDonald retired the first five Titans before Tokimune Hayashi socked a home run in the second inning to send the Titans up 1-0. Jesus Ramirez and Edgar Salazar both hit hard singles before McDonald drilled Cabrera with an 0-2 pitch. With the bases loaded, Mike Rivera popped out to center to end the inning. The Coons appeared to get going early, but after stranding pairs of runners in the first and second innings, and never scoring, they fell first into a snooze in the middle innings, and by the sixth into stupidity. There, Pruitt reached to start the inning by wrestling a walk from Jesus Cabrera. After Morales fouled out, Pruitt was picked off first by Cabrera, one pitch before Nomura singled, whom Cabrera then balked to second base. He was left there, the fifth runner stranded in scoring position for the Raccoons, when Quebell’s drive to deep center was caught by Javier Gusmán. They made the half dozen full by the next inning, when Bowen’s leadoff walk didn’t lead to anything. Gil McDonald’s seven innings of 3-hit ball left him on the short end, that short end grew shorter by the eighth. Pat Slayton faced three batters, giving up two singles, and Ron Thrasher couldn’t get out of there and conceded the lead run on a Hayashi single. The Titans used their former closer Charlie Deacon in the eighth and sent Dan Parker, whom they put even more hope in than in Deacon, in the ninth. Adrian Quebell doubled off the lefty to start the inning, which brought up the tying run with nobody out. He became the seventh Raccoon stranded in scoring position after an Ayers single moved him to third with two outs, only for Castro to pop out. 2-0 Titans. Pruitt 2-2, 2 BB; Ayers (PH) 1-1; McDonald 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, L (1-5);

Goddamnit, they’re ****…

Game 2
BOS: SS M. Rivera – CF J. Gusmán – RF R. Garcia – C J. Flores – 1B Hayashi – 2B J. Ramirez – LF Summers – 3B E. Salazar – P Carter
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – LF Pruitt – CF Morales – 1B Quebell – C Bowen – RF Taylor – SS Palmer – P Brown

The sparkle that Nick Brown showed in his last start until the floods washed it away never quite developed in this Tuesday night affair. Mainly the blame was on Jose Flores’ 2-run homer in the first inning. Gusmán hit a homer in the third inning to set the Titans firmly ahead at 3-0, and for a long time this looked like another completely fruitless affair that would end in a mind-crippling shutout. The Raccoons didn’t even get to strand runners in scoring position – they didn’t get on base in the first place, but Craig Bowen whacked a 2-piece in the bottom of the sixth that rudely interrupted Ron Carter’s shutout-in-progress. Brownie was left on second base in the seventh inning after first getting Michael Palmer killed with a crappy bunt. At least he didn’t allow any more damage through eight innings, striking out eight and walking none, which in general was a good sign. Outside of Ricardo Garcia’s single before the Flores homer and the two dingers themselves, he allowed only one more baserunner, so trailing 3-2 was especially bitter. But we had another chance to at least take him off that grisly butcher’s hook, if our 3-4-5 batters, all left-handed, could get through lefty Matt Collins in the bottom of the eighth. Pruitt struck out. That’s going well… But while Jose Morales was down 1-2 and might be renamed “Singus” before long, he hit a double to right center to put up pressure. Trying to shake things up, Keith Ayers was sent to bat for Quebell, with the Titans countering by sending Charlie Deacon to the mound again. Ayers lined a 1-0 pitch to left, Barry Summers missed it just barely and had to chase it almost all the way to the wall. Double, tied ballgame! That was all, unfortunately, after Bowen struck out and Taylor made a super-soft third out, fluffy as a kitten. Taylor was out after that with Ayers remaining in the game, and Howell entering at short with Palmer moving to first base, and Palmer led off the bottom of the ninth once Pat Slayton booked half rations with a leadoff walk Ricardo Garcia in the top of the inning. The Coons turned a double play to end that inning, but Slayton had to work out the hard way after issuing another leadoff walk in the 10th. In between innings, the Coons had put Howell (single) and Yoshi (walk) on, but Pruitt had rolled out to keep the game going. Jose Morales reached on a Gerardo Rios error in the bottom 10th, in which we faced “Dodo” Iwase, a right-hander. Ayers grounded to short, but Rivera had trouble to get the ball out of his glove and that cost the Titans the double play, only Ayers getting thrown out at first, with Morales remaining on second base. Craig Bowen got to be the hero: he lofted a shallow liner over Ramirez into right, and Morales had a good look at it and got going early enough to score, as the Raccoons walked off. 4-3 Raccoons. Morales 2-5, 2B; Quebell 2-3; Ayers (PH) 1-2, 2B, RBI; Bowen 2-5, HR, 3 RBI; Palmer 2-4; Howell 1-1; Brown 8.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 8 K; Slayton 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K, W (1-0);

After this game, we placed Lawrence Rockburn on the DL. He has suffered a sprained ankle, and it’s quite a bad sprain. He is not expected back until the All Star break, which is quite a bad blow to this bullpen that has already shed two players to AAA for heavy sucking. We brought up Josh Gibson (3.77 ERA in AAA) to take over the empty spot, but this also means that Pat Slayton has moved up to pitch the eighth inning against right-handed lineups, and I don’t like that one bite.

I forgot to specify whether two leadoff walks in a game should net you quarter rations (half of half rations). Well, we can’t afford anybody actually starving, so perhaps you shouldn’t be able to actually half your rations more than once in a game.

Looking into their dark, hungry eyes is hard. I love them after all.

Most of the time.

Game 3
BOS: SS M. Rivera – CF J. Gusmán – RF R. Garcia – C J. Flores – LF G. Rios – 1B Hayashi – 2B J. Ramirez – 3B E. Salazar – P Graham
POR: 3B Merritt – SS Palmer – LF Pruitt – CF Morales – RF Ayers – 2B Nomura – C Bowen – 1B Quebell – P Umberger

Mucky weather kept the crowd low, but a game was still played in Coon City, intermittently. No team was in a mood to score through four innings, and with all the poor contact that was generated you were even tempted to call this a pitching duel. There was a short rain delay in the fifth inning, not even 20 minutes, and when play resumed, Keith Ayers single-handedly ruined Umberger’s day. He looked in awe at a liner Jesus Ramirez hit to right, and got moving way too late to make a play, having it bounce in for a double. Umberger then handed a single to Chester Graham with an 0-2 pitch with two outs, and that single ended up with Ayers as well. There was a shot at the runner at the plate, but Ayers’ throw was catastrophically wild and the run scored in unearned fashion on the error. The next time Ramirez was up, he hit another double past Ayers, this one scoring a run with two outs in the sixth. While the offense and defense were already ****, the pitching chimed in. Chester Graham hit a leadoff double off Tommy Ward in the top 7th and scored on Mike Rivera’s follow-up double to run the score to 3-0. Rivera would be caught stealing third base by Craig Bowen, but the damage kept being done. Sergio Vega joined about everybody else on half rations with a leadoff walk in the eighth.

The Coons would bring up the tying run in the bottom 8th after singles by Morales and Ayers with one out. Dan Parker replaced Graham at that point, prompting a move to hit for Yoshi with Travis Owens after Howell had already been used before, and Owens singled to center, with Morales scoring from second base. 3-1 Coons, runners on first and second for Bowen, who flew out to left. Quebell grounded out to Jesus Ramirez to end the inning. The tying run was up again in the bottom 9th. “Dodo” Iwase got Tomas Castro, hitting for Vega, to ground out on a 3-1 pitch to start the ninth, but Jon Merritt hit a single. Michael Palmer grounded hard to Ron Brantley at first as well, but Brantley was caught out by a wicked bounce and the ball entered his pants through the left leg and left through the right, giving the Coons the tying runs on for Pruitt and Morales against the righty Iwase. Pruitt singled to center on the first pitch, loading them up for Morales. Never before would we have liked a homer more than here, but at least Morales kept the line moving with a full count walk he drew. That brought up Keith Ayers, so far the goat of the day. We could hit with Logan Taylor here, who was the last man on the bench, but the idea didn’t thrill me. Ayers hit the first pitch to right – past Brantley! Palmer in, tied ballgame! But the Coons failed to walk off. Owens grounded to first, with Brantley firing home to get Pruitt, and then Manuel Gutierrez rolled out to Iwase to send the game to extras. When the Raccoons refused to win it after the Titans gave them a chance with erroneous fielding, the Titans were glad to pick up the opportunity as it arose in the 11th. Jon Merritt put pinch-hitter Hideaki “Quasimodo” Suda on base with a clumsy error, and Quebell couldn’t do anything with a Ramirez grounder that became an infield single. From there, Ricardo Huerta unraveled, the Titans scored two runs and claimed game 3 for themselves. 5-3 Titans. Pruitt 3-6; Morales 2-5, BB, 2B, RBI; Ayers 2-4, BB, RBI; Owens (PH) 1-2, RBI; Howell (PH) 1-1; Vega 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K;

The offense sucks so tremendously, I’m close to trading for Ron Alston. Or Daniel Sharp. Even Sharpie might help us. Heck, even Alarico Violante might help us now. Violante with the 1990-91 Coons: .191/.208/.319 …

Jon Merritt is on pace for 25 errors. Well, then we could have stayed with Ricardo Martinez as well…

Game 4
BOS: SS M. Rivera – 2B J. Ramirez – RF R. Garcia – C J. Flores – CF J. Gusmán – LF Hayashi – 1B G. Rios – 3B E. Salazar – P M. Castro
POR: 3B Merritt – CF T. Castro – LF Pruitt – RF Morales – 2B Nomura – C Owens – 1B Quebell – SS Palmer – P Baldwin

Two perfect innings to start the game dipped Colin Baldwin’s ERA under 2 for the season, which didn’t sound right and would probably soon be rectified. So when the Critters had their first three men on in the bottom 2nd, singles by Morales and Owens sandwiching Nomura getting hammered with a pitch, scoring was imperative, and scoring they did, shoving half a dozen runs across in the inning by simply keeping the line moving. Quebell, Palmer, and Baldwin all hit RBI singles, two to right and one to left, before Merritt struck out. Castro hit another RBI single, Pruitt walked in a run, and Morales hit a sac fly. Yoshi also reached on a single before Owens flew out to Garcia. And then the Titans started to adjust Baldwin’s ERA. Gerardo Rios and Edgar Salazar started the top 3rd with singles, and they would score on a Rivera single and a groundout, but the runs were put right back into the bottom line by the Coons in the bottom of the inning. With Mauro Castro removed in favor of Dusty Balzer, Quebell and Palmer got on, were bunted over by Baldwin, and scored on Jon Merritt’s single, 8-2. The Titans would have the leadoff man on base with singles in each of the next two innings, but didn’t score, while the Coons reached double digits in the fourth. First, Michael Palmer hit his first home run as a Raccoon, and then Balzer and Parker gave up four walks between them to shove in the tenth run.

Top 6th, Baldwin was put on half rations after a wild leadoff walk to Ricardo Garcia. Jose Flores homered to cut the gap to six, and Baldwin would not retire another batter, with Javier Gusmán singling, and Hayashi and Rios drawing walks to chase him. Ricardo Huerta replaced him and did some fine damage containment by getting two grounders from Edgar Salazar – turned into a double play by Yoshi – and PH Alexis Legendre to keep the score at 10-5. We faced ex-Coon Rémy Lucas, who had saved the 11-inning game the day before, in the bottom 6th. In full counts, Yoshi struck out, but Owens walked, and Quebell hit a single after that. Keith Ayers hit for Huerta with two outs and rammed the first pitch to deep left center – HOMER!! Some wild scoring here in Coon City!

After Tommy Ward got two outs from Rivera and Ramirez to start the seventh in the wicked 13-5 game, Josh Gibson came in, faced three batters, threw three pitches, and surrendered three rockets. Garcia doubled to left, Flores singled to center, and Castro suffered second-degree burns to two paws when he caught Gusmán’s howling shot mid-air in deep center, then got the two other claws broken on a Ramirez drive into his direction, catching that to strand three in the eighth. That came with Ron Thrasher pitching. Gibson had departed after four batters, retiring only Salazar with a K. The Coons scored a run on a Logan Taylor single in the bottom of the inning before Sergio Vega actually struck out the side in the top of the ninth. 14-5 Furballs. Castro 2-4, BB, RBI; Taylor (PH) 1-1, RBI; Morales 2-4, RBI; Nomura 2-4; Quebell 4-5, RBI; Palmer 2-4, BB, HR, 2 RBI; Ayers (PH) 1-1, HR, 3 RBI;

In other news

May 18 – LAP CL Risto Mäkelä (3-1, 1.42 ERA, 8 SV) is out for up to 12 months with a torn flexor tendon.
May 19 – The Bayhawks deal OF Don Cameron (.319, 2 HR, 13 RBI) to the Capitals for 38-year old 1B Roberto Vargas (.212, 1 HR, 15 RBI) and a prospect.

Complaints and stuff

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Raccoons (24-18) vs. Condors (19-21) – May 20-22, 2011

The Condors seemed to be on the way up out of the cellar. After a quarter of the season, they were fifth in both runs scored and runs allowed, with a +9 run differential. But their rotation was a bit of a weak spot, running a below-average ERA. But they could score any way they wanted, outhomering and outstealing the Raccoons so far. The Raccoons have won the season series against the Condors for six years running, including a 5-4 outcome in 2010.

Projected matchups:
Bill Conway (3-2, 3.23 ERA) vs. Dave Hogan (0-6, 4.44 ERA)
Gil McDonald (1-5, 3.70 ERA) vs. Colin Sabatino (2-4, 5.34 ERA)
Nick Brown (5-2, 3.20 ERA) vs. Ted Scott (3-4, 3.91 ERA)

The Condors had an entirely right-handed rotation, so no surprises from that front.

Game 1
TIJ: SS Valles – 3B D. Jones – 1B R. Morris – CF Tanner – C Leach – LF M. Cruz – RF Crum – 2B Dougal – P Hogan
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – LF Pruitt – RF Morales – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – C Bowen – SS Howell – P Conway

Conway continued to reduce his rations vigorously. After allowing a run in the second inning after allowing a walk and two singles with two outs, Conway really turned up the volume in the third, and issued a leadoff walk to Melvin Valles, drilled Dan Jones quite hard, and then walked Rob Morris. Three on, nobody out, the Condors left the rotting Coon corpse with some good flesh still attached, scoring only one run on Rowan Tanner’s groundout before the ending came to an end. Foster Leach struck out and Manny Cruz rolled out to Howell. After bringing a somewhat merciful end to the third, Conway started the fourth with Johnny Crum getting smashed on the first pitch. The Condors scored their third run in the inning, and Conway’s colossal outing came to an end after that with a 75-minute rain delay chasing him.

The Raccoons’ offensive exploits through six innings were limited to getting Matt Pruitt to third base twice and plating him once. Apart from that, they were invisible. Josh Gibson entered the game in the seventh and also drilled the first batter he faced, Melvin Valles, but a Dan Jones double play relieved that sore spot and the Raccoons kept trailing 3-1 only. They actually shortened the gap in the bottom of the inning. Logan Taylor hit for Gibson and singled, then scored when Tomas Castro rammed a double off the centerfield wall, which put the tying run in scoring position with one out. Merritt flew out to center, but Matt Pruitt plated Castro with a single to right before Morales got drilled. Which didn’t surprise me all that much, to be honest… Bird people, please, it’s not intentional, these guys ARE that inept!

Talking about ineptness. In a 3-3 game through seven I didn’t see the need to remove Rob Howell for defense, but when Nick May hit a leadoff single against Ron Thrasher and Howell got a double play grounder from Foster Leach, he threw it away. The bases would be loaded with one out, when Thrasher struck out Stanley Dougal. Jorge Garcia, the sixth right-hander in the inning, hit for Hogan, drew a walk off Thrasher to shove home a run, and Thrasher also walked Valles. When Angel Casas came in, because we were out of pitchers otherwise, he allowed a bases-clearing triple to Dan Jones and another RBI double to Morris as the Raccoons were swiftly wiped off the field in a 6-run eighth. Except that the Condors suffered their own eighth inning implosion. Adrian Quebell’s leadoff jack cut the score to 9-4, and their pen got rocked as Howell and Taylor got on base, Castro singled in a run, and Merritt doubled in a pair. Pruitt fouled out for the second out – and Angel’s spot was up next, as he had replaced Morales in a double switch. Keith Ayers hit for Casas as the tying run, but grounded out on the first pitch. Out of pitching, Sergio Vega was thrown into the ninth and was stomped for four runs, the last two of which were waved in by Tommy Ward. 13-7 Condors. Castro 4-6, 2B, 2 RBI; Pruitt 2-5, RBI; Nomura 2-5, 2B; Quebell 2-4, BB, HR, 2 RBI; Taylor (PH) 2-3; Slayton 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K;

We had 14 hits. They had eight. They drew ten walks, and were plunked four times. This was about the ****tiest pitching performance I’ve seen in a whole good while.

Sergio Vega, his 5.79 ERA, and his 11 walks were designated for assignment after the game. We were in BITTER need of at least one fresh arm in the pen. Luis Beltran was called up to fill the roster spot.

There was no cushion for McDonald, who would throw 100 pitches, no matter what. He had to take one for the team, and better be good at it.

But – the ****ty weather prevailed and the Saturday game was wiped out. We would have a double header on Sunday. We moved Nick Brown into the first game, giving the guy with a better chance to win first selection of the pen, but nobody would leave a game today without throwing 100 pitches at least.

Game 2
TIJ: SS Eroh – 3B D. Jones – 1B May – CF M. Cruz – RF Feldmann – C Leach – LF Tanner – 2B Dougal – P J. Martin
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – 1B Pruitt – LF Morales – 2B Nomura – RF Taylor – C Bowen – SS Palmer – P Brown

Nick Brown struck out five and walked one between the first six batters, but threw at least two balls to all but one of them. That was not a recipe for a long outing, but of course it was always going to get worse. Dougal hit a leadoff single in the third inning. Jaylen “Midnight” Martin (4-1, 2.76 ERA) bunted him over, and he scored on Ron Eroh’s single. From there, Nick Brown walked FOUR straight batters and the Condors took a 3-0 lead, and Brown wouldn’t amount to more than five innings in this one. He struck out nine … and walked six. Pat Slayton put up three shutout innings to no avail, and Luis Beltran somehow wobbled through the ninth inning. The Coons had scratched out a run in the fifth on Quebell’s pinch-hit 2-out RBI single. They faced Jayden Reed in the bottom of the ninth, with Yoshi striking out, except that the ball got away from Leach and Yoshi reached first base on the uncaught third strike, bringing up the tying run at the plate. Logan Taylor grounded to second base, and Nomura was forced out. Keith Ayers hit for Bowen, grounded out on the first pitch, and Palmer whiffed to end the game. 3-1 Condors. Quebell (PH) 1-1, RBI; Slayton 3.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K;

Game 3
TIJ: SS Eroh – C Leach – LF Crum – 1B R. Morris – CF Tanner – 3B I. Reed – RF Zackery – 2B Dougal – P Sabatino
POR: 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – LF Pruitt – CF Morales – RF Taylor – SS Palmer – C Owens – 3B M. Gutierrez – P McDonald

While Yoshi Nomura hit a leadoff single in the first only to get picked off first base right away, the Raccoons actually took an actual lead in the bottom of the second inning, with a Travis Owens groundout bringing in a run. Surprisingly, McDonald walked five less than Brown through five innings, and with the seven strikeouts less he put up over five he maintained a shutout pace, which was even better since the Coons didn’t seem willing to add a run in anybody’s lifetime until Quebell hit a leadoff homer in the bottom of the sixth. Logan Taylor doubled with two outs and came in on Palmer’s single to center to run the score to 3-0. The Condors put two men on in the seventh with Johnny Crum getting drilled by McDonald, but didn’t score after two pops. Both pitchers tossed eight innings, but McDonald’s pitch count was too advanced to send him into the ninth with a 3-0 lead. Angel Casas got that assignment and retired the Condors on short notice. 3-0 Coons. Nomura 2-4, 2B; Quebell 2-4, HR, RBI; Palmer 2-4, 2B, RBI; McDonald 8.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K, W (2-5) and 1-3;

Nick, I hope you’re ashamed…

Raccoons (25-20) @ Bayhawks (22-23) – May 24-26, 2011

The Bayhawks were nursing a +3 run differential with the fourth-best offense in the Continental League, but were held back by their eighth-place pitching. The bullpen was quite a bit in shambles, posting a 4+ ERA. We have won the season series five straight seasons, and beat them 5-4 in 2010.

Projected matchups:
Jong-hoo Umberger (3-2, 2.54 ERA) vs. Rodrigo Moreno (2-1, 4.30 ERA)
Colin Baldwin (4-2, 2.61 ERA) vs. Julio Munoz (3-4, 3.16 ERA)
Bill Conway (3-2, 3.51 ERA) vs. Ramón Jimenez (5-3, 2.87 ERA)

This is another team without a left-handed pitcher, and they are also without Ron Alston, who’s batting ****ing .409, at this point. He’s expected to come off the DL about Saturday, so we will dodge him.

Game 1
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Nomura – LF Pruitt – CF Morales – 1B Quebell – RF Ayers – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Umberger
SFB: CF Holt – SS K. Sato – LF Guerra – 1B R. Vargas – 3B Hashimoto – RF Black – 2B Rodgers – C A. Ramirez – P R. Moreno

The game opened with a pair of singles by Merritt and Nomura, who went to the corners, and progressed with a Pruitt sac fly and a double play dutifully hit into by Jose Morales. Ayers reached on an error in the second inning, but the Coons weren’t going to exploit another team’s unfortunate defensive accident just like that. That would be naughty. Umberger was allowing hard contact from the start, but wasn’t in trouble until Yuji Hashimoto’s leadoff double in the bottom 5th. He represented the tying run of course. Luke Black (.230, 7 HR, 20 RBI) grounded out to Merritt, moving the runner to third with one out. Umberger wiggled out with a strikeout to Ken Rodgers; Antonio Ramirez flew out to center.

When Matt Pruitt hit a leadoff double in the seventh inning, it was the Coons’ first base knock since the first inning. As if that wasn’t bad enough, injury was added to insult when Pruitt jammed his thumb sliding head first into second base and had to be removed for Castro. Morales was walked intentionally, with Quebell bringing in the second run with a double, and Ayers hit a sac fly, 3-0. Umberger maintained a low pitch count into the eighth, but was done in by a pair of leadoff singles by Black and Rodgers. He faced Ramirez, who hit into a double play, but was then removed with young Adam Young, a wannabe slugger and left-hander at that, hitting for Moreno. Ward came in to face him, and allowed an RBI single. Huerta had to enter right on Ward’s heels to strike out Jasper Holt. Angel Casas got the ninth with no more offense being brought forward by Coon City, and while Roberto Vargas reached with a 2-out single he struck out Hashimoto to end the game. 3-1 Furballs. Nomura 2-4; Pruitt 1-2, 2B, RBI; Morales 0-1, 3 BB; Umberger 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, W (4-2);

This was the 2,800th win in franchise history.

Matt Pruitt was placed on the disabled list after the game. The 15 days minimum DL time might be enough for him to recover from a thumb contusion. In the meantime, we will call up Pat White, who was batting .337 in St. Petersburg.

Game 2
POR: 3B Merritt – CF Castro – 1B Quebell – LF Morales – 2B Nomura – RF Taylor – SS Palmer – C Owens – P Baldwin
SFB: CF Holt – SS Ishikawa – 1B R. Vargas – RF Black – 3B Hashimoto – C A. Ramirez – LF Guerra – 2B Rodgers – P Jimenez

Jimenez was perfect the first time through the order, while Baldwin issued a leadoff walk to Luke Black to start the bottom 2nd, but picked him off later and faced the minimum through two, before he faced about everybody in the third. Fernando Guerra singled, Rodgers walked, and after Jimenez’ bunt, a passed ball blamed on Owens scored the first run of the game. The Bayhawks would plate three in the inning, with Baldwin continuing to melt quite badly. To anybody’s considerable surprise, the 3-run deficit was erased by the Coons in the top of the fourth. Merritt walked, Castro singled, and after Quebell avoided hitting into a double play, Jose Morales fired a 3-run homer to right. Baldwin initially seemed to have none of that. Hashimoto singled to lead off the bottom 4th, but was caught in a strike-em-out-throw-em-out with Ramirez to clear the bags again.

But Baldwin was never right in this one, and the Bayhawks battered him for three hard hits and two runs in the bottom 6th. Another run fell out of Josh Gibson’s pants in the bottom of the seventh. Nothing in particular could be gained anymore by the Coons from Ramón Jimenez. Ron Thrasher pitched in the bottom 8th, allowed a Hashimoto single and a Ramirez double to get started, but then retired the side on two pathetic grounders and a roller to short by Bill Miller without anybody scoring. Of course there was hardly a difference between a 3-run deficit and a 5-run deficit for this team. Morales hit a leadoff jack off Valentim Innocentes in the top of the ninth, but that was well not enough. 6-4 Bayhawks. Morales 2-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI;

Game 3
POR: CF Castro – 2B Nomura – 1B Quebell – LF Morales – RF Taylor – SS Howell – 3B M. Gutierrez – C Bowen – P Conway
SFB: CF Holt – SS Ishikawa – 1B R. Vargas – 3B Hashimoto – RF Black – 2B Rodgers – LF B. Miller – C A. Ramirez – P J. Munoz

Craig Bowen was surprised as anybody that he was the first base runner of the game after a third inning single. To nobody’s surprise at all, Conway’s bunt was **** and Bowen was forced out, and nobody scored. Conway didn’t allow a hit until Hashimoto hit a 2-out blooper for a single in the fourth, at which point the Raccoons were ahead 1-0 after Morales’ third homer in the series, a solo shot to center in the top of the inning. Top 5th, Gutierrez hit a leadoff single before Bowen finally met a ball in his vain hacking attempts and homered to right, fair by about four feet. With one out, Castro got on, Yoshi grounded to first, but when Vargas tried to get the lead runner, his throw was high and Castro was safe at second. Quebell would add a run with a single, bringing home Castro for a 4-0 score. While Munoz would be chased after a 2-out triple by Yoshi in the seventh that would not lead to a run, Conway was still maintaining a 1-hitter through six. The closest the Bayhawks got to a run through eight was a drive by Bill Miller to deep left, which Morales intercepted. While the Coons added two unearned runs on Vaughn Higgins when Morales launched a 2-out, 2-run double in the top 9th, Conway entered the bottom of the inning with the shutout still in one piece and having thrown only 74 pitches. Lefty Adam Young led off batting for Higgins, and struck a ball hard to right where it fell in for a single. After Jasper Holt grounded out, Sadaharu Ishikawa singled, putting runners on the corners for Roberto Vargas, who bounced back to the pitcher, and Conway started a 1-4-3 shutout-sealer. 6-0 Furballs! Morales 2-5, HR, 2B, 3 RBI; Bowen 2-4, HR, 2 RBI; Conway 9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, W (4-2);

Bill Conway threw only 88 pitches in his first career complete game and shutout. 88! Nick Brown took more than that through five innings his last time out… AND walked half a dozen.

Raccoons (27-21) @ Knights (25-21) – May 27-29, 2011

The Knights were in the top 4 in runs scored and runs allowed in the Continental League, with a +17 run differential. Their rotation ranked 7th, but their bullpen was 2nd. Stunningly, they ranked behind the Raccoons in both home runs and stolen bases. They ranked last in the CL in the latter category, with 10 sacks claimed. The Coons were 11th, with a whopping 11.

Projected matchups:
Gil McDonald (2-5, 3.10 ERA) vs. Johnny Krom (3-4, 2.59 ERA)
Nick Brown (5-3, 3.38 ERA) vs. Kurt Doyle (3-2, 4.60 ERA)
Jong-hoo Umberger (4-2, 2.38 ERA) vs. Dave Butler (5-2, 2.70 ERA)

Keith Ayers is happy: left-handers are bookending this series in Atlanta, and he will get two starts in rightfield.

Game 1
POR: 3B Merritt – CF Castro – RF Ayers – LF Morales – 1B Quebell – 2B Palmer – C Owens – SS Howell – P McDonald
ATL: CF Kelsey – SS J. Hernandez – LF G. Munoz – RF J. Garcia – 1B Echevarria – 3B Kester – 2B Hilderbrand – C J. Clark – P Krom

A Jamie Kester error in the first inning allowed Ayers to stay out of a double play with Merritt aboard, and once Morales singled to right, the bases were loaded for Quebell, who, along with Owens, would draw a bases-loaded walk each to give McDonald a 2-0 lead. The Coons added two more in the second off Krom, who scuffled with his control and also allowed frequent singles. McDonald struck out four in the first two innings before allowing a leadoff double to T.J. Hilderbrand in the bottom 3rd with led to a run on Johnny Krom’s sac fly. That would be the last success for Krom in the game. Merritt and Castro reached base with one out in the fourth, and Keith Ayers cranked a 3-run homer to chase him from the game with the score at 7-1. The Knights would not get a second hit off McDonald until the seventh, but once Gonzalo Munoz had hit that leadoff single, things unraveled quickly. Jorge Garcia walked, and while Ramón Echevarria flew out to left, Jaime Kester chased McDonald with an RBI double. Hilderbrand hit a sac fly off Huerta to get the Knights to 7-3, but Jason Clark then grounded out. While the Coons hadn’t done much at all in the middle innings, and left Jon Merritt in scoring position in the eighth, Pat Slayton held the fort in the bottom of the inning. When Luis Beltran entered the bottom 9th with a 4-run lead, I had the musket ready and loaded. He got two outs before he walked Echevarria, but Merritt would retire Kester with a nifty defensive play to end the game. 7-3 Raccoons! Merritt 3-4, BB; Ayers 2-5, HR, 4 RBI; Morales 2-4, RBI;

Game 2
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – 1B Quebell – LF Morales – RF Taylor – SS Palmer – 2B Nomura – C Bowen – P Brown
ATL: SS J. Hernandez – C J. Clark – RF J. Garcia – 1B Echevarria – CF Keller – 3B Kester – LF Kelsey – 2B Hilderbrand – P Doyle

Castro started the game with a stand-up triple. Quebell scored him with a single, and although the Coons got two more singles in the inning, they left the bases loaded once Yoshi Nomura struck out. The following inning, Brownie would help his own cause with a 1-out double and scored on Castro’s hard single to right, 2-0 Raccoons in the second. The Critters added another run in the third, and Brownie was about to get through three innings with only a double allowed until he made contact with Hernandez with a 1-2 pitch. Jason Clark would walk before Garcia struck out, adding 10 unnecessary pitches to the third inning, and it was about to get worse again. Echevarria led off the fourth with a double and scored on Jaime Kester’s single. Brown would fool around with the order, and didn’t even get Doyle out with two outs. The pitcher singled, and with the bases loaded Merritt would make a nifty grab on Hernandez’ grounder and sling it to first in time to end the inning with the score still at 3-1. He would again not see the sixth inning, needing 110 pitches for five messy innings, but at least the Knights didn’t overwhelm him outright and were held to one run. Left-hander John Kelsey would homer off Tommy Ward in the sixth to get to within a run, though, 3-2.

The Coons had something left in the bats, though. Quebell hit a double in the top 7th, and Morales was intentionally walked. Taylor struck out for the second out, but Palmer and Nomura would each drive in single runs with base hits. Bowen would strike out to keep runners in scoring position, and the 5-2 lead was by no stretch of the imagination safe. Thrasher walked a pair in the bottom 7th without actually imploding, and the Coons scratched out an extra run in the eighth. Merritt had walked with one out, and Quebell ran a full count with two down before doubling to right. With Merritt in motion, he scored quite easily, 6-2, and they still were about to blow up. Merritt made a throwing error to start the bottom 8th, and Huerta would allow singles to Munoz, Clark, and Garcia, loading the bases with one out, and those were the tying runs. Angel Casas was rushed into the game in this dire moment and turned the Knights down with strikeouts to Ramón Echevarria and Tommy Keller. Angel would actually produce the final crisis of the game himself. Two outs in the bottom 9th, and nobody on, he allowed a single to T.J. Hilderbrand before Freddie Jones wrestled a full count walk from him. But Julio Hernandez had no chance: he struck out, and the win was ours. 6-3 Brownies. Castro 3-5, 3B, RBI; Quebell 4-5, 2 2B, 2 RBI; Palmer 3-5, 2 RBI; Nomura 2-5, 2 2B, RBI; Casas 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K, SV (16);

Shaky, shaky…

Game 3
POR: 3B Merritt – LF Castro – RF Ayers – 1B Quebell – SS Palmer – 2B Nomura – C Bowen – CF White – P Umberger
ATL: CF Kelsey – SS J. Hernandez – RF J. Garcia – 1B Echevarria – 3B Kester – 2B Hilderbrand – LF Keller – C Delgado – P D. Butler

Merritt doubled, Ayers singled, Quebell hit into a double play (…), but at least the first run was in in the first inning. Jong-hoo showcased ill control from the get-go, but the Knights couldn’t wrestle a hit from him to aid them with their three walks through four innings. Little happened until the fifth, in which Umberger hit a 2-out double with nobody on. Merritt singled, bringing up Castro, who struck out to waste his third RISP opportunity in the game. Bottom 5th, Umberger issued yet another walk to Keller, and with two outs an infield single jabbed by John Kelsey blew whatever no-hit bid that would have been with over 80 pitches through less than five innings. The Knights didn’t score, though, when Hernandez flew out to Keith Ayers to end the inning. He was almost at 100 pitches through six (but the bid had been lost anyway), then had Bowen on first with one out in the top 7th. His bunt was thoroughly embarrassing, with Butler leisurely throwing out Bowen at second base, but Merritt then hit a long single to move even the lead-footed Umberger to third base. That had Castro up with a runner in scoring position for the FOURTH time in the game, and the score was still only 1-0. While he met the ball this time and lined to center, Kelsey was there. Through eight innings, the Coons had TEN hits for ONE run. Umberger was replaced to start the bottom 8th with Ron Thrasher facing left-handed pinch-hitter Gonzalo Munoz. Thrasher got a grounder to Yoshi, then struck out Kelsey. Then I longed for one measly out from Josh Gibson, to get the soft-hitting Hernandez, who dutifully grounded out to third base.

In the top 9th, Bowen and White made quick outs against Patrick Mercier before Jose Morales hit for Gibson and dingered. FINALLY! INSURANCE!! The Coons got Merritt on with a single and Owens, batting for Castro, by getting nicked, but Ayers grounded out to first to keep them on. Angel Casas had thrown 33 pitches the day before, but I found this one quite important and didn’t trust either Ward or Beltran with the lefty Garcia and two switch-hitters. Angel struck out Garcia, Echevarria flew into a deep out with Pat White, and Jamie Kester grounded out to Yoshi to seal the sweep. 2-0 Raccoons! Merritt 4-5, 2B; Ayers 2-5, RBI; Palmer 2-4; Morales (PH) 1-1, HR, RBI; Umberger 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 4 K, W (5-2);

That’s a 4-game winning streak now, and it comes at a very good time.

In other news

May 21 – IND RF/1B Juan Ortíz (.260, 8 HR, 25 RBI) will miss about three to four weeks with a herniated disc.
May 22 – BOS 2B Jesus Ramirez (.239, 3 HR, 10 RBI) has broken his tibia and will be out for at least six weeks.
May 22 – Indy’s SP Román Escobedo (3-3, 4.50 ERA) has a fractured coracoid bone in his shoulder and is out for the season.
May 25 – The injury report grows longer: PIT SP Barney Manning (2-4, 6.70 ERA) hadn’t felt quite right all season and now will get bone chips removed from his elbow, ending his season.
May 26 – BOS OF Javier Gusmán (.217, 4 HR, 19 RBI) might miss up to three months with a torn meniscus.
May 27 – VAN 1B Ray Gilbert (.372, 7 HR, 23 RBI) returns to the DL after having suffered a hamstring strain. He might be out for four weeks.
May 27 – SFB SS/2B Kunimatsu Sato (.229, 0 HR, 18 RBI) will miss a month with elbow tendinitis.
May 29 – Still more injuries; a strained hammy will put PIT 1B Steve Butler (.351, 7 HR, 23 RBI) out of action until early July.

Complaints and stuff

Adrian Quebell was the CL Player of the Week for the Titans/Condors series. He went .480 (12-25) with 2 HR and 5 RBI to nab the award. The next week’s honors went to “Dingus” Morales then, who finally made his name sound not quite as hollow, batting .444 (8-18) with 4 HR and 9 RBI. And he gets walked intentionally quite a lot…

The team can’t break out of its offensive rut. While they scored 4.33 R/G in these three series, they still bow out of their responsibility without doing anything that you can touch with a stick all too often. Like the last game in Atlanta: 12 hits, 2 runs. Castro had a particularly dark day. Merritt was on four times, and scored one, and that was not Castro’s merit either.

But the offense was indeed much improved in May, compared to April. However, could it have actually become worse? Nah.

Batters by seasons with the Raccoons:
17 – Daniel Hall
16 – Neil Reece
11 – Mark Dawson, Marvin Ingall
10 – Conceicao Guerin, Ben O’Morrissey, Daniel Sharp, David Vinson
9 – Clyde Brady, Matt Higgins, Tetsu Osanai

On average, I have been unhappy with our batters more often than with our pitchers, it seems, which fits my actual memory… Yoshi Nomura has been here for eight years right now, outlasting anybody else on the roster. Quebell has seven seasons of duty, Castro and Pruitt have six.

AA SP Kevin Denton (4-2, 3.17 ERA) can be struck off the prospect list for good. He’s out for the year with a torn rotator cuff, and that’s not his first major injury. Jason Seeley has also gone to the DL with a sore wrist, although we think right now that amputation is not necessary. Of course there is always the chance for a fatal infection with our kits…

We get the rotting Falcons to start a 2-week homestand on Tuesday, but after that we will get the Crusaders in for three, a crucial weekend set. The second week of the homestand will have us play both arrow-lobbing teams.
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Last edited by Westheim; 04-15-2016 at 08:17 PM.
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Old 04-15-2016, 10:49 PM   #1814
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good month. pitching looking great this season.
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Old 04-16-2016, 03:41 PM   #1815
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2011 DRAFT POOL ANALYSIS

The Raccoons, despite finishing with the third-best record in 2010 and forfeiting a first round pick with the late signing of Jose Morales, will have four top 50 picks in the 2011 draft. While none of those will come until #22 (with the #16 pick, inherited from the Bayhawks for the Ron Alston signing, handed over to the Knights), you should be able to pick some promising players with that allotment of high picks.

Is there enough player material around to make it worthwhile to wait for 21 boys to go off the board? Yes, there is, with an asterisk.

There were no hideously underrepresented roles in the draft this time. You were looking for a catcher? There’s some. Looking for a potential closer? You can be served. Here are our top dozen or so players in the draft:

SP Cody Zimmerman (14/15/13)
SP David Tingley (13/14/9)
SP Frank Kelly (11/14/10)
SP Miguel Zamudio (14/12/13)
SP Cole Pierson (12/13/10)
SP Justin Boggio (13/14/10)

CL Jeff Boynton (17/14/12)
CL Frank Yeager (20/14/10)

C Mike Denny (9/13/13)

1B Kevin Jaeger (13/13/15)
3B Travis Bahner (10/11/9)
1B David Williams (11/14/10)
1B Andy McNeal (11/10/11)
INF Cesar Tellez (9/8/15)

RF/LF Zach Knowling (14/7/9)
OF/2B Eric Schermann (15/5/12)
RF/LF Jeffrey Walrath (9/11/16)

Of course we will have no shot at the top starting pitchers. There are a few guys we need to talk about early, though. Justin Boggio looks great overall, but he’s got only two pitches. That’s a problem, and I think we won’t even pick him with our top pick, should he stick around. Is it the year to pick a closer? Angel is really expensive and might get even more expensive by 2013, when his deal is up.

Travis Bahner is about by second-most interesting player in the pool. He hits the ball, hits it hard, and has amazing defensive ability on the hot corner. A franchise starved for great defense at third might find tons and tons of joy with him. And then there’s Jeffrey “Wacko” Walrath. He not only is a slugging corner outfielder, but he’s also a pitcher! At 17, he throws a 90mph heater, has a cutter and a fork, and is about to add a changeup. If he had declared himself a pitcher upon registering for the draft, he’d rank on our hotlist at about #4 or #5 among the starting pitchers. What do we desire most? A switch-hitting, powerful corner outfielder (no great deal of glove or speed to be had, though), or a solid #3 right-handed starter? He could still bat in that role, thankfully!

I do doubt, though, that either Bahner or “Wacko” will remain around until #22. And to be fair, most of all I would desire to draft *anything* useful for once…
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Old 04-16-2016, 07:21 PM   #1816
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Raccoons (30-21) vs. Falcons (19-30) – May 31-June 2, 2011

The Falcons sat in last place, but that kind of was what lingering in the bottom 3 in both runs scored and runs allowed would get you. They had the worst rotation and weren’t particularly good in any category. But was it quite believeable that the Raccoons were in the top 3 in runs scored in the league? The season certainly hadn’t felt like that could be true so far. We had won two of three from them so far.

Projected matchups:
Colin Baldwin (4-3, 3.06 ERA) vs. Manuel Ortíz (2-7, 5.26 ERA)
Bill Conway (4-2, 2.98 ERA) vs. Alfredo Collazo (3-4, 5.19 ERA)
Nick Brown (6-3, 3.26 ERA) vs. Manuel Hernandez (2-3, 3.90 ERA)

Hernandez will be the only left-hander we get in this set, pitching on Thursday.

McDonald was pushed in the rotation to start on Saturday. He might not have the highest ERA in the rotation (that’s a certain 11th round pick), but overall he’s not overwhelming everybody most of the time. This has the added benefit to not have Nick Brown lit up by the Crusaders yet again. Normally you would like to have your best guys to pitch to the meanest teams, but Brown and the Purple Poopers hasn’t been a success story for years.

Game 1
CHA: C L. Ramirez – CF Reya – 1B Valenzuela – 3B Ladd – RF J. Flores – SS J. Amador – LF D. Richardson – 2B D. Silva – P M. Ortíz
POR: LF Castro – 3B Merritt – 1B Quebell – RF Morales – 2B Nomura – SS Palmer – C Bowen – CF White – P Baldwin

Jon Merritt stole his first base as a Raccoon in the first inning, which didn’t lead to anything nice, and in the top 2nd, the offensively inept Falcons tore Baldwin to shreds. Jesus Flores led off with a homer, and it got only worse. The Disgusting Daniels, Richardson and Silva, both reached base, Silva even swiped one, and both scored on Manuel Ortíz’ single to left. Silva would score on a Leon Ramirez double with two down, and the Falcons took a 4-0 lead. The Raccoons wouldn’t even get a hit until the fourth inning, when Quebell hit a leadoff double, Jose Morales walked, and then nothing ever moved again on the bases. White was plunked to start the fifth inning and then singled in by Castro after a good bunt by Baldwin that sent Pat White to second base. Down 4-1, Morales led off the sixth with a walk, but got forced by Nomura’s grounder. Michael Palmer’s single to center brought up the tying run in … Craig Bowen … who was batting soundly under .200, and all that power he had was of no help to us. While he put the ball in play, it was an easy fly to Richardson, and Pat White was no help either in producing anything if he didn’t quite lean into one. Baldwin didn’t allow a hit between the third and the sixth innings, then allowed another single to Ortíz at the start of the seventh. Two outs moved the runner around and then we asked Pat Slayton to get out Jose Valenzuela, Slayton failed, Valenzuela doubled, and Baldwin was laden with five runs on five hits after all. The Raccoons never threatened again, keeping the tying run safely away from even the batter’s box. 5-2 Falcons. Castro 2-4, RBI; Gutierrez (PH) 1-1, 2B, RBI; Owens (PH) 1-1;

Good news: Nick Brown no longer has the worst ERA on the staff. Ah, well, it’s good news for Nick Brown’s ego, I guess. Ah, well. (shrugs)

Game 2
CHA: CF A. Solís – SS J. Amador – C F. Chavez – 1B Valenzuela – RF D. Richardson – 3B N. Chavez – LF Reya – 2B D. Silva – P Collazo
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – 1B Quebell – LF Morales – 2B Nomura – RF Taylor – C Owens – SS Howell – P Conway

Nelson Chavez hit a 2-piece off Conway in the second to get the Falcons into the lead. The Raccoons would have a Logan Taylor single in the bottom of the inning, and then nothing for a long, long while. The attendance, already sparse, even for a Wednesday night, was not amused at all, especially after Baldwin served up a few easily hittable fastballs down the middle, resulting in Luis Reya driving in Richardson in the top 6th. At that point, the Raccoons’ number of total bases and runners was still one apiece. While I appreciated that Richardson tore out a leg in retiring Rob Howell to start the bottom 6th and had to be replaced by Jimmy DeBoer, and Castro hit a second single to our growing collection with two out in the inning, Collazo was not in trouble. Jon Merritt flew to deep right, but DeBoer got there easily.

Like Baldwin the day before, Conway went six and two thirds in this one and left with a runner in scoring position and an opposite-handed batter at the plate. Tommy Ward did a better job than Slayton the day before and struck out Fernando Chavez to end the seventh inning. Ward then dug himself a 2 on, 1 out hole in the eighth and had to be shoveled out by Huerta, who struck out Rickey Jackson to end the inning. By then, the Raccoons had actually scored an actual run, “Dingus” Morales dingering a solo shot in the bottom 7th. Collazo would have a bit of a mess on his hands in the bottom 8th. Howell grounded out to short, but Craig Bowen hit a single past Valenzuela, and then Collazo hit Castro to put the tying runs on base. Merritt popped out to shallow right, but when the left-handed heart of the order came up, the Falcons didn’t make a move to replace Collazo. And why would they? Quebell flew out to center, and the inning was over. Morales, Nomura, and Taylor all hit hard balls to the outfield against Robert Parsons in the ninth, and none fell in. 3-1 Falcons. Bowen (PH) 1-1;

Well! That’s … that’s doubtlessly gonna be a long, long, long and somber homestand. No need to stay sober while the team is unravelling. I hit up Moe’s Liquor & Firearms on the way home from the park that night – there was no need to watch Brownie get imploded for a sweep in an alert state of mind.

Game 3
CHA: LF DeBoer – CF A. Solís – 1B Valenezula – 3B Ladd – SS J. Amador – C L. Ramirez – RF Reya – 2B D. Silva – P M. Hernandez
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – 1B Quebell – LF Morales – RF Ayers – SS Palmer – C Owens – 2B Nomura – P Brown

The first pitch of the game was into Jimmy DeBoer’s ribs and that was enough to get a bottle of booze opened, despite Solís hitting into a double play and nobody scoring in that top 1st. The Coons took their first lead of the week (it was Thursday…) on Tomas Castro’s leadoff jack in the bottom 1st, but Brown gave it away in a hurry with a walk and a single putting Falcons on the corners in the top 2nd, and then the disgusting Silva singled in the tying run. Hernandez would strike out, Brown’s only K the first time through. It didn’t get better. Brown walked the leadoff man DeBoer in the third before Owens had a ball escape through the wickets for a passed ball that moved DeBoer to second. That was actually ball three to Solís, who also walked. A Merritt error (…!) loaded the bases and with two outs Brown walked Leon Ramirez to give the Falcons the lead. Merritt tried his best to avoid *somebody* barfing into his locker in anger and singled up the middle to score Yoshi from second base with two outs in the bottom of the inning. The game was tied again at two, but Brown still sucked. He had logged an out in the seventh inning of ONE of his last seven games, and this one certainly wouldn’t end the spell. Three strikeouts apiece in the third and fourth or not – Brown had already thrown a wrench into the gears of this one with three walks in the third.

The Coons had runners on the corners in the bottom 4th, with nobody out, when Morales and Ayers hit a pair of singles. Palmer, Owens, and Nomura popped out three times in a row to prevent the team from taking another lead. Much the opposite in the top of the fifth, where Wes Ladd, Jesus Amador, and Leon Ramirez lined up three 2-out singles to shove two more runs down Brown’s throat. The Falcons made three quick outs in the sixth and Brown actually struck out Solís to start the top 7th, but then yielded for Slayton to retire the righties coming after that. Josh Gibson and Tommy Ward took care of the eighth, although that included Luis Reya singling to right, trying to get two, and being thrown out at second base by Ayers. The Coons had scratched out a run in the bottom 6th and trailed 4-3, but could they take another swing at Manuel Hernandez to get Brown off the hook? Merritt led off the bottom 8th and was smacked to represent the tying run on base. Merritt moved up on Quebell’s groundout (great grab by the crap hat Silva), and on a wild pitch. All we needed was a deep fly by Morales, who wound up walking, but Merritt came home on Ayers’ sac fly to right. Angel Casas struck out two in the top 9th to maintain a walkoff chance for the Critters. Coons didn’t score. Top 10th, Angel was perfect. Castro flew out to left against Alex Ramirez to start the bottom 10th, but Ramirez would then walk Merritt and allow a single to center to Quebell. Winning run at second, Morales up, right-hander pitching. Can it get better? Probably. Morales flew out to center, and Merritt remained stuck. Keith Ayers batted with two outs and put a 1-1 pitch into play, up the middle and threw. Angel Solís was playing shallow and came in quickly, Merritt was sent around third base, and the throw was late – walkoff! 5-4 Coons! Quebell 2-5; Ayers 2-4, 2 RBI; Casas 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, W (1-0);

Ayerssss! Sasss how se gamesssslayd!!

Raccoons (31-23) vs. Crusaders (34-18) – June 3-5, 2011

The Crusaders were in the top 3 in runs scored and runs allowed as these two teams squared off, and with the amount of pain the Raccoons had inflicted on themselves against a team in the bottom 3 in either category midweek, this was a recipe for disaster. The Falcons’ rotation had been the worst, the Crusaders’ was the best. We had swept them to open the season, but the series was now at 4-2 in 2011. I better stop here.

Projected matchups:
Jong-hoo Umberger (5-2, 2.14 ERA) vs. Kelvin Yates (5-4, 4.11 ERA)
Gil McDonald (3-5, 3.23 ERA) vs. Takeru Sato (5-4, 2.78 ERA)
Colin Baldwin (4-4, 3.39 ERA) vs. Ken Maddox (7-0, 2.67 ERA)

I couldn’t help but feel certain doom heading into this weekend set. If the Coons got swept, they would trail by seven games, which was over halfway to “certainly fatal”. What’s “certainly fatal”? Well, as the 2007 Coons can assure you, 10 1/2 games in June ain’t.

Game 1
NYC: CF R. Pena – 2B Caraballo – LF M. Ortíz – RF S. Martin – 1B Manfull – C G. Ortíz – 3B Bond – SS J. Reed – P Yates
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – 1B Quebell – LF Morales – 2B Nomura – RF Ayers – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Umberger

Jong-hoo looked quite good from the start, sitting down the Crusaders in order the first time through, with one strikeout (to Kevin Bond), one soft fly to left (Jeffrey Reed) and seven groundouts involved. The Coons had a runner in each of the first three innings, but never made it past first base. Martin Ortíz would be the first Crusader to get on base, hitting a 2-out single in the fourth, but he wasn’t going to advance from there, either. A tightly pitched ballgame would see some runs finally in the fifth inning, lots of them, and of course in the wrong line of the linescore. Two outs in the top 5th, Umberger had Gabriel Ortíz on second base after a double, and faced Jeffrey Reed. With first base open, and the Coons unable to afford even giving up one run, Reed got a rare intentional walk from us. Of course, Kel Yates would single to load the bases, and then Umberger just imploded. Roberto Pena drew a walk to force in a run, and then Francisco Caraballo singled to right to score two more on a wild throw by Ayers. Reed, who had been bypassed in the fifth, would get his revenge in the sixth, drumming a 2-out, 2-run double to sink Umberger and the Raccoons for good. Beltran allowed a run in the seventh, and while Yoshi Nomura hit a home run off Yates in the bottom of that inning, and Morales doubled in a pair in the eighth that were charged to Manuel Reyes, this game was long lost. 6-3 Crusaders. Quebell 2-4, 2B;

Game 2
NYC: CF R. Pena – 2B Caraballo – LF M. Ortíz – RF S. Martin – 1B Manfull – C G. Ortíz – 3B Bond – SS J. Reed – P Sato
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – 1B Quebell – LF Morales – RF Ayers – SS Palmer – C Owens – 2B Nomura – P McDonald

Kevin Bond homered in the second to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead in the top 2nd that didn’t last despite Nomura hitting into a double play after Palmer and Owens had reached to start the bottom 2nd. Owens had been drilled by Takeru Sato just like Morales in the first inning. But McDonald came through with a single to right that scored Palmer and tied the game, and Sato briefly unraveled and loaded the bases with Castro (single) and Merritt (walk) before Quebell singled to center softly enough to score a pair and give the Coons a 3-1 advantage.

The Coons were a mess, though. The fourth inning saw Martin Ortíz lead off with a single. Stanton Martin fired a hell of a liner to deep left where Morales for a moment couldn’t decide between attacking the blazing bomb or running for cover. He picked the former and made a strong play. After Ortíz was then caught stealing by Owens on a high 2-2 pitch to B.J. Manfull, McDonald threw another high ball to immediately sent another occupant to first base. A Morales double in the bottom 5th was not enough to generate a run, but when Caraballo doubled to lead off the top 6th, Stanton Martin was stepping up readily and homered to left to tie the score. The last act for McDonald was a leadoff walk to Bond in the top 7th, and Huerta and Ward cobbled together three outs just barely to get out of the inning. The game remained tied through eight, with the ninth starting with a heck of a drive to right that was given up by Thrasher to Manfull. Ayers made that play and got away with a singed glove. Gabe Ortíz singled, but Thrasher came back and struck out Bond and Reed to present the scuffling team with another walkoff chance. We had three lefties lined up against Manuel Reyes, a right-hander, but the Coons had enjoyed only two hits past the third inning. Yoshi hit a leadoff single, but Manuel Gutierrez couldn’t even get a bunt down and made a pathetic out. Castro grounded to Caraballo to get Yoshi forced out, but then stole second base while Merritt worked his way from 0-2 to 3-2 against Reyes, then grounded out to Bond.

Extras! Yay. Angel Casas was in for the 10th, allowed a double to Daryl Anderson to get started, and plunked Caraballo, but somehow wasn’t torched and struck out Ramiro Cavazos in between allowing runners, and then both Martin Brothers to strand them. That was his only inning, as a Morales double and Ayers’ flyout to right brought up Casas in the #6 hole with Morales on third and two outs. Logan Taylor hit. The Crusaders still stuck with Reyes. For once, it cost them. Logan Taylor took a 3-1 pitch and grounded it up the middle, and Reed wasn’t getting it. Morales came home, and the Coons walked off. 4-3 Raccoons. Quebell 2-5, 2 RBI; Morales 2-4, 2 2B; Taylor (PH) 1-1, RBI;

The Crusaders used their off day on Thursday to make a flip in the rotation, and we would not get to see the undefeated Ken Maddox. Instead, Sunday’s rubber game was to be started by Pancho Trevino (5-3, 2.43 ERA).

Game 3
NYC: CF R. Pena – 2B Caraballo – LF M. Ortíz – RF S. Martin – 1B Manfull – C G. Ortíz – 3B Bond – SS J. Reed – P P. Trevino
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – 1B Quebell – LF Morales – RF Taylor – 2B Nomura – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Baldwin

Baldwin was taking a page out of Brown’s book and showed about no command over anything he usually threw, the fastball, the cutter, the curve, a phone book – nothing hit the zone, and especially not to the first batter of the inning. Through five, he walked the leadoff man three times (one eighth rations?). The first time that was to Roberto Pena to start the game, and Stanton Martin was readily cashing in and hit a 2-piece to give the Crusaders an early lead. Pena had another one of those leadoff walks in the fifth, although this time both Martin Brothers struck out to keep him on. Baldwin struck out seven in this start, but completely lost things by the sixth inning. 1-out walk to Gabe Ortíz, and then Bond and Reed singled to load them up. Slayton came in, Trevino sent a fly to center on a 1-2 pitch, and Castro’s throw back home was thoroughly wild, not only scoring Ortíz, but also advancing the other runners. Pena would fly out to Taylor to end the inning.

When Jon Merritt hit a leadoff triple in the bottom of the sixth, this represented the first time in the game that the Raccoons had noticeably done anything on offense. Quebell singled to left, scoring Merritt and bringing up Morales as the tying run in the 3-1 game. While Morales kept the line moving with a single to right center, the lineup soon enough went on strike, Taylor flew out to center, Nomura struck out, and Palmer hit a ****ty pop. When Slayton went back out in the top 7th, Caraballo and Martin Ortíz soon reached with singles, but Stanton Martin hit a grounder fast enough to Merritt for a double play, and Beltran got the third out from Manfull. The Crusaders also failed to do anything with Gabriel Ortíz’ leadoff double surrendered by Josh Gibson in the top 8th, the score remained 3-1, and when Merritt walked facing left-hander Francois Picard in the bottom of the inning, the tying run came to the plate – although we now had four left-handed batters coming up. Quebell singled, Morales hit into a fielder’s choice that left runners on the corners with one out. Keith Ayers batted for Taylor, prompting the Crusaders to replace Picard with righty Jose Ramos. Ayers converted an 0-2 pitch for an RBI single to left, but Nomura hit into a double play to end the inning down 3-2. The Raccoons sucked just too hard to get anywhere and Thrasher allowed another run in the ninth. 4-2 Crusaders. Quebell 2-4, RBI; Morales 2-4; Ayers (PH) 1-1, RBI; Owens (PH) 1-1;

In other news

May 31 – The month of June will take place without NAS 3B/1B Antonio Esquivel (.277, 3 HR, 22 RBI), who has strained an oblique.
June 1 – MIL 3B Fernando Cuevas (.277, 0 HR, 12 RBI) bangs out five hits, including a triple and two doubles, with 2 RBI in the Loggers’ 15-10 win over the Condors.
June 4 – PIT 1B/3B Marc Williams (.230, 2 HR, 21 RBI) will be out for about a month with a broken foot.

Complaints and stuff

At the end of May, the Continental League ERA was the lowest it had been since 1991, at 3.76 – so the Raccoons weren’t scoring, but nobody was, really. The league ERA had been fairly consistent in the 3.90 to 4.00 band the last decade, but this year runs were hard to come by. None of this applies to the Federal League, which continues to run a 4.20 ERA. The ERA over there hasn’t been under four since ’94.

Which is a long way to say that not only the Coons can’t score, but they can’t score REALLY HARD.

Deep down in my heart, I wish we had an insane slugger named Bonkers. Whenever he’d homer, which would be frequently, we could yell out “Bonkers goes yard - and the yard goes bonkers!” …
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Old 04-18-2016, 04:55 PM   #1817
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Raccoons (32-25) vs. Indians (29-26) – June 6-9, 2011

The Indians had a +6 run differential, scoring the third-most runs in the Continental League, while their pitching was thoroughly average. Actually, an Indians squad that ranks in the top 3 in runs scored? Go home, ABL, you’re drunk. We had split a 4-game set already this season, so the season series was at 2-2.

Projected matchups:
Bill Conway (4-3, 3.09 ERA) vs. Jimmy Sjogren (1-1, 6.08 ERA)
Nick Brown (6-3, 3.34 ERA) vs. Tom Weise (5-3, 3.35 ERA)
Jong-hoo Umberger (5-3, 2.56 ERA) vs. Tristan Broun (0-1, 18.90 ERA)
Gil McDonald (3-5, 3.36 ERA) vs. Brad Osborne (3-1, 4.81 ERA)

However, there were top 3 pitching staff and top 3 pitching staffs. The Indians might have a top 3 pitching staff, but most of it was on the DL. Román Escobedo had had hit most decent year in like forever – DL! Curtis Tobiit was, well, Curtis Tobitt – DL! There were a few more guys on their DL, including Ryan Miller, a.k.a. 33% of the asking price for Ron Alston in 2008.

We weren’t quite sure yet about the exact order of their pitchers, since Tristan Broun, a rookie, had been skipped midweek and would slide in somewhere in the series. Sjogren and Broun are left-handed pitchers.

Game 1
IND: 1B Tsung – SS Luján – C Paraz – LF Graham – 2B Butler – CF Luxton – RF Phillip – 3B Phillips – P Sjogren
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – LF Morales – RF Ayers – 1B Quebell – 2B Palmer – C Owens – SS Howell – P Conway

The game started right out as a mess. Jon Merritt martinezed a ball in the first inning, but Conway got out of that early trouble with a pair of strikeouts to Jose Paraz and Dave Graham, but things got worse in the second. Bob Butler and Robbie Luxton hit singles off Conway to start the frame, Keith Ayers made a throwing error, and Butler would score. Two innings, two errors, who dares to be the next goat? Owens’ paw shot up so high that he clanked it against the ceiling of the dugout and sprained his thumb, and he had to be replaced by Craig Bowen right away, in the bottom of the second inning. Castro joined the line of goofs by getting caught stealing in the bottom of the third, just before Merritt and Morales singled, which would have been plenty to score Castro, but … no. If not for a wild pitch by Sjogren with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom 4th, the Raccoons probably never would have scored. Castro then grounded out to leave two men in scoring position. Before that, Conway had struck out. Not that I was blaming Bill Conway for striking out in a critical spot, but I WAS blaming him for allowing a leadoff single to Sjogren right in the next inning, and on an 0-2 pitch as well, then sucking continuously to allow two more hits and a run and fall right behind again, 2-1.

Sjogren had his own issues, walked six in seven innings, but of course the Raccoons were inherently inept and wouldn’t ever dare getting a hit with a pile of fuzzballs on base already. A single to Morales, a walk to Ayers, a pitch right into Quebell, bases loaded with two outs in the bottom 7th, and Palmer flew out to left. Dave Graham homered off Luis Beltran in the eighth inning, and Jose Morales’ dinger with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against Salvadaro Soure came with nobody on base and was entirely meaningless. 3-2 Indians. Morales 3-5, HR, RBI; Owens 1-1, 2B; Conway 6.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, L (4-4);

This is a ****ing **** homestand, no way to talk it into a nice sugar cake.

To start this week, Travis Owens was put on the DL with the thumb sprain. This looks like one of those things that at first don’t look so serious, but sometimes can take months to get back right, so we don’t expect him back before the All Star break. Tom McNeela was called up to play injury replacement. He batted .295/.333/.432 for the 2009 Coons (in 51 AB), and has a very similar slash this season in AAA (almost 100 AB). Problem is, he’s a left-handed batter, which is awful enough for us. But the 40-man roster is full and there was no point in bringing another catcher onto the payroll that we didn’t want to use anyway. By the way, McNeela has just turned 23 in April, so there’s still hope.

But when has hope not been dashed?

Game 2
IND: 1B Tsung – SS Luján – LF Graham – 2B Butler – RF Brady – 3B Phillips – C R. Speed – CF Luxton – P Broun
POR: 3B Merritt – SS Palmer – CF White – LF Morales – RF Ayers – 2B Nomura – C Bowen – 1B M. Gutierrez – P Brown

Nope, Brown was no good. He walked Mun-wah Tsung at the start of the game, and while Antonio Luján hit into a double play, he spent the majority of the early innings behind in the count, and not just a bit behind in that old count. Richard Speed hit a single to plate Bob Butler in the second inning, but Keith Ayers hammered a homer off Tristan Broun (who must have had his given name misspelled on his birth certificate, right?) to tie the score again at one. Brownie didn’t strike out anybody until he faced Broun, and did I mention that the weather was mucky and we got 20-minute rain delay in the fourth? Not yet, huh? Well, now I did. And did I mention that Brown walked Broun in the fifth, and then issued another walk, and just barely got out of the inning without getting his pants set on fire? Now I did. And his pitch count was already at 100, and it was all so horrible. He used 101 pitches through six, hadn’t pitched in a way that screamed out that hard to see more of him, and the lineup couldn’t give a **** to score a second run, either. Instead, the Indians were given basically a free run when Robbie Luxton reached on catcher’s interference, moved to second on a walk Huerta issued to Santiago Guerra, to third on a grounder, and across home on a wild pitch. To say that Huerta and Bowen were not on the same page in this at-bat would be the wildest understatement. Huerta was holding a book in the middle of a public library in Portland and was going over pitches, while Huerta was standing in the middle of Kyrgyzstan, had his mitt on his head, a claw shoved in each ear, and was screaming LALALALALALALALALA. And I don’t even know where the rest of the team was… 2-1 Indians.

(tries to hold back the tears)

In GOOD news, Matt Pruitt came off the DL and rejoined the roster. Pat White was sent back to AAA.

Game 3
IND: 1B Tsung – SS Luján – C Paraz – LF Graham – 2B Butler – CF Luxton – RF Phillip – 3B Phillips – P Weise
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – LF Pruitt – RF Taylor – 1B Quebell – 2B Nomura – SS Palmer – C McNeela – P Umberger

Jose Paraz homered in the first, the Indians went up 1-0, and the Raccoons were surely doomed to lose this game as well. Well, not quite yet. Castro got on to start their half of the first, and slowly but surely the Raccoons grew more numerous on the base paths. Pruitt singled, sending runners to the corners, and then Taylor singled to right, Castro scored, Pruitt went to third, Clint Phillip tried to throw him out, but capitally airmailed the throw and Pruitt scored while Jim Phillips scampered after that ball. Quebell then drove in Taylor, 3-1 after one.

Of course, in life, nothing is forever, and that is also true for leads after the first inning. Umberger worked quite hard to get it blown, and while he didn’t retire any of the 3-4-5 batters the first time through the order, he didn’t get any of them the second time either, and Bob Butler singled home Paraz with a run in the top 3rd, cutting the gap back to 3-2. Paraz had drawn a 2-out walk, and things had spiraled out of control from there.

The Coons upped to 5-2 with a 2-piece by Quebell in the bottom of the inning before Umberger could to more harm, but he didn’t get a strikeout until Santiago Guerra batted for Weise with two down in the fourth, and he never got to manage the middle of the order, which cost another run in the sixth, Luxton driving in Butler. Tsung hit a leadoff single in the seventh, but Luján kindly hit into another double play, and then we swiftly chased Umberger to the showers and entrusted the 5-3 lead to Luis Beltran for, well, hopefully only one batter, and indeed Paraz grounded out. The lead was blown still, just an inning later, by Thrasher and Huerta. The former walked an unretired Butler and allowed a double off the fence to Luxton before the latter was dumb/lucky enough to get a poor grounder from Richard Speed that kept the runners in scoring position, then still allowed the game tying single to Jim Phillips on a 2-2 pitch with two outs. Tommy Ward issued a leadoff walk in the top 9th in the 5-5 game, then Luján, Indy’s Quebell it seemed, hit into a double play again, his third in the set. Paraz struck out, and then Jon Merritt opened the bottom 9th with a single to left against Helio Maggessi, since apparently we had worn out their closer.

Needless to say that four left-handed pitcher coming after that, each making a mountain of money, were unable to get the winning run even into proximity of home plate, and we got to play extras. While Ward didn’t explode for another inning, the Coons had the leadoff man on again against Tommy Briggs, when Michael Palmer singled, then got himself caught stealing by Jose Paraz, who, if he would have any less of an arm behind the dish, would qualify for benefits for the disabled. Briggs walked McNeela, who at that point just held still after making a calamitous out four times in the game, and Morales had already pinch-hit in the eighth and was still batting in the #9 slot, but grounded out, moving up McNeela into second base with two outs and batting for Tommy Ward was going to be Craig Bowen, the Glorious Gladiator with the Golden Stick, slugging percentage actually approaching .300; Briggs threw a wild pitch to move McNeela to third, and Bowen held still and took the walk, bringing up Merritt, who walked on four pitches to load them up, but Matt Pruitt was caught with his head in a cake and hadn’t actually paid ANY ATTENTION WHATSOEVER, repeatedly poked, and flew out to right. Paraz homered off Angel Casas in the 11th, and the middle of the order didn’t give a ****. 6-5 Indians. Castro 2-5; Taylor 2-6, RBI; Quebell 5-6, HR, 3 RBI; Palmer 2-5; Morales (PH) 1-2; Ward 2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K;

The wise man said that as long as you have a shelter, good health, and one good friend, you are not suffering.

The wise man never saw the Raccoons play, though.

Plus, I don’t have any friends.

Game 4
IND: 1B Tsung – SS Luján – LF Graham – 2B Butler – CF Luxton – RF Phillip – C R. Speed – 3B Phillips – P Osborne
POR: CF Castro – 1B Quebell – LF Pruitt – RF Morales – 2B Nomura – SS Howell – 3B M. Gutierrez – C Bowen – P McDonald

On Thursday, Mun-wah Tsung roped Gil McDonald’s third pitch of the game for a line drive homer to right, causing me stop worrying and enjoy the foodstuff in the VIP lounge. Yoshi Nomura would hit a leadoff double in the bottom 2nd, but bringing in a runner from second base with nobody out was too much asked from any part of this lineup, and the 6-7-8 guys in particular. So when Gil McDonald hit a game-tying leadoff jack in the third inning, not only did he help himself like nobody else could, he also put the entire lineup to shame with one big rip. Castro reached on an infield single, stole second, but … alas … Quebell hit a high, but well short F8, Pruitt hit a high and even shorter F7 and Morales was bored, poked, grounded out, then scurried back to the dugout for Scattles or some other chocolate ****.

To anybody’s surprise, Craig Bowen would put the Coons on top in the fourth, dishing a 2-run homer with two outs. Simple maths dictate that if you just keep flailing hard for long enough, you will eventually hit one deep, and apparently this was that *one*. Tomas Castro would hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the fifth, and while I was chewing on half a pig inside a loaf of bread – because that’s what we’re serving the good people! – at the big window of the lounge that went from top to bottom of the room – just like in my office – and waited for a whiff, a pop, and a yawn, Quebell, Pruitt, and Morales actually each hit singles. That gave the Critters a 4-1 lead, bases loaded, and nobody out, at least until Nomura hit a grounder to Butler for a forceout at home. But Howell managed to split the outfielders with a liner into left center, plated two with a double, and we held a commanding 6-1 lead. They would add one more run later, and McDonald would last longer than the delicious pig when he made it through seven and a third, leaving after a walk to Clyde Brady, who was batting .357 and still didn’t get playing time. Beltran replaced the starter to pitch to Tsung, and damn sure gave up another homer. There was no comeback in the cards for the Indians, however, and the Raccoons salvaged the final game of the set. 7-3 Raccoons. Castro 2-5, 2B; Morales 2-4; Nomura 2-4, 2 2B; Gutierrez 2-4; McDonald 7.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, W (4-5) and 1-4, HR, RBI;

Mmmmm, pig.

Raccoons (33-28) vs. Warriors (28-33) – June 10-12, 2011

This rotten homestand (3-7 and counting) was going to finish with the Warriors, whom the Raccoons were historically bad against (.417), but we had actually only met three times past 2000, with the Raccoons losing the first two series by two of three games each in 2006 and 2008, then won two of three in 2009. These Warriors here were fairly average in terms of scoring runs, and that in almost all categories, plating the fifth-most counters in the Federal League. Their pitching was laden with issues, though, with the second-worst rotation (5.21 ERA) and the third-most runs allowed in the FL. How far the horrendous defense was factoring into that high starters’ ERA was something we’d like to see up close.

Projected matchups:
Colin Baldwin (4-5, 3.50 ERA) vs. Paul Kirkland (2-7, 6.22 ERA)
Bill Conway (4-4, 3.07 ERA) vs. Jair Mauceri (4-6, 8.37 ERA)
Nick Brown (6-3, 3.20 ERA) vs. Bruce Morrison (4-6, 5.38 ERA)

Looks like we will get the three worst of their guys (and 7-5, 2.93 ERA Ken Harris is the only good guy among them, but he pitched Thursday, so, yay, lucky us), all right-handers, which will continuing to fail like the Raccoons have for … the entire season, really... that much more despairing.

Game 1
SFW: RF Bayle – C Eaton – 2B O. Torres – LF Gross – 1B B. Thomas – CF Luna – SS Irvin – 3B J. Pena – P Kirkland
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – LF Pruitt – RF Morales – 1B Quebell – SS Palmer – 2B Nomura – C Bowen – P Baldwin

Baldwin was shaky from the start. Jimmy Bayle hit a deep drive to start the game, but didn’t quite tsung one to start the game, and Castro made the catch. Baldwin issued a leadoff walk to Gil Gross in the top 2nd, and Palmer blew a double play grounder for an error, but somehow the Warriors left their two men on despite Baldwin not showing anything in terms of stuff, yet while he was wheezing audibly, Kirkland had his gong rung forcefully in the bottom of the second. Morales and Quebell hit back-to-back doubles to start the frame, and Yoshi Nomura upped to 3-0 with a really big and long homer to left. When the Warriors did get on the board in the fourth then, the run was unearned. Pruitt had dropped Pat Eaton’s fly to left that started the inning, and Baldwin allowed a single to Oliver Torres right away and didn’t get out in time despite a double play hit into by Gross. Baldwin made up for his shortcomings on the mound with the stick, driving in a run with a 2-out single in the bottom of the same inning. Bowen was thrown out going first-to-third on the play, ending the inning, but the Coons had already plated Morales on a Palmer single before that and were up 5-1.

By the fifth we faced ex-Coon Matt Cash with an ERA soundly over seven, and Pruitt almost ran it higher, but didn’t quite get all of a 2-1 pitch and was caught on the track by Bayle. The luckiest bastard on earth was still Baldwin anyway, who pitched seven innings of not having much, and got FOUR double plays turned by his infielders to keep the Warriors short. Pat Slayton came into the game in the eighth and immediately made a mess, allowing a pinch-hit single to old bone Dan Morris, then another one to Bayle that also undressed Morales in rightfield, who didn’t know whether he wanted to play it on a hop or on the fly, and ultimately had to pull the ball out of his large intestine while even the slothful Morris scored from first base. For what it was worth, it ultimately set up Angel Casas for a 10-pitch, 2 K save. 5-2 Coons. Morales 3-4, 2B; Quebell 2-4, RBI; Baldwin 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, W (5-5) and 1-3, RBI;

Both Warriors runs were unearned in this game. Ironically, while defense held Baldwin, who rarely pitched in good pitcher’s counts, together with the four double plays, they also made three errors in the game…

Game 2
SFW: RF Bayle – C Eaton – 2B O. Torres – LF Gross – 3B J. Wilson – 1B B. Thomas – CF Luna – SS Irvin – P Mauceri
POR: 1B Quebell – 3B Merritt – LF Pruitt – CF Morales – RF Taylor – SS Palmer – 2B Nomura – C McNeela – P Conway

Speaking of errors, Bill Conway made one of the throwing sort on Bayle’s grounder that started this middle game, then drilled Eaton. Just as soon as the Warriors were in business, Oliver Torres hit into a double play and Gil Gross struck out. Two were on again in the top 2nd, when Jeremiah Irvin hit a fly to right. Logan Taylor caught that one, Bill Thomas was tagging to get to third base, but was thrown out by Taylor. Another double play was turned in the third against the Warriors, while the Coons were hitless against the regularly ravaged Mauceri, and a pair of 2-out singles and a wild pitch did Conway in for a run in the fourth inning.

The Coons finally got something done in the fourth, though. Merritt led off with a double, and singles by Pruitt and Morales tied the score and put runners on the corners with nobody out. Taylor drew a walk in a very long at-bat, loading the sacks, and the Coons took a lead on Palmer’s sac fly. Yoshi singled home Morales, a clean line to left. The Coons still had runners on the corners with two outs and up 3-1, with Conway batting. He was down 1-2 to Mauceri and flailed over a breaking ball by Mauceri that not only dove under Conway’s stick, but also vanished between Eaton’s legs. A whole lot of paws sprung in motion while Eaton hustled after the roller, which made it all the way to the backstop. Conway hustled up the line, Taylor came down the third base line like a rocket, and the Warriors tried to get him, but he beat out Mauceri’s clumsy tag and the fourth run scored. Quebell walked, but Merritt popped out to end the inning, and Conway immediately tried to blow the lead. He allowed an infield single to Mauceri, another single, and then somebody (Taylor) made another error… and two runs scored……

The Coons remained up 4-3 through another messy inning by Conway, then had Palmer and McNeela on the corners with one out in the bottom of the sixth. Keith Ayers batted for Conway, who had done enough damage for a day, but Ayers hit straight into a double play. With Slayton going in the top 7th, Taylor made ANOTHER error to put Eaton on base with two outs. Thrasher replaced Slayton against the left-handed Torres, walked him, then struck out Gross to end another mess.

It was funny how things repeated themselves this week. Rightfielders making stupid errors, and Bowen getting thrown out trying to go first-to-third. That happened again in the bottom of the eighth here. He initially batted against Bartolo Ortíz, hitting for Huerta. McNeela was on first, moved up on a wild pitch, and Bowen ultimately walked. Quebell singled to right, McNeela scored, and Bowen was nabbed. In the end, the insurance run didn’t factor into the decision. Angel Casas needed 23 pitches this time, but still struck out two to end the game without the Warriors mounting a threat. 5-3 Critters. Pruitt 2-3, BB; Palmer 1-2, BB; McNeela 2-4;

Game 3
SFW: RF Bayle – C Eaton – 2B O. Torres – 1B B. Thomas – CF Luna – LF A. Chavez – SS J. Wilson – 3B J. Pena – P B. Morrison
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – LF Pruitt – RF Morales – 1B Quebell – 2B Nomura – SS Howell – C Bowen – P Brown

Nobody quite knew what it was with Brown, who ran two 3-ball counts in the first inning, walked a pair, and got out of that mess when Quebell turned a double play all by himself on a liner. In the second, he struck out the side, throwing only three balls in total. In the third, another leadoff walk to Juan Pena, then another one to Eaton. Through three innings, he had four walks, four strikeouts, no hits allowed, and a 1-0 lead on a massive homer by Craig Bowen that went well over the top of the right foul pole and was judged fair by a group of shrugging umpires. The no-hitter didn’t last long. Bill Thomas hit a leadoff double in the fourth, and soon scored on a Chavez single. Pena was walked intentionally to bring up Morrison with two outs, who hit a low pop to shallow left that potentially was going to lead to disaster, but Pruitt made a headlong snag to at least maintain a tie.

But the way Brown was pitching … that was not what aces were doing, and there was also no length to be gained out of him, so he wasn’t even in the “serviceable” category right now. He just so made it through six innings this time around, and again was finished in a 1-1 tie after the Raccoons had stranded pairs of runners in the fourth and fifth innings, while Quebell, Nomura, and Howell went down in order in the bottom of the sixth.

The tie was handed to Josh Gibson in the seventh. Jeremiah Irvin singled, and then Pena homered. It didn’t get better. Bayle and Eaton got on, and Tommy Ward entered the game that was by now a sure loss. He walked Torres, then got an inning-ending double play ball hit sharply to Howell by Bill Thomas. Bottom 7th, Logan Taylor and Tomas Castro hit singles with one down. Merritt flew out to deep center, and Pruitt hopped out to second. AND NOBODY SCORED AGAIN. Yoshi was left in scoring position in the eighth. Nobody reached to be left on in the ninth at all. 3-1 Warriors. Castro 2-5, 2B; Nomura 2-4; Taylor (PH) 1-1; Brown 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 6 K and 1-2; Beltran 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K;

In other news

June 9 – The Bayhawks trade INF Ken Rodgers (.259, 2 HR, 15 RBI) to the Blue Sox for 2B Todd Moultrie (.341, 0 HR, 13 RBI).
June 10 – Tijuana’s SP Ted Scott (4-7, 3.46 ERA) shuts out the Wolves on three hits. The Condors win 5-0.

Complaints and stuff

By Wednesday, I had to console myself by taking Honeypaws to bed with me, lest I would not be able to go to sleep. That was a completely catastrophic homestand, 5-8, and this is not a playoff team. Look at Morales and then ask yourself where this team would be without him.

I feel like we could spend another 20 million dollars and still couldn’t dig out a run when we really needed it. Or … runner on second, nobody out. This team ain’t scoring him … three out of four times.

The Casa Brown is by now something I consider permanent, and that will never go away. Every summer, he just completely stinks now. He’s always amazing in April, so-so in May, and in June he completely falls apart. It gets better by August. Maybe he should try his paw at winter ball?

Next week, Blue Sox and Titans. A good team might be able to rack up a few wins there, but I'm not holding my breath. Also: draft.

Apologies to Clint Phillip, whom I robbed of an L for years, and only noticed it when the Indians stuck him next to Jim Phillips, also with a pair of L’s. Poor Clint. Next life, get born to people named Smith, then that won’t happen.
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Old 04-19-2016, 04:32 PM   #1818
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2011 AMATEUR DRAFT

The Raccoons certainly had their wishes going into the 2011 draft. 3B Travis Bahner looked like a tasty third baseman that could man the hot corner for years and years and years and not get boring to watch, and then there was the interesting case of two-way player Jeffrey “Wacko” Walrath, who was either a slugging corner outfielder or a rock solid starting pitcher. You decide!

However, while they had four picks in the top 50, the Raccoons were not going to pick until #22. They had gotten an earlier pick when the Bayhawks had signed Ron Alston, but had forfeited that pick to the Knights in April when they signed Jose Morales instead in an admitted panic reaction. That either of those two would stick around was wildly unlikely, and we would have to console ourselves with the crumbs that the other teams would carelessly drop off the table. Ever seen a raccoon standing under the table on his rear paws and stretching his front paws up to the top of the table, well knowing he can’t reach to the delicious cake on there? The sad eyes…

The sad eyes!

Here is our shortened hotlist. We have also a longer list of just over 100 players we find juicy.

SP Cody Zimmerman (14/15/13)
SP David Tingley (13/14/9)
SP Frank Kelly (11/14/10)
SP Miguel Zamudio (14/12/13)
SP Cole Pierson (12/13/10)
SP Justin Boggio (13/14/10)

CL Jeff Boynton (17/14/12)
CL Frank Yeager (20/14/10)

C Mike Denny (9/13/13)

1B Kevin Jaeger (13/13/15)
3B Travis Bahner (10/11/9)
1B David Williams (11/14/10)
1B Andy McNeal (11/10/11)
INF Cesar Tellez (9/8/15)

RF/LF Zach Knowling (14/7/9)
OF/2B Eric Schermann (15/5/12)
RF/LF Jeffrey Walrath (9/11/16)

The first pick was with the Buffaloes, who had finished 2010 with the worst record, and got to console themselves with SP Cody Zimmerman. RF/LF Zach Knowling would be taken by the Loggers, 1B Kevin Jaeger went to the Condors, the Wolves took SP Jaden Joseph (not on the hotlist), and the Rebels picked SP Scott Vigil (also not on the hotlist) to fill the top 5. As far as our two favorites were concerned, the Knights claimed “Wacko” Walrath at #8, but Travis Bahner stuck around, stuck around, stuck around, and … was taken by the Miners at #19. #19! If we just hadn’t signed Morales…

When we finally had our first pick, the only position players left from the hotlist were 1B Andy McNeal and C Mike Denny, plus SP David Tingley, CL Frank Yeager, and SP Justin Boggio, but I said before that Boggio was with high probability not going to make it as a starter, and was probably going to move to the pen before long, lacking any third pitch at all.

Our first supplemental round pick came at #38 and by then only Boggio was left over, and I didn’t feel like taking a relief pitcher at that point, especially one that didn’t scream out CLOSER. We didn’t take Boggio with any of our three supplemental round picks, and he would eventually get off the board with the pick that immediately followed on our last pick in the supplemental round, the Buffaloes taking him at #49.

2011 PORTLAND RACCOONS DRAFT CLASS

Round 1 (#22) – SP David Tingley, 18, from Concord, NC – this young righty has much better breaking stuff compared to his 88mph fastball; evil curve/change combo, with a slider in the mix, and the fastball, while itself not very impressive, has some late sink (might be gravity after all) and he generates loads of groundballs overall
Supp. Round (#38) – SS Dylan Thorne, 17, from Memphis, TN – agile shortstop with a good contact bat, glimpses of power for both doubles and home runs, and aso tremendously quick feet; there is something clumsy about his throwing, but perhaps some hideous glasses can fix that
Supp. Round (#45) – RF/LF/1B Daniel Price, 17, from El Mirage, AZ – tremendous power potential, and he doesn’t swing at everything, either; unfortunately he’s quite big and clumsy and by no means agile in the field, where it might be hard to find any good spot to hide him
Supp. Round (#48) – LF/RF/1B Matt Fox, 19, from Indianapolis, IN – not quite as much power potential as with Price, but he might make steady contact instead, and he is not quite as much of a burden with the glove, either; he has quite the murder arm, making him suited for rightfield
Round 2 (#70) – SP Chris Brown, 21, from Dacono, CO – good mix of four pitches with a 98mph heater for this right-hander, who unfortunately has quite bad control issues so far; no use to have heat if you don’t have a harness for it…
Round 3 (#94) – LF Scott Hornung, 19, from Glendale, AZ – another potential defensive liability, this one with a good contact bat and some power to all fields, but not much in terms of defense and speed
Round 4 (#118) – INF/RF Sean Patterson, 18, from Houston, TX – does a bit of everything, which includes playing all over the field, hits for a bit of contact, for a bit of power, runs a bit…
Round 5 (#142) – 2B Nick Roberts, 18, from Phoenix, AZ – quite a bit of what you think about when you imagine a prototypical second baseman; no power, decent contact, good defense with big range and a soft arm, and his biggest asset might be his speed
Round 6 (#166) – CL Mike McGowan, 20, from New York, NY – left-hander with a nasty splitter, but unfortunately a dead straight heater
Round 7 (#190) – C Josh Marrone, 18, from Peoria, AZ – nothing special here, not one outstanding ability, and not many decent ones, either
Round 8 (#214) – OF Alex Duarte, 18, from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico – more of a defensive outfielder, although he still has to learn quite a bit about seeing the ball early and picking a good route; the bat is most likely not exciting at all
Round 9 (#238) – SP Nick Lester, 18, from Rancho San Diego, CA – his fastball tops out at 87mph, but he has a nice curve; mediocre changeup in the works, but baseball life might be tough for this lefty
Round 10 (#262) – LF/INF Tom Wilson, 19, from Mooresville, IN – quick feet and good runner, and that’s pretty much it
Round 11 (#286) – SP Rick Conley, 18, from Livermore, CA – southpaw that throws some of this and some of that; some say his changeup has tremendous potential…
Round 12 (#310) – MR Dan Calvert, 21, from Adelphi, MD – left-handed reliever with a circle change, and not even enough stamina for long relief duties

No, it was not the declared goal of getting every player from Arizona in the draft. We still almost managed.

All draft picks were assigned to Aumsville to start their professional career. With 15 new players in the system, we also cleaned some gunk out of there. Among a number of released players were a few picks from the upper half of previous drafts, like 2007 fourth rounder Shane Lea and fifth rounder Mark Lydic, both infielders, both not hitting a lick, 2005 second rounder Pat Composto, a pitcher that had first been befallen by injuries, then years of really bad results in AA and AAA, and a number of other players, including some that came through the international complex, including both Brazilians that had been signed a few years ago, and who couldn’t do anything right.
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Old 04-20-2016, 02:26 PM   #1819
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Raccoons (35-29) @ Blue Sox (30-33) – June 14-16, 2011

Nashville was surely scoring a lot, ranking in the top 3 in the Federal League with just over 300 runs plated (Coons: 255, 8th in CL), but they were conceding about as many, with a +6 run differential for them. Both their rotation and their bullpen were under the league average. The Raccoons were .530 all time against the Blue Sox, and had lost only one game in the last three series with them, but that came in 2010.

Projected matchups:
Jong-hoo Umberger (5-3, 2.68 ERA) vs. Toshiro Uenohara (4-4, 4.13 ERA)
Gil McDonald (4-5, 3.26 ERA) vs. Stanton Taylor (3-5, 3.06 ERA)
Colin Baldwin (5-5, 3.22 ERA) vs. Jim Pennington (5-4, 4.73 ERA)

That’s another series in which we get only right-handers, but we might see a lefty or two on the weekend in Boston. The Blue Sox had two significant pieces missing from their lineup, with outfielder Jose Gomez and 3B Antonio Esquivel on the DL.

The draft will fall on Wednesday and the middle game of this set.

Game 1
POR: CF Castro – 3B Merritt – 1B Pruitt – LF Morales – RF Taylor – 2B Nomura – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Umberger
NAS: CF Matthews – C Walston – 1B J. Diaz – RF Potter – LF T. Austin – SS M. Garza – 3B Rodgers – 2B Correa – P Uenohara

Logan Taylor almost killed the first inning when he grounded hard to Marcos Garza with the bases full and one out. But Garza was just a bit too slow to turn it for two, Taylor was safe at first, and Merritt scored with the first run of the game. Yoshi would then double in the remaining runners to send Umberger out with a 3-0 lead. That was it for offense, for a long time, and for both teams. First, both pitchers sabotaged efforts with their inability to get a bunt down. Their first time up, both had their #8 batter on first base, and both got them forced with bunts bounced right back to the opposing pitcher. There was no run scored other than the 3-spot at the start of the game through six, although the Blue Sox at least got mighty close in the bottom of the sixth. Jeffrey Matthews led off with a double, stole second, and Jong-hoo walked Pat Walston. After Juan Diaz’ fly out to Morales in center (more on that soon), on which Matthews went to third, Ken Potter hit a room service grounder to Yoshi Nomura, who started a 4-6-3 to keep Umberger’s line clean.

Both teams put the leadoff man on in the seventh, neither scored, and only the Coons’ Adrian Quebell even moved to second base. Bottom 8th, Umberger started to come apart, with Matthews hitting a 1-out single. Walston flew out, but when Diaz singled, the runners were on the corners, and the tying run was at the plate in switch-hitter Ken Potter. Ron Thrasher replaced Umberger, uncorked a wild pitch to score Matthews, then walked Potter. Enough bull****. Angel Casas appeared in a double switch (the #9 slot was up first in the top of the ninth) and got the third out from Tim Austin. The Coons got Quebell on with a 1-out double after Howell made a ****ty out to start the ninth. Pruitt would walk eventually, giving Morales an at-bat with two on, two outs, and a pop right over home plate that was no challenge for Walston to play at all. The completely **** offense on this team – outrageous. When Marcos Garza led off the bottom of the ninth with a double up the rightfield line, Angel Casas was in more than just nominal trouble, but then Ken Rodgers struck out and Jose Correa flew out to center. And yet, the Raccoons lost. The Blue Sox offense was decidedly less braindead after all: Greg Andrews doubled one to right in the path cleared by Garza’s line earlier, getting them to 3-2. Matthews drew a walk in an 11-pitch at-bat, and when Walston singled to right, the game was tied. Angel was unwinding right here and right now, Juan Diaz singled, and the Blue Sox walked off. 4-3 Blue Sox. Quebell 2-3, 2B; Merritt 2-5, 2B; Bowen 2-3, BB; Umberger 7.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K;

This team. Useless collection of inept mooks.

There was one mook less around now, though. About two hours before the Raccoons logged this game unexpectedly, but wholly deservedly in the loss column, they had already put Tomas Castro in the loss column, who had gotten hurt on a throw and was diagnosed with an oblique strain. He was most likely out for only two weeks, but was sent to the DL anyway. Jason Seeley was called up, batting with a .931 OPS in AAA. And Seeley would most likely not amount to an at least league average centerfielder, but I wanted to see just how bad it was first-hand now.

Game 2
POR: 3B Merritt – 1B Quebell – LF Pruitt – RF Morales – CF Seeley – 2B Nomura – SS Palmer – C McNeela – P McDonald
NAS: CF Matthews – C Walston – 1B J. Diaz – RF Potter – LF T. Austin – SS M. Garza – 3B Rodgers – 2B Correa – P Pennington

Late heartbreak was unlikely in the middle game on draft day, as the Blue Sox hit the ball hard from the start and whacked McDonald for two early runs, while the Raccoons didn’t even get a hit until the fourth. That included the top of the third, where they got Palmer to second base on a Ken Rodgers throwing error, and McNeela was drilled. Two ENTIRELY FREE BASE RUNNERS to start the inning, and none of them would score. Morales hit a double in the fourth and was plated by Nomura with a single to left, but the Coons continued to trail 2-1. Jon Merritt would then represent the tying run in the fifth, reaching on another throwing error by Jose Correa, and also to lead off the inning. Quebell picked up the runner and lined a ball hard down the rightfield line for the game-tying RBI double, but then brain farts took over again, and Quebell was stranded, despite two highly touted (even if not highly paid) outfielders and their not quite as highly touted (although he was the only hope we had in our system) outfield colleague all countering pitcher Jim Pennington, who threw right-handed. Nope, not gonna happen.

Neither was that 2-2 tie going to live forever. The Blue Sox swung hard the entire game, and while they whiffed eight times against McDonald, they also made enough hard contact. They took a 3-2 lead and chased him in the sixth with two out and runners on the corners, with Ward tasked with the removal of Matthews. Like Thrasher the day before, Ward failed, and on a line drive single to right another run scored for a 4-2 Sox lead. The Coons had the tying runs in scoring position with nobody out in the top 7th after a Merritt single and a Quebell double. Pennington was still in the game, and four more left-handers were coming up. But heaven forbid a hit with a runner in scoring position. Pruitt grounded out, scoring Merritt, Morales grounded out, not scoring Quebell, and Seeley never made contact with anything, leaving Quebell at third. AND WHY WOULD THEY BRING A LEFT-HANDER?? WHY??

Bottom 7th, Huerta pitched, but not for long. Diaz doubled, Potter homered, and Austin hit a hard single. Gibson would give up four singles for just one run in the bottom of the eighth. The Raccoons had nothing, except perhaps sleepy eyes and overweight. 7-3 Blue Sox. Quebell 2-4, BB, 2 2B, RBI; Morales 2-5, 2B; Ayers (PH) 1-1;

Juan Diaz had five hits in this game. The entire collection of outcasts on the visiting team amounted to seven hits.

Game 3
POR: 3B Merritt – 1B Quebell – LF Pruitt – RF Morales – CF Seeley – 2B Nomura – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Baldwin
NAS: CF Matthews – 2B Correa – 1B J. Diaz – LF T. Austin – RF Potter – 3B Rodgers – SS Richter – C Fisk – P S. Taylor

The full-of-**** Raccoons had runners in scoring position in the top 1st after Quebell walked and Pruitt doubled, only for Morales and Seeley to both strike out miserably, and when the Blue Sox insisted to give the Coons a chance in the third inning and Baldwin reached second base on a throwing error by Correa, he never was moved off that base as Merritt, Quebell, and Pruitt made embarrassing outs in order. Baldwin did a very good job on the mound, allowing a few scattered singles only through the inning, and the Blue Sox reached scoring position only once under their own power through seven innings, and once more after a Merritt error. The game was scoreless after seven innings, and to be correct and precise, the Raccoons had not had a hit since Pruitt’s double in the first. They had drawn two walks in two hours, one of them dubious. And while Baldwin hadn’t been as flashy as Stanton Taylor, who had 9 strikeouts to Baldwin’s handful, Colin Baldwin chipped a single to rightfield when he led off the top of the eighth. Whoah, a hit!! Taylor was knocked out when Merritt hit another single. Left-hander Juan Sanchez took over, and Keith Ayers was sent to bat for Quebell to prevent a double play from happening and ruining everything. When Ayers hit the first pitch from Sanchez to left, he had a clean single, and the bases were full with nobody out. Pruitt was down 0-2 when he shoveled a pitch off the top of the dirt and hauled it into shallow right, scoring the first run of the game. Morales fouled out, Seeley grounded out, scoring the second run. Howell hit for Nomura and whiffed. Baldwin was removed when he walked Correa with two outs in the bottom 8th, but Huerta got the third out from Diaz.

The top 9th was another traumatic display of comatose offense. Craig Bowen finally livened up yet another 0-for-3 day with a single, only to get picked off first base just before Logan Taylor singled. Nothing came together. In the bottom of the inning, Angel Casas’ sudden and violent inability to remove batters struck again. The Blue Sox opened the frame with an Austin single and a Potter double, merely giving them the tying runs in scoring position with nobody out. Pat Walston flew out to plate the first run before Zachary Richter struck out, but it still wasn’t all well and over. Alvin Fisk’s single put runners on the corners, and the left-handed batter Dave Cash was approaching, as well as Ron Thrasher being thrown over the bullpen gate. Lefty please! That was the same left-hander that had plated a run with a wild pitch en route to walking his only batter on Tuesday, and here the tying run was on third base – but Cash struck out. 2-1 Blighters. Ayers (PH) 1-1; Pruitt 2-4, 2B, RBI; Taylor (PH) 1-1; Baldwin 7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K, W (6-5) and 1-3;

(cluelessly shakes his head)

Raccoons (36-31) @ Titans (27-39) – June 17-19, 2011

The Titans were a burning ammonium train right now, with virtually all problems, including “Dodo” Iwase’s allegedly smelly feet being discussed at length in the Northeast tabloids. The Raccoons had their own issues (mostly obesity and narcolepsy), and weren’t in town to judge. A series win would be neat against the second-worst pitching staff and the fourth-worst offense. We wouldn’t escape the fangs of death that were Tony Hamlyn this time, though.

Projected matchups:
Bill Conway (5-4, 3.18 ERA) vs. Tony Hamlyn (3-6, 2.95 ERA)
Nick Brown (6-3, 3.08 ERA) vs. Jesus Cabrera (4-6, 3.56 ERA)
Jong-hoo Umberger (5-3, 2.55 ERA) vs. Ron Carter (4-6, 6.17 ERA)

Keith Ayers surely likes to start, but how excited is he about facing Hamlyn? He’s the only lefty we get in this series, and it looks like his run support is close to minus three runs per game.

Game 1
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Palmer – CF Morales – RF Ayers – LF Pruitt – 1B Quebell – C Bowen – SS Howell – P Conway
BOS: SS M. Rivera – 2B B. Hernandez – RF R. Garcia – C Suda – LF G. Rios – CF Hayashi – 1B Legendre – 3B E. Salazar – P Hamlyn

The Raccoons faced perhaps the beefiest pitcher in baseball, and most certainly in the division (with the way Brown was going at least…), and they held a 4-0 lead after the top of the second inning. There was a caveat however: all runs were unearned. The Coons had nobody on in the top 2nd, when Hideaki Suda threw away Bowen’s 2-out bouncer in front of the plate. Howell got four wide ones for no particular reason with first base open, and then Conway beat the range of Mike Rivera with an RBI single to left. Jon Merritt opened the score a good bit with a triple into the gap, then scored on Palmer’s single for the 4-0 score. For poor Hamlyn, it even got worse. Alexis Legendre made a truly baffling error on a simple roller in the third inning, putting Pruitt on base in the top 3rd. Quebell singled, as did Bowen. After a Howell strikeout, Conway hit a ball through Edgar Salazar at third for yet another RBI single, and when Merritt added another run with another single, Hamlyn was removed without even having allowed an earned run. The Coons were up 7-0 in the middle of the third, all runs unearned! Aided by the seven unearned runs, Conway comfortably went seven innings, allowing only one run, which was earned, on a walk to Suda and full count singles hit by Tokimune Hayashi and Alexis Legendre in the sixth inning. Josh Gibson, who had so far struck out three and had allowed 17 hits in nine innings this year, struck out the side (against one walk) in a scoreless eighth, and actually finished the game without the Titans storming past the Coons, who never scored an earned run in the game to nobody’s surprise at all, at the 11th hour. 7-1 Raccoons. Merritt 2-5, 3B, 3 RBI; Palmer 2-5, RBI; Morales 2-5; Bowen 2-5, RBI; Conway 7.0 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, W (6-4) and 2-4, 2 RBI; Gibson 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K;

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than any good at all. Now to somebody who hasn’t had much luck since… um… Nick Brown has the least innings pitched of all our starters with 14 starts (so, all except for Gil McDonald)…

Game 2
POR: 3B Merritt – 1B Quebell – LF Pruitt – RF Morales – CF Seeley – 2B Nomura – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Brown
BOS: 3B E. Salazar – 2B B. Hernandez – RF R. Garcia – C Suda – LF G. Rios – CF Hayashi – SS Brantley – 1B Legendre – P Cabrera

Nick Brown started out behind in the count to almost anybody, and this didn’t come as much of a surprise by now. Once Nomura dug him out of a mess in the bottom 1st with a nifty grab on Gerardo Rios, he was spotted a lead. Jason Seeley had gone 0-for-9 since being recalled, but whacked a leadoff jack in the top 2nd to put the Raccoons ahead 1-0. Brown blew it in the same inning, drilling Ron Brantley, followed by a wild pitch and a 2-out RBI single by Jesus Cabrera.

While the assumed ace continued to scuffle (and get scuffed), the Raccoons actually did something offensively. Morales led off the fourth with a single, then stole second, his third sack of the year. Seeley made another poor out, but then Nomura hit a fly to left that at first didn’t look like much more than an F7, but somehow it continued to go and go and go until it was gone, over the fence by a snout’s width, and fair by three and a half coontails. That sent the Critters up 3-1, and although Brown shuffled two onto the bases in the bottom of the inning, Cabrera struck out to end the inning. Brown singled to lead off the fifth, then was caught stealing, but Merritt and Quebell struck out anyway… to the bottom of the inning, where Brown walked Bartolo Hernandez, then allowed a double to Ricardo Garcia, which merely put the tying runs in scoring position with one out. Yet, both Suda and Rios hit really poor grounders that were dealt with by the battery, first Bowen, then Brown, and the Titans couldn’t score.

The sixth started with Pruitt singling, Morales walking, and Seeley singling as well. Bases loaded, no outs, Yoshi batted, poked for a strike twice, then grounded slowly to second base, but between Hernandez and Brantley it went, and a run scored. Palmer continued to bat with the bases loaded and got a pretty fat thing down the middle. Right off the bat, that was never not going to be anything but a … GRAAAAAAAAAND SLAAAAAAAMMMMM!!!!

That was by no means the end of that inning. The Coons tore through two relievers after Cabrera left in shame, loading Dusty Balzer for three runs, including a 2-run double by Quebell, and one more on Dan Parker. 13 Coons came to the plate in total, and they scored nine runs for a 12-1 lead. But a crimp was still put in the affair by Brown in the bottom 6th. Toki Hayashi singled, and he walked two, only getting Legendre out on a pop. With the sacks full and one out, Slayton took over, struck out Salazar, but OF COURSE allowed a bases-clearing double to Bartolo Hernandez. That didn’t help Brown’s suffering ERA or ego, but the Raccoons restored a double-digit lead in the top 7th … well, their two runs were unearned after a Salazar error. Some of our regulars went showering by the eighth, this beauty here wasn’t going anywhere anymore. 14-4 Brownies. Merritt 3-4, BB, 2B, RBI; Morales 2-4, BB, RBI; Seeley 3-5, HR, 2B, 2 RBI; Nomura 3-5, HR, 3 RBI; Palmer 2-5, HR, 4 RBI;

Game 3
POR: 3B Merritt – 1B Quebell – LF Morales – CF Seeley – RF Taylor – 2B Nomura – SS Palmer – C McNeela – P Umberger
BOS: SS M. Rivera – 2B B. Hernandez – RF R. Garcia – C Suda – LF G. Rios – CF Hayashi – 1B Legendre – 3B E. Salazar – P Carter

The Coons jumped out early, scoring three runs in the top 1st. Seeley plated the first run of the game for consecutive days, singling home Quebell with two outs. Logan Taylor then tripled, 2-0, and Nomura singled, 3-0. Umberger loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning. Hernandez and Garcia singled, he walked Suda, but Gerardo Rios served one perfectly to Michael Palmer, who started a double play to turn the Titans away. Logan Taylor hit another triple his next time up, this one leading off the third inning, and scored on Yoshi’s double to right. The bases would be loaded for Umberger, who whiffed, yet Carter had already walked four in the game, and added two more to Merritt and Quebell, not only running his walk count to six, but also the runs the Critters had put up. When Morales hit a sac fly to bring the score to 7-0, Ron Carter was yanked. Bill Dean replaced him, got a grounder from Seeley and threw it away for a 2-base error, bringing in another run, and the Coons were up 8-0.

The Titans, while being somehow prone to disaster, also could not get a break for the dear lives of a basket full of kittens. Ricardo Garcia hit a leadoff single in the bottom 4th. They put up the hit-and-run, Suda lined hard to left, Merritt leapt and snagged it, then got himself aligned to double off the runner quicker than Garcia could brake and paddle back to first. Reliever Bill Dean hit a 2-out single in the bottom 5th that put him on along with Salazar, only for Rivera to ground out hard to Nomura. The Coons would get additional runs on the way through the innings, one driven in by McNeela in the sixth, and another one by Seeley in the seventh. Jong-hoo allowed a run in the bottom of the sixth, but the Titans scored that on a wild pitch and not under their own power (sounds like Friday, when it was the other way round seven times). There was a very brief rain delay in the eighth inning. Umberger was just under 100 pitches after eight, and with the lead not an easy one to blow, he got the assignment for the ninth with a few regular batters out of the game again. (The replacements Howell and Ayers actually had hits and scored in the top 9th). Umberger had struck out only two in eight innings, but struck out as many in the ninth to finish the complete game effort, ringing up Toki Hayashi to finish the series sweep! 12-1 Critters. Howell 1-1, 2B; Quebell 3-5, BB, RBI; Ayers 1-1, RBI; Seeley 4-6, 2B, 2 RBI; Taylor 2-5, 2 3B, 2 RBI; Nomura 2-5, BB, 2B, 2 RBI; Umberger 9.0 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, W (6-3) and 1-5, 2B;

What do you say? That was ACTUALLY the Raccoons? Not the Crusaders?

A true mystery!

In other news

June 13 – NYC SP Kelvin Yates (7-5, 3.29 ERA) sparkles with a 1-hit shutout, striking out 11, in a 4-0 win over the Buffaloes. Fernando Ibarra breaks up the no-hitter with a single with two outs in the ninth inning!
June 18 – Big day for L.A.’s 1B Stanley Murphy (.352, 6 HR, 23 RBI)! The 31-year old right-handed batter has three hits in the Pacifics’ 12-1 rout of the Stars, all three homers off three different pitchers, and plates six runs. Three home runs in one game are hit for the 23rd time in ABL history, and the second time by a Pacific. Yohan Bonneau did the honors in 2006, also to the Stars.
June 18 – LAP 3B/2B Jens Carroll (.339, 1 HR, 36 RBI) will miss one week with a sore knee that needs rest.

Complaints and stuff

Injury report: Tomas Castro might be back at the very end of June, Travis Owens by the break. Law Rockburn might start rehab in mid-July. Also progressing well from Tommy John surgery by now: Hector Santos, who might start rehab (and will get a full 30-day slate before we even decide what to do with him, I think) around the same time or a week later than Law.

Below is Jason Seeley’s profile. I think he’s underscouted. Perhaps not by a lot, but perhaps around 11/13/11 instead of 9/11/11. We WILL have an opening for a starting job in 2012 with Morales certainly asking for many millions in free agency. I recently called him the only hope in our system, which is a bit unfair to SP Rich Hood, who is 5-3 with a 4.21 ERA in St. Pete. The BABIP is a bit above average, but he also allowed ten dingers and 31 walks against 73 strikeouts in 87 innings. Not bad. Not great, but not bad. He’s 24, he can still become useful.

The Titans, who CLEARLY stink, cleaned house on Tuesday, firing their manager and general manager. I must say, the fact that they are in last place is utmost baffling. Everybody and their mother had them at least in the top 3 in the division.

I had Steve, the accountant, calculate what it would cost us to fire hitting coach Glenn “Martini” Williams from his contract that runs through 2013. The sobering answer would be “a lot”, but maybe we could replenish our funds with a trade of Nick Brown for a last-round pick from 2003 cleaning toilets for a single-A team.

Nick Brown is one hot mess. He walked five and struck out four in his short outing on Saturday, and while he has technically only lost one game of his last nine, he still sucks balls. He has gotten an out in the seventh inning only FIVE times this season, and not in over a month (last time: May 17 vs. Titans). If he maintains his current pace, he won’t pitch 200 innings this season, and not for injuries…

In terms of former starting pitchers, a 37-year old Randy Farley spun a 4-hit shutout for the Capitals on Sunday. Randy, who was with Portland from ’98 through ’04 (poor kit), was never amazing, but actually yet has to come apart, and his career W-L record is actually not bad at all, especially considering that he pitched on some clearly godforsaken teams: 171-143. This year he has a 3.51 ERA, 38 points under his career average, and he was better than 3.51 only three times in his career, including his rookie and sophomore year. That euphoria around 2000, when we thought that we’d ride Farley and Ford to the Sacred Land of Winning Seasons. What fools we were!
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Raccoons (39-31) vs. Loggers (32-35) – June 20-22, 2011

The Loggers had just dropped under .500 after holding out for much longer than anybody would have trusted them to. Their peskiness and persistence with an outrageously cheap roster and little obvious talent had also affected the Raccoons, with whom they had evenly split six games so far this year. The writing was on the wall, however, with them running a -59 run differential and ranking in the bottom 3 in both runs scored and runs allowed. They were hitting well above their weight so far and things sooner or later had to turn south hard for them. The Raccoons came off a weekend in which they routed the Titans for 33 runs (although 10 were unearned), so maybe that raging offense could spill over into this midweek set.

Projected matchups:
Gil McDonald (4-6, 3.50 ERA) vs. Gabriel Caro (4-5, 4.60 ERA)
Colin Baldwin (6-5, 2.96 ERA) vs. Roy Thomas (4-7, 4.52 ERA)
Bill Conway (6-4, 3.02 ERA) vs. Fernando Cruz (5-5, 4.29 ERA)

Cruz will be a left-hander, right before our off day on Thursday. We get the Aces on the other side of that, and they currently don’t have a left-handed starter anyway, so Ayers and Howell in particular can be sure of a start on Wednesday.

Daniel Sharp was currently on a rehab assignment and we weren’t sure whether we’d see him.

Game 1
MIL: RF Locke – 2B K. Scott – 1B Catalo – CF Davenport – 3B Cuevas – LF J.R. Richardson – C Lemberger – SS Ito – P Caro
POR: 3B Merritt – 1B Quebell – LF Pruitt – RF Morales – CF Seeley – 2B Nomura – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P McDonald

That raging offense the Raccoons had displayed on the weekend clearly had been a Titans thing. They were back to their pre-Titans shoddy self by the time the Loggers showed up, and for three innings, nothing remarkable at all happened, before things got worse than just merely dull in the fourth, when Gabriel Caro struck Jose Morales in the hand, and the slugger had to leave the game, replaced by Keith Ayers. The Coons didn’t score in the inning, of course, and the score remained non-existent.

The Loggers weren’t any better. When McDonald pitched too far in to Philip Locke in the top 6th and thus put the leadoff man on base, they couldn’t get him past second base, either, and that was with a Keith Scott bunt involved. While McDonald was still pitching a 2-hitter, he started to lose his command by the seventh inning. As his pitch count crossed 80, he ran two 3-ball counts to Fernando Cuevas and J.R. Richardson, who both popped out, but then allowed clean singles to Tommy Lemberger and Suketsune Ito before getting pulled. Pat Slayton retired Caro with a grounder to short. Nothing would come of Yoshi Nomura’s 2-out double in the bottom 7th – the Critters’ first hit since the first inning – either. Top 8th, Slayton allowed a leadoff triple to Locke, then struck out Scott, got a poor grounder from Leborio Catalo that kept the runner pinned down, but then walked Willie Davenport, and with lefties coming up, Ron Thrasher was asked to resolve a 2 on, 2 out situation in our favor, but allowed a single to Cuevas on the first pitch he threw, and that was that. 1-0 Loggers. Morales 1-1; McDonald 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K;

Four hits. They had four hits. They only struck out five times. They mad SIXTEEN groundball outs. Caro’s best this season so far were TEN groundball outs.

There is just no point, but with the contracts involved, a rebuild might involve some generous use of rodenticide.

Jose Morales had incurred no actual structural damage but his thumb was still swollen to twice the normal size. He couldn’t open a battle of water or tie his shoes on Monday night or Tuesday morning, and gripping a bat was about impossible. Here was to hoping that he was only DTD for the rest of this series, and not still incapacitated on the weekend.

Game 2
MIL: 2B K. Scott – 1B Catalo – LF Davenport – RF Locke – SS Ito – C R. Hernandez – CF Covington – 3B Cuevas – P R. Thomas
POR: 1B Quebell – 2B Nomura – CF Seeley – LF Pruitt – 3B Merritt – RF Taylor – SS Palmer – C McNeela – P Baldwin

To say that Roy Thomas was wild would have been a wild understatement. He issued six free passes in the first three innings (while Baldwin struck out five and walked only one), and was booked for three runs, with Jason Seeley manufacturing offense in this game. He reached base in both of his at-bats in the first and third innings, stole second both times, and scored on a Pruitt double and Merritt triple, respectively. Merritt came in on a sac fly after that. Yoshi was already on first with one out when Seeley came to bat in the bottom 4th, and now doubled up the leftfield line. Both runners would score in the inning, Pruitt bringing in Yoshi with a groundout, and Merritt hit his second triple of the night to run the score to 5-0. While Thomas’ outing didn’t extend past the inning, Baldwin had struck out eight before he started to run long counts, including a number of full counts, and his pitch count shot up, reaching 95 through six. And Seeley got cocky by the bottom of the sixth. Yoshi had originally singled, but was forced on Seeley’s grounder to second. Seeley remained on first, then took off again and Raúl Hernandez’ throw went into center, tailing away from the shortstop Suketsune Ito. Seeley made it to third base with three sacks taken in the game, scored on a Pruitt single, and Pruitt would also come in when Logan Taylor decided to swing after drawing three walks so far, and hit an RBI single, 7-0. Baldwin managed to pitch seven shutout innings, but after that his pitch count was at 111, and he was hit for in the bottom 7th. Gibson and Beltran ended the game without allowing something meaningful to the Loggers. 7-0 Raccoons. Nomura 3-5; Seeley 2-4, BB, 2B; Pruitt 2-4, BB, 2B, 3 RBI; Merritt 2-4, BB, 2 3B, RBI; Taylor 1-2, 3 BB, RBI; Baldwin 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 K, W (7-5); Gibson 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K;

I do like Jason Seeley more and more, a bit more every day. His day with three sacks taken ties the franchise mark that was last achieved by Tomas Castro in 2007.

Game 3
MIL: CF J.R. Richardson – C R. Hernandez – 1B Catalo – LF Davenport – 2B K. Scott – SS Ito – RF Alires – 3B T. Rodgers – P F. Cruz
POR: 3B Merritt – 2B Palmer – LF Pruitt – RF Ayers – CF Seeley – 1B Quebell – C Bowen – SS Howell – P Conway

A grand slam off the bat of soft-hitting Keith Scott in the first inning put Bill Conway in a man-deep hole right away, and not enough that the Raccoons weren’t hitting anything, no, Conway also had to actively ruin their efforts with a pathetic bunt that killed the third inning in getting Howell forced out at second base, with Merritt hitting into a double play afterwards. With a good bunt, Palmer would have come to bat with Howell on second and two outs at least. But through four, the Raccoons amounted to two meager hits, and Conway was knocked out by – fittingly – Scott in the fifth with a 2-out double. The Raccoons were never even remotely close to a comeback from the early whammy, and once Luis Beltran got his paws on a ball, things went REALLY downhill. While the two runs he coughed up in the seventh were technically unearned after a Keith Ayers error, he was also guilty of two singles, a walk, a hit batter, and a wild pitch all in the same inning. Cruz went eight and a third before his pitch count shot over 120 and the Loggers moved on to Bob Evans, who allowed a single to Quebell and a homer to Bowen, but it was well too late for a comeback now. 6-2 Loggers. Quebell 2-4, 2B; Bowen 2-4, HR, 2 RBI;

… and so it came the Raccoons nursed a losing record against a horrendously broken team. Good job, Coons.

Seeley was 0-4 in this one. That kid ain’t got nothin’!

Raccoons (40-33) @ Aces (42-29) – June 24-26, 2011

The Aces had gone from constant shambles (11 seasons with 90+ losses in 12 years from 1998 to 2009) to being contenders for the first time since ’96, when they met a sour end to their only postseason appearance at the hands of the Raccoons in the CLCS. They were currently 3 1/2 games behind the Thunder. But were they true or were they impostors? Their offense was the best in the league, but their pitching was hollow and had an icky smell to it, with the second-most runs allowed in the league. The rotation was the worst in the CL with a 4.87 ERA, but most of the damage had been done early in the season, especially in May, but they had allowed more than five runs only twice in their last 13 games, and never more than seven. Those were the same numbers as for the Raccoons, but when the Coons weren’t happening to play the Titans, their offense scored more than a run less per game in the same time frame.

Projected matchups:
Nick Brown (7-3, 3.30 ERA) vs. Jaquan Wagoner (3-7, 4.86 ERA)
Jong-hoo Umberger (6-3, 2.41 ERA) vs. Nehemiah Jones (4-6, 5.33 ERA)
Colin Baldwin (7-5, 2.75 ERA) vs. Ian Rutter (1-4, 5.83 ERA)

It’s hard to make out a “best guy” in their rotation, but I think we’ll miss Juan Valdevez (4.19 ERA) and that will be good enough. As I said, their entire rotation is right-handed.

The news on Morales on Friday morning were that he was swinging in the cage, but didn’t feel 100% and would not be in the lineup on Friday at least.

Game 1
POR: 1B Quebell – 2B Nomura – CF Seeley – LF Pruitt – 3B Merritt – RF Taylor – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Brown
LVA: LF Sambrano – 2B H. Jones – 3B F. Soto – RF Bednarski – C Durango – 1B McDermott – CF Melendez – SS Avila – P Wagoner

The Raccoons had a Nomura single and walks to Seeley and Merritt in the first and wouldn’t score once Logan Taylor struck out. That gave the ball to Brown, who hadn’t been good, and sometimes not even decent, in over a month, walked Sandy Sambrano to start his day, Francisco Soto singled, but Mike Bednarski, who led the Aces in homers with 11, hit hard into a double play. Ricky Avila was hit in the third, Logan Taylor was drilled in the fourth, but there was most likely no intention involved, only ineptness. Neither “incident” led to a run, and so it was on Soto to open scoring with a solo homer in the bottom 4th. Brown was no good at all, ran full counts galore, and the pitch count was almost at 80 after five innings. Would he get an out in the seventh for the first time in over a month? Didn’t seem so…

Before we could get an answer to that, Brown left Logan Taylor on third base with a groundout to Soto in the top 6th. There was the idea of hitting for him there, with his apparent refusal to go further than six anyway, but a) our bench was not confidence-boosting either, and b) we were starting a string of 17 straight games without an off day here, and this one could well run long (although confidence said no) and you weren’t inclined to get four or more from your pen if not absolutely necessary. But in turn, the Raccoons continued to not score real hard and worked on their second 1-0 loss of the week. Top 7th then, Quebell with a line to right and a leadoff double. GODDAMNIT, SCORE HIM!!! Nomura struck out, Seeley grounded out to first (moving Quebell to third), and Pruitt’s line to right was hanging up for a long time, but Bednarski still didn’t get it, and the single tied the game at one. No shutout today. Good. Every little **** is progress. When Merritt walked, the Aces pulled Wagoner, brought lefty Jorge Cortez, and the Coons responded by sending Keith Ayers to bat for Logan Taylor, but Ayers grounded to short and was out at first.

Then came Brown, starting the bottom 7th on 90 pitches and faced Octavo Melendez, a left-hander, who lined hard to left on the first pitch of the frame, and Pruitt came along sliding and - … well, did he catch it!? The umps ruled it a catch! Brownie had an out in the seventh, hooray!! He ran three more full counts in the inning, allowing a single to Josh Downing before striking out Sandy Sambrano to leave on his own terms. Then he was even handed a posthumous lead: Craig Bowen hit a 1-out double to left in the top 8th, and Howell singled when he batted for Brownie. Quebell grounded up the middle, potentially a double play, but it was JUST a bit too fast for the infielders and escaped into center for an RBI single, giving the Coons a 2-1 upside. That was all the team got, though, including the ninth. Thrasher got one out in the eighth, Huerta got two, and when Angel Casas came out in the bottom 9th he faced the 5-6-7 guys, all lefties, and he blew the lead in a real hurry and in the most stupid fashion. First he walked Durango to start the inning. When Sean McDermott laid down a bunt, Casas insisted on getting the lead runner, and got nobody. Melendez laid down another bunt, moving the runners to scoring position, and Ricky Avila tied the game with a sac fly. Downing struck out. Like I said, this game was likely to run long. It didn’t run too long, however. While the Raccoons couldn’t do anything in two innings with Greg Sampson, a right-handed reliever that walked more than he struck out, Sean McDermott walked off the Aces in the 11th, beating Pat Slayton. 3-2 Aces. Quebell 2-4, 2 BB, 2B, RBI; Howell (PH) 1-1; Brown 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K;

Throw Angel Casas onto the pile of broken toys. He has not saved any of his last three opportunities, blew two of those, and was dug out by Thrasher once.

That’s a huge pile of hugely expensive broken toys we have…

Game 2
POR: 1B Quebell – 2B Nomura – LF Pruitt – RF Morales – 3B Merritt – CF Seeley – SS Palmer – C Bowen – P Umberger
LVA: 1B McDermott – CF Melendez – 3B F. Soto – RF Bednarski – C Durango – 2B H. Jones – LF Hill – SS Avila – P N. Jones

The Blighters outdid their stale Friday output in the first inning on Saturday when the 2-3-4 hitters all reached base and then they kept wiggling just enough for the Aces to not get three outs. Merritt plated Yoshi with a fly to deep right that Bednarski caught, but even Yoshi was able to score at a ball that deep. Seeley then singled in a 3-2 count, plating Pruitt and advancing Morales to third, from where he came home on Michael Palmer’s single. That this was not a secure 3-0 lead was bluntly apparent quite early, with Nomura and Merritt both committing errors in the bottom of the first, although the Aces didn’t rightfully exploit that opening. They would in the second, though. While Umberger hit a leadoff double in the top 2nd that was completely ignored by the rest of the team, the Aces romped Umberger for four hits and two runs (including an RBI single with two out by Nehemiah Jones…) in the bottom of the frame, and continued to whack him in the third, in which they tied the game when Ricky Avila hit a grounder to Merritt with the bases loaded and one out, but the only play was at first base. Jones then popped out instead of homering…

Three-all through three became 4-3 Coons again in the top 4th. Palmer homered, but Umberger was in yet more trouble in the bottom of the inning. With two outs, Soto and Bednarski both singled, and Eduardo Durango hit a shot to deep center where Jason Seeley had to drop his third breakfast to make a dash for it – and even got it. Seeley was still mad. By the time he came back, Pruitt had run off with his lunch box. Seeley batted with two out and two on in the top 5th, was still angry, and gave a ball a ride to right … but didn’t get it out of there, with Bednarski picking it off the wall. Howard Jones’ leadoff triple in the bottom of the inning led to a tied game all too soon against Umberger, who allowed nine hits through five, and struck out NONE.

In the sixth, Palmer hit a leadoff double, didn’t score. The Aces also got a leadoff hit by McDermott, and the Coons just barely kept him stalled at third base when Merritt made a strong play on Bednarski with two outs. Somehow Umberger would hold out through seven despite allowing ten hits in a 4-4 game, but wasn’t rewarded with a win. The Coons drew two walks in the eighth, but couldn’t buy a RISP hit in any situation. Ward worked a clean bottom 8th before Yoshi led off the top 9th with a walk on four pitches against Dave Hughes, a right-hander. No time for bunts here! So Pruitt lined out to left on the first pitch, but Morales singled and once Merritt’s horrible 2-2 bloop ditched into shallow left, the bases were loaded for the rookie that was alternating rapidly between great days and dead days, and now came to the plate with a 1-for-4 tally on the day. Hughes thought he lacked a strikeout on his card, so gave it to him, but then lost a 7-pitch battle with Palmer, who shoved in the go-ahead run with a walk. Bowen struck out, which was just what he was always doing. Angel Casas thus got another 1-run lead to fudge with, and allowed a leadoff single to Melendez, but the Aces wouldn’t sink him this time. Soto struck out, and Bednarski’s hard grounder was turned for two by Yoshi. 5-4 Coons. Morales 3-5; Palmer 3-3, 2 BB, HR, 2B, 3 RBI;

Like gum. That one was like gum. It took like six hours. It felt like twelve.

Game 3
POR: 1B Quebell – 2B Nomura – CF Seeley – LF Morales – SS Palmer – RF Taylor – C Bowen – 3B M. Gutierrez – P Baldwin
LVA: 2B Downing – CF H. Jones – 3B F. Soto – RF Bednarski – SS Dahlke – C Durango – LF Richards – 1B Melendez – P Rutter

With nobody on base, Craig Bowen could miraculously homer, hitting a jack in the second inning that gave Baldwin, who didn’t allow a hit the first time through the order, a 1-0 lead. The Coons had Palmer and Taylor on the corners with one out and Bowen batting in the fourth. Bowen didn’t even get to striking out, being smacked by Ian Rutter before that, loading them up. From here, Gutierrez and Baldwin would both hit lines to the right side, and Josh Downing would spoil both of them, forcing the Raccoons to strand a full complement of runners. The Aces didn’t wait around much longer, Jones and Soto opened the fourth inning with hits, and they also had the bases loaded with one out. At that point, Eduardo Durango worked a walk in a full count, tying the game, and Ron Richards brought in the go-ahead run on a groundout. Because not all teams go perpetually 0-for-infinity in RISP situations.

The top of the fifth started with Rutter walking Quebell. Nomura bounced back to the mound, Rutter tried to get the lead runner, but threw wildly past Downing, and the Coons had two on with nobody out, extending that to bases loaded with nobody out when Seeley singled to right. The excitement was certainly building up to dizzying heights. How would they bow out of this one!? Morales’ bouncer to first on which Melendez came in and unloaded to the catcher, who easily forced out Quebell, was certainly a good start, but the bases remained loaded, and when Palmer hit a bloop to shallow center, nobody was able to make any play on that, and the score flipped to 3-2 when Seeley dashed home from second. That was not all, as Taylor and Bowen also brought in single runs with a single (Taylor) and a groundout (Bowen), giving Baldwin a 5-2 lead, and Baldwin responded with a shutdown inning.

Morales opened the seventh with a double over new pitcher Spindler, with Rutter gone after six innings in which he whiffed seven but walked five. Spindler immediately punched a ball through Palmer, and then Logan Taylor doubled to left. Morales scored, Palmer held, first base was open and the Aces … you won’t believe it, but the Aces walked Craig Bowen (.195!) INTENTIONALLY to load the bags with nobody out in a 6-2 game. It didn’t work out too well for them. Gutierrez singled to left, plating the seventh run for the Coons, and Baldwin even hit a sac fly to Bednarski, 8-2. Jorge Cortez came in to contain some damage, but the Coons got another sac fly from Yoshi (after Quebell had walked to reload the dishes) to get their second 4-spot in the inning.

At 9-2, the game wasn’t quite over yet. Baldwin was removed after a 2-out walk to McDermott in the bottom 7th. The useless Slayton appeared, allowed three hard line drives for three hard hits, and was replaced with Huerta, who struck out Bednarski, before it could get REALLY bad, but the Aces pulled two runs back, and got another run off the equally useless Beltran in the eighth, who inherited only two outs to get and three left-handed batters to come up from Huerta, but walked Durango and gave up an RBI double to Ron Richards in a hurry. And the bleeding had yet to stop. Gibson started the bottom 9th. Downing fouled out, but Jones doubled to right. Out with Gibson, in which Thrasher, against whom Soto singled, putting runners on the corners, before Bednarski popped out to Yoshi. Tom Dahlke was next, batting squid after being locked away in AAA the entire year until making his season debut here. He went down swinging. 9-5 Furballs. Palmer 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Taylor 3-5, 2B, 2 RBI;

In other news

June 21 – Vancouver’s SP Rod Taylor (11-3, 2.16 ERA) aces his way past the Indians, holding them to a single hit in a complete game shutout. Jose Paraz’ single in the fourth inning is everything between Taylor and the no-hitter logs.
June 24 – TOP LF/RF Apasyu Britton (.354, 3 HR, 28 RBI) has nursed a 20-game hitting streak.
June 25 – Atlanta’s SP Domingo Cruz (4-1, 2.57 ERA) spins a 3-hit shutout against the Indians, beating them 6-0.

Complaints and stuff

Thursday was our last off day before the All Star break. We’ll play 14 more games ‘til then. Our four-and-four partners will be the Elks once again. Our dear friends, the Elks. I hate those chumps. By the way, McDonald won’t be skipped, as the schedule does not allow for it. But I switched his position with Baldwin’s, which I found appropriate.

The Sandy Sambrano strikeout was Brown’s 100th for the season.

The last two paragraphs might seem contradictory with our position in the calendar and such, but, yes, it is so, and I am sulking over Brown’s demise.

For ONE day, Jose Morales qualified for and led the batting title race. Then Gabriel Caro struck him in the paw, and now it will take a few days again for him to gobble up enough plate appearances.

It also took FIVE days for our first draft pick to end his season. Ninth-rounder Nick Lester had two outings for a 9.00 ERA, and now is out for the year with a herniated disc.
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Portland Raccoons, 55 years of excell-.... of baseball: Furballs here!
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: 2 POWELL : 8 REECE : 10 BROWN : 15 HALL : 28 CASAS : 32 WEST : 46 SAITO

Resident Mets Cynic



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