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Old 09-13-2017, 12:56 PM   #2361
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Raccoons (80-68) @ Condors (66-82) September 21-23, 2020

Although this was a series over three days, there would be four games, thanks to us starting off with a double-header, with the Raccoons officially serving as the home team in the series opener, which was a makeup for a rainout in Portland earlier in the season. The Condors had scored the fewest runs in the Continental League in 2020, and their pitching had been mediocre at best. The bullpen was quite good, but the rotation contained a whole lot of indifferent shrugs when it came to the scouting reports by the Riddler. Few things rhymed with ‘hopelessness’. The Coons held a 4-1 edge in the season series.

Projected matchups:
Ryan Nielson (0-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. Jose Menendez (7-9, 3.56 ERA)
Adam Cowen (0-2, 4.15 ERA) vs. Andrew Gudeman (9-13, 3.64 ERA)
Bobby Guerrero (9-9, 4.32 ERA) vs. John Schneider (9-2, 3.55 ERA)
Travis Garrett (2-10, 5.00 ERA) vs. Kyle Eilrich (1-5, 3.14 ERA)

Speaking of bad rotations… Anyway, the Condors would probably send only one left-hander against us on Wednesday. Compare the ridiculous luck differences between Gudeman and Eilrich on one hand, and Schneider on the other.

Cowen makes the spot start because I really don’t want to see Damani Knight ever again.

Game 1
TIJ: 1B T. Ramos – CF Boggs – 2B Berntson – LF Eichelkraut – SS Read – C Gonzales – 3B Rojas – RF Abraham – P Menendez
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – SS McKnight – 1B Mendoza – C Margolis – 3B Nunley – RF Graves – CF Metts – P Nielson

Both teams only had a walk and a single the first time through the order, but the scoreboard would light up before the end of the third inning. Yoshi Nomura hit a rare home run, a 2-out solo job to left, in the bottom of the third inning. The Critters added singles by McKnight and Mendoza, but Robby Boggs spoiled Margolis’ drive to left center, ending the inning. Nielson would find himself trailing before he got another out, walking Jon Berntson at the start of the fourth inning before giving a meatball to Jimmy Oatmeal, and you could write many bad things about him as a hitter, but he wouldn’t miss the obvious ones. Coming in batting just .239 but with 21 dingers, he hit his 22nd and flipped the score in the Condors’ favor, 2-1. The Condors also got their leadoff man on base in the fifth, when Craig Abraham singled to left, but a bunt, a grounder to first, and Boggs’ flyout to Dwayne Metts in center ended the inning. The bottom of the fifth saw a pitcher in trouble; after Cookie Carmona grounded out, Menendez loaded the bases purely on walks, bringing up Margolis with three on and one out. Margolis would hit a liner to left – and in a twist of rotten luck for the Coons Howard Read would leap and catch it. McKnight dove back into second base in time, preventing a double play, but there were two outs for Nunley, who fell 1-2 behind before hitting a slow roller in the middle of the infield. Menendez missed it as it went by the mound, Berntson had to hustle in and couldn’t make the play – infield single, tied ballgame! Not for long, as Graves singled to right, 3-2, before Metts struck out to strand a full set.

That lead also didn’t make it. Mathis retired Berntson on a groundout to start the sixth before allowing a single to Jimmy Oatmeal, walking Read, and allowing two more singles to Alfonso Gonzales and Adrian Rojas. He departed in a 3-3 game with the bases loaded and one out. Chris Mathis came in and oversaw Abraham popping up the first pitch for the second out, before the Condors sent Menendez to bat, with him flying out leisurely to Metts in shallow center. The response was swift this time: Cookie and McKnight hit singles in the bottom of the inning, and with two outs Hugo Mendoza absolutely hit the socks off a fastball in the middle of the plate, brushing it well out of right centerfield for a 3-run homer, 6-3.

On to the eighth, where Nick Lester walked Read before getting two outs. Boynton replaced him but allowed a single to center to Abraham. Read made for third, with Metts firing a rocket in that direction. Nunley swiped Read with the tag as he was getting knocked over and hit his shoulder right on the edge of third base. While not made out of concrete, that base still hurt Nunley enough that he had to leave the game with a bum shoulder, Petracek replacing him. It was hardly consolation that Read was ruled out on the play, ending the inning. Even less consolation was the Raccoons stranding a pair in the bottom 8th, while Boynton continued to suck in the ninth, issuing a leadoff walk to Raúl Hernandez, an RBI double to Tony Ramos, a walk to Danny Munn, and then an infield single to Oatmeal. That loaded the bases with the go-ahead run on first, and only one out. Ron Thrasher came out after all, had Read at 2-2, and then lost him to a single past Mendoza that scored two and blew the game. Two groundouts to Petracek ended the inning, but the price was terrible as usual with this team. Graves was hit by a Mike Peterson pitch and Ezequiel Olivares hit a single in the bottom 9th, but it was not enough to push a run across, sending the game to extras in the first game of a ****ING DOUBLE-HEADER. The Coons used only one more pitcher in the end, Blake Kelly going two innings before being lit up by a pair of 420-footers by Jimmy Oatmeal (…) and Zach Rawlings in the 11th. Coons had nothing. 9-6 Condors. Nomura 2-4, 2 BB, HR, RBI; McKnight 3-5, BB; Mendoza 3-4, 2 BB, HR, 3 RBI; Graves 2-4, BB, RBI; Olivares (PH) 1-1;

Game 2
POR: CF Bareford – SS McKnight – RF Jackson – 1B Mendoza – LF DeWeese – 2B Prince – 3B Petracek – C Prieto – P Cowen
TIJ: 2B Berntson – SS Read – LF Eichelkraut – RF Munn – 1B T. Ramos – CF Jamieson – C Gonzales – 3B D. Stephenson – P Gudeman

Cowen’s first career start above the single-A level saw him hand the lead to the Condors in the second inning with a wild pitch that scored Danny Munn, who had doubled leading off, from third base. The Raccoons had their chances early on despite a flayed lineup. Prieto flew out to Munn in right with runners on the corners to end the second, and the fourth inning saw Gudeman issue walks to Jackson and DeWeese, but with one out the Coons couldn’t get more than a groundout from Tim Prince and a strikeout from Petracek, who was replacing the ailing Nunley. The 1-0 deficit stood up through five innings, during the teams combined for as many hits, but the Coons got Mendoza on base in the sixth inning with a single, followed by DeWeese getting all of a 2-1 pitch from Gudeman and whacking it the distance to right center. That one mirrored Oatmeal’s first homer in the first game, in that a low-average, high-power leftfielder nobody liked to pay for flipped the score with a 2-piece, with the Raccoons now up 2-1.

The Raccoons had been forced to empty most of their bullpen in the early game, and mostly only had Matt Schroeder for length. Kaiser and Davis were available to cobble a save together, if luck would have it that Cowen could somehow wiggle out of the game with a lead, and in a blessing he actually held the Condors remarkably short. They only got four base hits off him through seven innings, and it would have been wonderful for the Raccoons to maybe tack a run onto their lead, or two, maybe? The Coons had two on in the eighth inning; McKnight had walked, advanced on Jackson’s groundout, and the Condors ordered Gudeman to walk Mendoza intentionally before giving way to left-hander Tim Dunkin. DeWeese was OF COURSE batted for. Margolis grabbed a stick and hit a 3-1 pitch hard to short, where Read had no troubles starting a double play. Gee, that was so much better than another strikeout from the big ***hole in leftfield. Cowen stuck in the game long enough to allow a leadoff single to Craig Abraham in the bottom 8th. Berntson bunted him to second, after which we sent for Jason Kaiser, with the next five batters all left-handed *except* for Jimmy Oatmeal. The plan was to get Read out, walk Oatmeal intentionally, and then get Munn. Of course the Condors weren’t from yesterday, with Robby Boggs hitting for Read and drawing a 4-pitch walk. Well, it was Kaiser now, or go for broke. And now he had to pitch to Oatmeal, who popped out on the first pitch, and Kaiser retired pinch-hitter Omar Saenz, too, to end the inning. Although the Coons opened the ninth with a Prince walk and an infield single by Petracek, they never reached third base, Dunkin striking out Prieto and Metts (who had entered in a double switch with Kaiser, replacing Eddie Jackson) before Bareford grounded out to second. The bottom 9th saw Raúl Hernandez pinch-hitting for Tony Ramos, which promoted a move to Joel Davis to nail this one down. He struck out Hernandez, while PH Justin Jessie and Alfonso Gonzales both flew out to left. 2-1 Coons. Mendoza 1-2, 2 BB; DeWeese 1-2, BB, HR, 2 RBI; Cowen 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, W (1-2);

Unfortunately splitting the double header on the Loggers’ off day wasn’t enough. Even more unfortunately it looks like Matt Nunley’s shoulder needs at least two weeks of rest, which means his season is over. I would say that he’s available in the CLCS, but … what CLCS is he going to play in …?

A team with a future would turn to the prospect pool once more, but there wasn’t really anybody in AAA that we could call back from vacation, with one exception, but I think it was too early for him. More below.

Game 3
POR: RF Carmona – 2B Nomura – SS McKnight – 1B Mendoza – C Margolis – CF Metts – LF DeWeese – 3B Petracek – P Guerrero
TIJ: 2B Berntson – SS Read – LF Eichelkraut – RF Munn – C R. Hernandez – 1B T. Ramos – CF Jamieson – 3B D. Stephenson – P Schneider

While Guerrero always seemed to have a man on, but didn’t allow any runs through three, Danny Margolis raching on Berntson’s throwing error was the only instance the Raccoons managed to get a runner on base the first time through their order. That changed in the fourth inning, when Yoshi led off with a single to left, and a walk drawn by McKnight and a single by Mendoza loaded the bases for Margolis with nobody out. Margolis was promptly fooled by Schneider three times, and then Metts grounded up the middle, Read to Berntson – but Metts legged out the throw to first, breaking up the double play and allowing Yoshi to hustle home with the first run of the game. DeWeese added a second run with a looping single to shallow left, but Petracek popped out to Devon Stephenson to leave two men on. Guerrero allowed a leadoff single to Munn in the bottom 4th to continue to pitch in distress; Munn reached third base in the inning, but good plays by Mendoza and DeWeese kept the Condors shut out.

Mendoza would improve the Coons’ standing in the fifth inning. Finding Yoshi (walk) and McKnight (single) on base, he knocked his second 3-piece in as many days to up the ante to 5-0. That didn’t keep Guerrero from issuing a leadoff walk to Devon Stephenson in the bottom of the inning. This time, the runner came around (finally?) for the Condors, with Howard Read’s 2-out single to left center cashing him in. Jimmy Oatmeal struck out, and Guerrero was up 5-1 after five, which was reduced to 5-2 by the time the sixth was over. Raúl Hernandez had singled, and after repeated, desperate attempts by Guerrero to pick off a slow runner, Matt Jamieson hit a triple into the rightfield corner to plate Hernandez. Stephenson grounded out to Petracek, sparing Guerrero more indignation. That wasn’t the last RBI triple that Guerrero allowed in the game; Berntson would hit one with nobody out in the seventh after Guerrero had walked Justin Jessie at the start of the frame. Kaiser replaced Guerrero after that, with the tying run suddenly at the plate. Kaiser surrendered the run on a sac fly that DeWeese caught and was immediately replaced by Chun, who oversaw the final straw in demolishing a perfectly good 5-0 lead, allowing a single to Jimmy Oatmeal, walking Munn, and then allowing a game-tying RBI double to Hernandez. The Condors would have taken the lead, having sent Munn, if not for DeWeese’s murder throw home that allowed Munn to be tagged out by Margolis. Hernandez went to third on the throw, where he was stranded when Nick Lester struck out Omar Saenz, but not before Chun had also walked Tony Ramos.

So the game began anew in the eighth, tied at five now. Margolis opened the eighth with a single to center off Tim Dunkin. Bareford ran for him, while Olivares batted for Metts, but flew out to right. Bareford stole second before DeWeese – this time not hit for, and it was still the wrong move – struck out. That left Petracek with two out, and in an unexpected twist, Petracek crushed a 1-2 pitch for a drive to deep left and outta here, breaking the tie with his first homer of the season. Prince grounded out in Lester’s spot, and the bottom 8th saw Mathis give one run of the 7-5 lead away on doubles by Rawlings and Read, 7-6, before Petracek contained a quick bouncer from Oatmeal that could have tied the score if it had escaped the infield. On to the ninth, which was Thrasher’s. Munn would have led off, but the Condors sent right-hander Alfonso Gonzales to pinch-hit. He took a 2-0 pitch and belted it, no doubt off the bat, outta here. Tied ballgame. Thrasher walked Hernandez before facing another right-handed pinch-hitter and falling behind 3-0 to Robby Boggs. Boggs still tried to bunt in vain until the count ran full, then was asked to swing. Swinging he did, hitting a mistake for 422 feet to walk off the Condors. 9-7 Condors. Nomura 2-4, BB; Mendoza 2-5, HR, 3 RBI; DeWeese 2-4, RBI;

The pain I feel is hard to describe with words.

The Loggers beat the Bayhawks, 8-7, putting the Coons five games out, with the Titans, who had started their week with two wins, squarely in the middle. With only 11 to play, the Raccoons were more than likely dead. The only thing they had still going for them was playing the Loggers on the final weekend of the season, but they would have to get two games back before that, and right now didn’t look like a team that could beat the school team of Willamette Institute for the Limbless and the Blind.

Game 4
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Jackson – 1B Mendoza – CF Bareford – C Olivares – SS Prince – 3B Petracek – P Garrett
TIJ: 2B Berntson – SS Read – LF Eichelkraut – RF Munn – C R. Hernandez – 1B T. Ramos – CF Jamieson – 3B Abraham – P Eilrich

Cookie singled, stole, and scored in the first, coming home on a 2-out single by Mendoza to send the Coons up 1-0 in support of “Autoloss” Garrett, who held on for two innings despite a 1-out single by Read in the first, and a 1-out walk to Ramos in the second. The third saw the Coons load the bags with nobody out, Yoshi and Mendoza singling around a Jackson walk to bring up Bareford in a prime spot. Eilrich wouldn’t get anybody out before the Coons went through the order, and it was mostly his fault. Abraham was perhaps to blame for missing a Bareford grounder for an RBI single, but Eilrich walked the next three and hit *Garrett* all with the bases loaded to push in five runs before Cookie grounded to Berntson, who got Garrett at second, but no more, with six runs across in the inning now. Yoshi struck out, but Jackson got another RBI single to fall to get the score to 8-0, which knocked out Eilrich. Starter-turned-shoddy-reliever Bruce Morrison, a former Raccoon, got Mendoza to fly out to center. With that, all eyes were on Garrett. The Coons added a run in the fourth, which was as long as he held up nicely, but the Condors exploded over him for four hits and two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Ramos led off with a single, before Jamieson hit into a double play. 2-out singles by Abraham and Morrison (…!) were followed by Berntson’s 2-run double to center before Read’s drive to right ended up with Jackson. Was it temporary or was it terminal? Garrett went on to complete seven with no further accidents and started the eighth on 95 pitches, facing the top of the order. In a 9-2 game, you can risk one or two. Garrett retired the 1-2-3 batters in that order striking out Berntson and Jimmy Oatmeal. He also started the ninth; strikeout to Munn, his tenth in the game! Hernandez bounced out to Prince at short. And Ramos struck out as well! What a win for “Autoloss” Garrett! 9-2 Coons! Mendoza 2-5, RBI; Bareford 2-5, RBI; Prince 2-4, BB, RBI; Garrett 9.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, W (3-10);

I sure hope that this was an indication of the future Travis Garrett. Kid’s got stuff. And stuff to figure out.

Raccoons (82-70) @ Titans (85-68) September 25-27, 2020

There was not really a scenario in which the Raccoons could take two of three and be fine with that. Nope, their road to the playoffs, if to be walked in earnest, had them travel via Sweep Titans and Sweep Loggers. No other solutions would work out. And yeah, don’t lose three to the Indians in between. But for now, we had a three-game set in Boston on the plate and had to take this bit by bit. The Coons were 8-7 against the Titans on the year, and they would get their two remaining strong pitchers into this series, so it could be a lot worse. The Titans had the lowest batting average in the league, but had scored only the fourth-fewest runs. They were however pitching extremely well with the best rotation by ERA and the fewest runs conceded, and strong pitching was always something to have in the playoffs. They were still trailing the Loggers by two games, with the Raccoons another 2 1/2 behind.

Projected matchups:
Jonathan Toner (19-7, 2.51 ERA) vs. Chris Klein (12-9, 2.75 ERA)
Tadasu Abe (11-9, 3.39 ERA) vs. Ozzie Pereira (16-9, 3.16 ERA)
Ryan Nielson (0-0, 4.61 ERA) vs. Jose Fuentes (11-9, 3.02 ERA)

We made a very subtle pitching change in the rotation, moving Toner ahead of Abe. If push comes to shove, this will allow Toner to pitch the season finale on short rest against the Loggers rather than Travis Garrett. I would hate entrusting my fate to Garrett. This is only a solution if it is still a race then. If the Coons are eliminated by then, Garrett can pitch the finale.

The Titans will send three right-handers into this series. Rick Ling was back in the rotation for them after missing a few games on the DL, but had pitched on Wednesday, and no other southpaws were on the horizon for them. Right now on the DL for them was Chris Almanza, so there was some of the pop missing from the lineup.

The statheads gave the Raccoons less than 1% chances of making the playoffs on Friday morning. Come on, boys! I’ve mixed up my share of A-level math students with their broad-rimmed spectacles and outrageously correct pronunciation in my time in the 60s – now it’s your turn! Go for it!

Game 1
POR: RF Carmona – 2B Nomura – SS McKnight – 1B Mendoza – C Margolis – LF DeWeese – CF Bareford – 3B Petracek – P Toner
BOS: LF Mata – 3B H. Jones – CF Reichardt – 1B J. Duran – 2B Downing – RF Cornejo – C McPherson – SS Kane – P Klein

No Critter reached the first time through the order, while Toner ran four full counts in the first three innings and had his pitch count exploding northwards right from the start. Granted, the Titans didn’t get anything meaningful done either in the first three innings, but at least worked Toner for a single by Alex Mata in the third, and a walk each in the first two innings. Cookie was the first Coon aboard, drawing a leadoff walk in the fourth, but the Raccoons were quickly turned away by Klein, who struck out Yoshi Nomura for his 200th strikeout of the season, and McKnight hit into a double play to Josh Downing. Bottom 4th, Adrian Reichardt reached when DeWeese dropped his line drive for an error, but Margolis would pounce on Jose Duran’s poor grounder and started a 2-6-3 double play. The Coons walked twice more in the fifth, but also hit a few poor grounders, and didn’t get a base hit until Cookie dropped a bloop into shallow left with one out in the sixth inning. He was then caught stealing, one pitch before Yoshi Nomura homered to left, the first tally in the game.

After McKnight flew out, Toner gave up a leadoff single to Klein to start the bottom of the sixth. A quick bouncer to left, nobody had a chance on that, although the defense cucked it up mightily on Mata’s slow grounder that followed, with Yoshi and McKnight getting in each other’s way and everybody was safe. Two on, no outs, and Toner approaching 90 pitches, I was not really seeing any light at the end of that tunnel, although the double play that Petracek started on Howard Jones’ bouncer to third certainly helped to lighten the mood. Adrian Reichardt struck out, Toner’s eighth whiff in the game, and the Raccoons held on to their 1-0 lead. They did that in every way imaginable, not getting on in the seventh, which was Toner’s last inning. Jose Duran hit a leadoff single, Gil Cornejo also singled, but Toner struck out Eric McPherson and Mike Kane to keep the Titans down, whiffing ten in seven innings of 1-0 ball. Kaiser retired two and Joel Davis struck out Jones to do away with the eighth, but the heart of the order would be up for the ninth. Nomura drew a leadoff walk against Desi Bowles in the ninth, but nothing good happened after that. Davis returned to the mound for the ninth, with three right-handers currently in the order, although the #4 hole held Tristen Baptiste, who had run for Duran in the seventh, and we would probably see a pinch-hitter there. Davis struck out Reichardt in a full count, and the pinch-hitter for Baptiste was slugging catcher Tim Robinson, who was a right-handed batter. He grounded out to second, but then Davis motioned to the dugout that he was in discomfort. We needed another pitching change. Mathis came out to face Josh Downing, who hit a pop to right, Cookie had it, and the Raccoons were still alive. 1-0 Furballs! Nomura 1-3, BB, HR, RBI; Graves (PH) 1-1; Toner 7.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K, W (20-7);

Toner ended a 3-game winless streak with this 1-0 win. No early indication as to what is ailing Joel Davis; but the Loggers won, 3-2 over the Crusaders, so the Coons remained 4 1/2 behind. This is the only remaining meaningful race with the Titans now three games out. All other division leaders have at least a 6-game lead.

Yes, this is the Howard Jones that was with the Aces for a long time, and with the Raccoons briefly in 2016. He is now 35 and spent most of the season as reserve in Toledo for the Titans. He’s batting .186 in 17 games as of right now.

Game 2
POR: RF Carmona – 2B Nomura – SS McKnight – 1B Mendoza – C Margolis – LF DeWeese – CF Bareford – 3B Petracek – P Abe
BOS: LF Mata – C McPherson – CF Reichardt – 1B J. Duran – 2B Downing – 3B F. Reyes – RF Blake – SS Kane – P Pereira

Once again, the Raccoons failed to set even one paw on base the first time through the order. The Titans had a lone single by McPherson off Abe cycling through once, until Alex Mata hit a 2-out single in the third inning. Mata stole second, and McPherson took a rip at a 3-1 pitch and just ran the poor ball completely off the grounds, a huge shot to left center and well outta here, putting the Titans up 2-0. It took another inning before the Raccoons’ season quite definitely ended. Abe drilled Jose Duran to start their half of the fourth, with Downing following that up with a single, and Frank Reyes drew a full-count walk to load the bases with nobody out. Abe tried his best, struck out Jonathan Blake, but then ran into unassuming shortstop Mike Kane, who had not hit a major league home run in this being his rookie season, some 300 at-bats in. He hit one here, a colossal grand slam that buried the Critters six runs deep, and quite definitely ended all their ambitions in one puny stroke.

Although, maybe Ozzie Pereira could still **** this up. The very real threat of getting no-hit by a guy named OZZIE was dispelled by Mendoza with a leadoff jack in the top of the fifth. After Margolis rolled out, DeWeese snipped a single to right center, followed by Pereira hitting consecutive batters to load the bases. Zach Graves batted for the ineffective Abe, hit a liner to center for an authoritative RBI single, and another run scored on Cookie’s groundout, but Yoshi Nomura rolled a ball back to Pereira and made the third out, still well short of making up six runs. The Coons trailed 6-3 and still had given up on it all, sending Matt Schroeder to pitch in the bottom 5th, the ultimate white flag. Schroeder faced five batters, allowed two hits and walked two more, and Nick Lester inherited a 7-3 game with the bases loaded and one out. Lester conceded another run on Blake’s groundout before Kane popped out to strand two in scoring position (like the Coons had in the top of the inning). The Coons got back to a 3-run deficit when Margolis popped a 2-piece in the sixth, 8-5, but then had nothing at all in the next two innings. Desi Bowles was in the ninth again, walked Prince with one out, and then allowed a single to Metts in the #9 hole. Unfortunately, Metts had replaced Cookie in the field earlier, so it was “only” Eddie Jackson batting for Jeff Boynton now in the #1 slot. He scrubbed a walk from Bowles, loading the bases! This dissolved rather quickly then: Yoshi Nomura remained luckless and lined out to Kane, posting an 0-for-5 that torpedoed his batting title ambitions just as much as the Raccoons’ attempts to come back. McKnight struck out to end the game. 8-5 Titans. Mendoza 2-4, HR, RBI; Graves (PH) 1-1, RBI; Metts (PH) 1-1, BB;

Loggers lost, so everybody was back where they started on Friday morning. Which is not good in the Coons’ case.

Game 3
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – SS McKnight – 1B Mendoza – C Margolis – RF Graves – CF Metts – 3B Hudman – P Nielson
BOS: RF Mata – 2B H. Jones – 1B J. Duran – C T. Robinson – 3B Downing – CF Reichardt – LF Cesta – SS F. Reyes – P J. Fuentes

Fuentes retired the first four, but the Critters would actually show life before the doom bell started tolling, with Margolis singling in the second, and after Graves flew out, Metts flew one out, mashing a 2-run shot to right center, his third in the season. Nielson allowed a single to Howard Jones in the first, but got Duran to hit into the double play, and then went on to strike out the sides in both the second and third innings, a walk to Reyes aside. By the fourth the Titans were encroaching on him a bit more, Duran singling and Downing getting nicked, but the Raccoons had already enlarged the lead to 4-0 in the top of the fourth, Margolis hitting another 2-piece, hitting the top of the batter’s eye, which was quite tall in Boston, with that shot. Mike Cesta hit a leadoff single in the bottom 5th, but was stranded as well, with Mata ending the inning with a strikeout, Nielson’s eighth in the game. Nielson would also get strikeouts to end the sixth and seventh innings, the latter on rookie Justin Jackson with two men on base after both Downing and Reichardt had singled to start the bottom of the seventh.

So the score remained 4-0 through seven, but the top of the Raccoons order remained completely absent. Cookie, Yoshi, and McKnight had posted an 0-for-14 on Saturday, and they were oh-for again in this game, but would come up to start the eighth inning against 27-year old right-hander Cruz Sierra. One grounder to first and two flies to center extended their failure to 0-for-12. The bottom 8th saw a leadoff single by Mata to center. Jones popped up, after which it was time to take the bullpen into the equation. Nielson had done very, very well, whiffing ten in 7.1 innings, but there were four big right-handers coming up who all wanted nothing more than taking a bite out of his bum. What sounded like a job for Chris Mathis resulted in two long drives to left by Duran and Robinson (who had done nothing but whiffing against Nielson), both were caught by Cookie, but neither had been easy, and he had sprinted hard both times. Downing would hit a leadoff single to right in the ninth inning. Mathis struck out Reichardt before Cesta grounded hard to Yoshi for a game-ending double play. 4-0 Coons. Margolis 2-4, HR, 2 RBI; Graves 2-4; Nielson 7.1 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K, W (1-0); Mathis 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K;

In other news

September 21 – Scorpions and Capitals have themselves a wild one, with Sacramento prevailing in the 11th inning, scoring four in the top half and holding the Capitals to one in the bottom half to win 13-10. SAC RF/LF Pablo Sanchez (.382, 7 HR, 64 RBI) goes 4-for-7 with a home run and drives in three.
September 25 – The Capitals manage only two hits in a 1-0 win over the Cyclones, one of them a solo home run by INF/LF/CF Travis Givens (.261, 9 HR, 52 RBI).
September 26 – Rebels swingman Rich Guerrero (3-1, 5.18 ERA) 3-hits the Blue Sox in a 5-0 shutout. It was the 26-year old’s first career start in the major leagues after 15 relief appearances.
September 27 – The Blue Sox’ 6-1 loss to the Rebels means that the Capitals take the FL East despite their own 8-1 loss to the Cyclones. The Capitals make their eighth postseason appearance thus, and only their second since their 1990s heydays when they won three championships.
September 27 – Rookie 1B Kevin Harenberg (.264, 3 HR, 14 RBI) hits a fourth-inning home run for the only tally in the Wolves’ 1-0 win over the Gold Sox.

Complaints and stuff

Yoshi Nomura reached both 2,500 career base hits *and* 1,000 career walks on Tuesday in the horrible, no-good, 9-7 loss in Tijuana. It was really the only reason not to burn the box score. A career .305/.385/.403 batter with 70 homers and 871 driven in, Yoshi was remarkably never reached 200 hits in a single season. He topped 190 four times, with a career high 196 for the Capitals in 2016 and a Coons high of 192, and 180 twice more, but he never made it to 200, and he will not make it there either this season. He missed 23 games with minor injuries, and had only 162 hits after the milestone game on Tuesday. But at 36 years old, his then .345 clip was tying a career-high, so old age hasn’t consumed him … yet.

Of course going 0-for-9 in the last two games in Boston helped Yoshi with nothing. In two days, he transformed a 5-point lead in the batting title race into a 1-point deficit to Vegas’ Adam Flack. Bobby Marshall of the Thunder is a further point behind.

Hugo Mendoza should have the RBI crown down with 127 ribbies, leading Gil Rockwell by 13. The FL leader is SAC Ray Meade with 119. Mendoza also leads with 36 homers, but Rockwell has 34 and a chance. The FL lead is irrelevant in this case, with no FL batter even near 30. Mendoza isn’t even close to a meaningful spot in single season home runs, however. Getting to tie for a top 10 spot would require him to hit five bombs next week, but who am I to deny him that?

Speaking about numbers…

ABL CAREER STRIKEOUT LEADERS
82nd – Dave Crawford – 1,816
83rd – Raimundo Beato – 1,791
84th – Manuel Ortíz – 1,761 – active
t-85th – John Collins – 1,758
t-85th – Ian Rutter – 1,758 – active
87th – Jonathan Toner – 1,753 – active
88th – Ramón Jimenez – 1,743
89th – Pedro Alvarado – 1,738 – active
90th – Lou Corbett – 1,733

Hector Santos is still 99th. Sam McMullen has appeared in 100th place now, but needs 12 K to tie Santos. He will only get one more start and hasn’t reached 12 since his second start of the year.

The third baseman we didn’t call up when Nunley went down is 22-year old Brazilian shortstop Daniel Bullock, and there are a lot of facts in that sentence that already don’t make much sense. Bullock is a switch-hitter that was promoted to St. Petersburg just a few weeks earlier, appearing in 16 games and hitting .283 in 46 at-bats, which was actually better than the .275 clip he delivered in 121 games in Ham Lake. Here is one option to replace Ronnie McKnight with a warm body. Bullock is a very good defender, and has tremendous speed to take an extra base. His bat, however, is completely uncomparable to McKnight’s. Bullock is the prototypical light-hitting shortstop that bats eighth, or seventh at best. Since being promoted to professional ball in mid-2018, he has landed 273 base hits (for a .259 total), of which only 37 went for extra bases. In a way, that compares more to Cookie Carmona’s hitting profile, except that Cookie, who mostly flicks singles and takes advantage of his quick hind paws, can probably beat him by 90 points of average while asleep.

I think it is too early to feed Bullock to the wolves (Wolves?). He also isn’t rule 5 eligible just yet, and I wasn’t going to waste the roster spot on a 2-week brain fart while everything else comes crashing down. Other teams were occasionally interested in him in deals, but I never offered him up.

As far as McKnight is concerned, he isn’t the only high-profile player up for free agency this fall. The other is Ron Thrasher. The pair made $1.75M between them this season, and it looks like Thrasher might command that alone, casually floating a 4-yr, $6.4M deal in front of my nose. Is he worth that money? Yeah, he is right now. But he will be 37 in the final year of that contract. I haven’t even contacted Ronnie’s agent yet, and I am afraid to do it.

As we are on relievers, Joel Davis was diagnosed with a torn UCL on Sunday, which pretty much wipes him out for the entirety of the 2021 season. Yes, he is under contract through 2023 for plenty of coinage, so that will be fun.

Finally:

Loggers (88-68) – BOS (3), POR (3) – 69.7% (-11.4%)
Titans (86-70) – MIL (3), VAN (3) – 29.4% (+15.5%)
Raccoons (84-71) – IND (4), MIL (3) – 0.9% (-4.0%)

BUT: The Raccoons are only 3 1/2 games out. Assuming the Coons win ALL their games next week, they will *at least* tie the Loggers. The midweek series between the Titans and Loggers in Milwaukee is crucial however. If the Titans sweep the Loggers right there, even a 7-0 week for Portland would not be enough to force their way into at least a tie-breaker scenario, since a 6-0 week by Boston will always beat them. The other division races with a magic number of one will not see head-to-head competition between the respective teams.
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Old 09-20-2017, 02:27 PM   #2362
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Boy, has the service been sub-standard here recently. Somehow the days zoom by with me having achieved little to nothing. My courses to upgrade my accounting level are gonna start tomorrow, thankfully, because I think I need some kind of structure.

+++

Raccoons (84-71) vs. Indians (73-82) – September 28-October 1, 2020

Only 7-7 against Indy in 2020, and struggling to find any kind of roll against them for years and years, the Raccoons needed to pounce on the Arrowheads in this series. Trailing 3 1/2 games in the division, the Raccoons could still force at least a tie with the Loggers by winning all their games this week; they needed help against the Titans, 1 1/2 games ahead of them in the division, but the Titans and Loggers would go head-to-head with another while the Raccoons faced the Indians, who were on a 4-game winning streak and overall were not much of a scoring team. They ranked ninth in runs plated in the CL, with a sixth place in runs conceded.

Projected matchups:
Bobby Guerrero (9-9, 4.38 ERA) vs. Dan Lambert (12-14, 4.41 ERA)
Travis Garrett (3-10, 4.71 ERA) vs. Shane Baker (4-5, 2.71 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (20-7, 2.43 ERA) vs. Tristan Broun (14-11, 3.86 ERA)
Tadasu Abe (11-10, 3.60 ERA) vs. Jared D’Attilo (2-0, 2.18 ERA)

D’Attilo would make only his fifth start of the season after missing most of the year after tearing a back muscle on April 8. Baker had replaced the ineffective Zach Weaver in the rotation. All were right-handers, along with the hard-nosed veteran Lambert; only Tristan Broun was a left-handed pitcher for this series, while we would miss their second southpaw, Tom Shumway (10-11, 3.78 ERA).

The Indians had numerous players on the DL at this point, including outfielders Lowell Genge, Danny Young, and Danny Morales, and their primary catcher Jayden Jolley. But the Raccoons had to make do with Petracek replacing Matt Nunley at third, so we all had our headaches.

Game 1
IND: CF J. Gonzales – RF Faulk – LF C. Martinez – 1B M. Rucker – SS Matias – 2B Kym – 3B Georges – C Mancuso – P Lambert
POR: RF Carmona – 2B Nomura – SS McKnight – 1B Mendoza – C Margolis – LF DeWeese – CF Metts – 3B Petracek – P Guerrero

Strikeouts to both Ryan Georges and Dan Lambert bailed Guerrero out of a tight spot with runners on the corners in the first inning. The consistently coonskinning middle infielders had set up camp on said corners, with Raul Matias doubling and Jong-beom Kym singling with one out, both to no avail. The Raccoons wouldn’t reach base until the third inning, Dwayne Metts singling through on the right side of the infield. Petracek struck out, Guerrero did the same in a string of failed bunts, leaving things to an ice-cold Cookie Carmona, who had gingerly grounded out to Mike Rucker at first base in the first inning. This time, he hit a ball hard to left, and past the reach of Cesar Martinez. It fell for a double, the quick Metts scored easily with two down, and the Raccoons – while leaving Cookie on second base when Yoshi Nomura, also struggling colossally, flew out to center – got another 2-out RBI double the following inning, DeWeese finding the gap to chase home Margolis. Metts walked, Petracek singled, and DeWeese scored as well. When Guerrero struck out swinging, he still held a 3-0 lead through four.

That soon changed; Guerrero had struck out five against only three base hits in the first four innings, but the Indians got a break when DeWeese dropped a Mancuso flyer in the fifth inning. Lambert bunted Mancuso to second, and Juan Gonzales’ single to right scored even the slow Mancuso from second base, reducing the gap to two runs. Bottom 5th, Cookie and Yoshi opened with a pair of singles up the middle. Ronnie McKnight steadfastly grounded into a double play, but the Coons still scratched out a comeback run when Hugo Mendoza found the gap in left center for an RBI triple, 4-1, before Margolis struck out. The Indians answered swiftly, plating a return run in the sixth inning with two singles off Guerrero, aided by a wild pitch that moved up the lead runner, Cesar Martinez. With one out, Guerrero nicked Matias, Kym singled (the second hit in the inning) to score Martinez, and then luckily Ryan Georges hit to short for a double play. Guerrero would live through seven, however, before he was hit for at the start of the bottom 7th. Bareford batted for him and whacked an Allen Reed pitch over the fence in right center, the leadoff jack extending the lead to 5-2. Eddie Jackson would strand a pair as a pinch-hitter in the bottom 8th with a strikeout after a clean eighth from Seung-mo Chun, and of course that would come back to bite the Critters, for whom Chris Mathis blatantly failed to retire the 6-7-8 batters in the ninth. Georges singled, pinch-hitter Silvestro Roncero singled with two outs, and when Kaiser replaced Mathis to face the left-handed Gonzales, pinch-hitter Pedro Cruz instead battled out a 7-pitch walk to load the bases. Ron Thrasher was tasked with that ****ty situation and A.J. Faulk, a right-handed batter who had the tying runs aboard to be drive in. Thrasher secured a pop to second baseman Tim Prince on two pitches, ending the game before drama could turn into tears. 5-2 Critters. Carmona 2-4, 2B, RBI; Metts 1-2, 2 BB; Bareford (PH) 1-1, HR, RBI; Guerrero 7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, W (10-9);

Over in Milwaukee, Boston’s Rick Ling cancelled out all the Loggers, minus Kyle Burns, who had three hits, more than the rest of the team combined in the Loggers’ 7-1 loss, which leads us to: MIL 88-69 … BOS 1 GB … POR 2 1/2 GB;

Game 2
IND: CF J. Gonzales – 3B P. Cruz – LF C. Martinez – 1B M. Rucker – SS Matias – 2B Kym – RF Faulk – C Mancuso – P Baker
POR: RF Carmona – 2B Nomura – SS McKnight – 1B Mendoza – C Margolis – LF DeWeese – CF Metts – 3B Petracek – P Garrett

Terrible Travis put a fork into the Raccoons’ playoff bid, single-pawedly blowing the game within a single inning, the first. After retiring Gonzales and Cruz on grounders, Garrett never retired another batter, allowing seven straight Indians to reach base, six on hits, including home runs by Martinez and Kym, and one with a walk. Baker’s RBI single was WELL enough, and Blake Kelly replaced Garrett, which was somewhat akin to a white flag. Gonzales popped out to short to end the inning and strand two runners, and the Raccoons, who had been through a hard time scoring runs to begin with now faced a steep 5-0 climb against a swingman. While the Coons started promising enough with a run scored in the bottom 1st on doubles by Cookie and McKnight, Kelly would soon add to the Indians’ ledger. Raul Matias’ 2-run homer in the second, and singles by Faulk and Mancuso followed by a Gonzales sac fly in the third grew the gap to 8-1 before the Raccoons burned Baker for five singles and three runs in the bottom of the fourth, which still saw them short by four, and the Indians soon added on. Matt Schroeder continued to raise his ghastly ERA with a walk to Faulk in the fifth, followed by singles hit up the middle by Mancuso and pinch-hitter Bob Reyes, the latter both scoring one run, 9-4, and denying Baker a decision in this game. Nick Lester replaced the utterly useless Schroeder and added a walk to Gonzales to the charade, loading the bases before striking out Cruz and getting Martinez to ground to short.

The Raccoons’ efforts in the fifth and sixth were not successful, and neither were they in the seventh. McKnight hit a 2-out double off Brandon Smith, who allowed another hard drive to Hugo Mendoza right afterwards, but that one ended up caught near the fence by A.J. Faulk, ending the seventh. The Indians tried to leave Smith in for the long haul, but he issued walks to pinch-hitter Tim Prince and Dwayne Metts at the start of the eighth inning. Petracek flew out, which was better than the double play he had hit into in his last attempt, before Zach Graves’ second at-bat of the day resulted in a hard single hammered past Kym into right center, scoring a run. With runners on the corners in a 9-5 game, the Indians went back to more proven personnel, sending Tony Lino and his 2.67 ERA to quell the uprising. Cookie’s RBI single to right center, brought up the tying run, though, and another pitching change to left-hander Kyle Lamb, the former starter, who had as many walks as strikeouts on the season, 75 each in 134.2 innings. A walk to Yoshi filled the bases, but McKnight hit into a double play to let the air out of this one. The Indians got a run back on two singles off Chun in the ninth, 10-6, and Mendoza’s leadoff jack against Lamb in the bottom 9th mainly served to get closer Jarrod Morrison into the game. He allowed a single to Margolis, walked Prince, and the tying run was up again, although with Metts, Petracek, and Graves to follow up. The fans in attendance were on their feet, chanting and clapping for the Coons, although the chants and claps grew fewer as Metts struck out and pinch-hitter Olivares grounded out to third. The last hope was the rookie outfielder Graves, who hit a 2-0 pitch into the right-center gap. Nobody got there, Margolis scored, Prince scored, Graves turning second and going to third and arriving there safely! It was a 10-9 game now, with the tying run on third and two outs for Cookie Carmona! And Cookie struck out. 10-9 Indians. Carmona 3-6, 2B, 2 RBI; Nomura 2-4, BB, 2B, RBI; McKnight 2-5, 2 2B, RBI; Prince (PH) 0-0, 2 BB; Graves 2-3, 3B, 3 RBI; Boynton 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K;

**** Garrett (3-11, 5.15 ERA). As easy as that. **** that ****er.

The Loggers eeked out a 5-4 win over the Titans behind Ian Prevost’s seven strong innings that the pen almost blew into the stratosphere, and Alberto Velez’ three base hits. With that it’s MIL 89-69 … BOS 2 GB … POR 3 1/2 GB … so back to square one from Monday morning, with the exception that the Raccoons can’t play a perfect week anymore.

Game 3
IND: CF J. Gonzales – 3B P. Cruz – LF C. Martinez – 1B M. Rucker – SS Matias – 2B Kym – RF Faulk – C Mancuso – P Broun
POR: LF Carmona – CF Bareford – RF Jackson – 1B Mendoza – SS McKnight – C Olivares – 2B Prince – 3B Petracek – P Toner

I needed a drink right away when Jonny Toner drilled the very first batter of the game. Pedro Cruz would hit into a double play and Toner K’ed Martinez after that, but the pressure… THE PRESSURE. It was the first of five consecutive strikeouts for vintage Jonny before Mancuso dared to put the ball in play, lining out to Prince. Broun went down looking, giving Toner six strikeouts and no hits allowed the first time through, and he was called to bunt in the bottom 3rd with Prince on second after a leadoff double and Petracek on first with an unintentional, full count walk. The Coons had already hit into two double plays in this game, the maximum amount humanly possible at that point, and I would prefer Jonny to move the runners somewhere useful. He did the job, giving him six bunts against 20 base hits on the season. Cookie floated a ball up the leftfield line; Martinez came over, got the glove on it, but stumbled and fell, dropping the ball in the process. One run scored, the first of the game. Another run scored on Bareford’s groundout before Broun struck out Eddie Jackson to end the inning.

The score and general situation remained the same through five innings, with Toner having whiffed eight and still facing the minimum; no Indian had reached since he had drilled Gonzales in the first. The Indians went down on six pitches in the sixth, including two pops over the infield, but the pesky Gonzales would break up the no-hitter with a leadoff single to right in the seventh inning. Worse yet, Gonzales stole second base and scored on Cesar Martinez’ single to center, cutting a flimsy 2-0 lead in half. The Raccoons just could not find a way on base against Broun anymore, and Jong-beom Kym, the thorn of thorns in this lineup, hit a leadoff double to right in the eighth inning. Roncero hit for Faulk, but struck out, and after that Petracek took care of consecutive grounders to keep the Indians from tying the score. We were tempted to hit for him leading off the bottom of the eighth, then didn’t. Broun was gone, Tony Lino pitching the inning, and Petracek broke a long on-base drought for the team with a leadoff double to right. DeWeese batted for Toner and walked, then was quickly forced on Cookie’s grounder to short. Runners on the corners… bring the rookie! Graves batted for Bareford thus, grounded to second, Kym with the shuffle to Matias, relay to first – NOT IN TIME. Petracek scored as Graves was called safe on the bang-bang play, and an insurance run was on the board! (Mind that Jonny better gets a W for triple crown purposes) Metts batted for Jackson, but struck out, sending the game to the ninth, where Ron Thrasher was tasked with securing #21 for Jonny. He faced the top of the order, with Gonzales grounding out to Prince, Cruz going down on strikes, and Martinez grounding up the middle. McKnight’s wide range paid off, as he not only intercepted the ball, but also fired to first to beat Martinez by less than a foot, but more than a whisker – BALLGAME. 3-1 Raccoons! Petracek 1-2, BB, 2B; Toner 8.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K, W (21-7);

Unless Mark Roberts strikes out 42 in his final start of the season (unlikely), Jonny Toner should have secured his second triple crown after 2018. And while there was a landmine hidden in the CL ERA stats, which officially saw Jonny Toner (2.38 ERA) lead Chris Klein (2.77 ERA) by A LOT, that landmine had no chance of gaining sufficient innings to qualify. The guy in question was Vancouver’s Josh Riley, who had a 2.67 ERA, but had been swinging back and forth between rotation and pen all year and had only 145 innings to his credit. There were two pitchers with at least 100 innings that had a better ERA than Toner, both on the DL now, New York’s Mike Rutkowski (2.35 ERA) and – of course? – Hector Santos (2.16 ERA).

In Milwaukee, Alan Farrell and the Titans were blown out, 11-5, with Farrell reaching the Garrettesque record of 3-11, although he had the decency to last to the fifth inning in that game.

With this result, the Raccoons are dealt a clear hand: they *must* win all their remaining four games, which is their only chance to force a tie-breaker scenario. The same is true for the Titans (3 GB), who are in a worse spot even, since even if they win their three remaining games, they still have to get support from the Coons to sweep the Loggers on the weekend so they can get into a 3-way tie, or a 2-way tie if the Coons lose on Thursday, the Loggers’ and Titans’ common off day.

All eyes on Abe.

Game 4
IND: CF J. Gonzales – 3B P. Cruz – LF C. Martinez – 1B M. Rucker – SS Matias – 2B Kym – RF Georges – C Tanner – P Shumway
POR: LF Carmona – CF Bareford – RF Jackson – 1B Mendoza – SS McKnight – C Olivares – 2B Prince – 3B Petracek – P Abe *

Abe had completed seven innings only once in the last seven starts, and had allowed fewer than three runs only twice, going 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA, so he was the right man for a must-win scenario, while the Raccoons would face the southpaw Shumway on short rest.

The game was scoreless in the bottom of the third, which saw Abe draw a leadoff walk from Shumway, which was against everything we were used to with him. The baseball gods agreed and sent a quick shower that forced a 24-minute rain delay while sorting out their mess. After a reboot of their random bull**** generator, the rain subsided, play resumed, and Cookie Carmona hit into a double play. Order restored. Somehow.

The Indians would load the bases in the fourth inning thanks to a leadoff single of the infield variety by Martinez, who was forced on Rucker’s grounder, but Abe walked Matias and allowed a single to center to Kym to load the bags anyway. He would then balk, forcing in Rucker with the first run and putting the Raccoons onto the elimination clock, upon which I banged my head against the desk approximately 97 times until Georges flew out to Jackson in shallow right and C.J. Tanner went down swinging to leave two on. Jackson was the first Coon with a base knock, singling to left to start the bottom 4th. Shumway walked Mendoza right away before McKnight and Olivares both flew out to shallow center in non-threatening fashion. Prince sent a fly to left center… and that one was threatening. It vanished between Martinez and Gonzales in the gap, both runs scored, and Prince had a 2-out, 2-run double, standing up leisurely. Abe struck out on a pitch that almost hit his foot after the intentional walk to Petracek. Jackson hit a drive to left that had the distance, but went barely foul in the bottom of the fifth. He grounded out on the next pitch, a roller to Matias at short, and the Coons remained up 2-1 through five.

Abe was generating weak contact consistently at that point, and got through the sixth easily, while Shumway walked Olivares with two outs and was yanked. Allen Reed got Prince to hit a liner to second, Kym taking it to end the sixth. Abe batted in the bottom 7th (unsuccessfully) and wasn’t removed until the eighth started with Roncero pinch-hitting in the #9 hole. That put two left-handers next to another and clamored for a Jason Kaiser appearance. Appearing he did, getting Roncero and Gonzales on grounders before yielding to Jeff Boynton, who got a third grounder from Pedro Cruz to complete the inning. The Critters were still on two base hits for the game when they were to face former starter Zach Weaver in the bottom 8th. Yoshi batted for Bareford and singled up the middle. DeWeese batted for Jackson and lined into the rightfield corner. Yoshi went to third, DeWeese went to second, where he hit his knee on the bag and had to be run for with a nasty bruise and substantial pain. Metts did the running part, while everybody was anxious for Mendoza to come up with runners in scoring position and no outs. The Indians didn’t bite – four intentional balls loaded the bases for McKnight, who poked at a 3-1 pitch, grounded to first, Rucker pounced and fired home to kill Yoshi Nomura, and McKnight was doubled off on Tanner’s return throw. So, back to runners in scoring position, but now with two outs, lots of agony, and Zach Graves batting for Olivares in the hope for more of his stupid rookie magic. And the Coons ****ING GOT IT! Graves hit the 1-1 to left center, past Gonzales, into the gap, and two runs scored on the double!! ****ING ZACH GRAVES, WHERE’VE YOU BEEN ALL THOSE YEARS?? Margolis batted for Prince and walked before Petracek popped out. Boynton returned for the ninth, now up 4-1, and struck out two in a perfect inning to keep the dream alive. 4-1 Raccoons! Nomura (PH) 1-1; Jackson 1-2, BB; DeWeese (PH) 1-1, 2B; Graves (PH) 1-1, 2B, 2 RBI; Abe 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, W (12-10); Boynton 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, SV (6);

Raccoons (87-72) vs. Loggers (90-69) – October 2-4, 2020

Well, we’re here, and we’re alive. Everything else remains to be seen. The Loggers are sixth in runs scored in the Continental League and tied for third in runs allowed, both rankings seeing them a bit behind the Raccoons, who are fourth in runs scored and second in runs allowed. Do you think your puny numbers can beat us? Watch our new rightfielder, Zach Graves, murder you while you’re fast asleep! The Coons held a 9-6 edge in the season series.

Projected matchups:
Ryan Nielson (1-0, 3.63 ERA) vs. Troy McCaskill (12-12, 4.27 ERA)
Bobby Guerrero (10-9, 4.26 ERA) vs. Chris Sinkhorn (11-12, 3.63 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (21-7, 2.38 ERA) vs. Ian Prevost (14-7, 2.80 ERA)

Toner will only pitch on Sunday (then on short rest) if it matters, meaning only if the Coons won the first two and are still in playoff contention. If we’re out (which is not unlikely with Nielson and Guerrero…), then Garrett can **** up another game for all I care.

The Raccoons face a southpaw on Saturday in Sinkhorn (great name, by the way), like things weren’t hard enough already. Also of note, DeWeese’s knee bruise is bad enough to render him out of contention for now, although I think this is hardly comparable to the Loggers being without Chris LeMoine, who probably would have hit 30 dingers again if he hadn’t missed 47 games this year, and who would not even be back in time for a potential World Series.

Entering, Yoshi Nomura still tries to win the batting title. Vegas’ Adam Flack currently leads with a .340 clip, followed by Oklahoma’s Bobby Marshall and Yoshi both at .339, but don’t count out San Francisco’s Dave Garcia (.337) and Pat Fowlkes (.335) on the Falcons!

Game 1
MIL: 2B Stewart – SS Burns – CF Coleman – RF Gore – C Denny – 3B Velez – LF Cooper – 1B Stickley – P McCaskill
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – SS McKnight – 1B Mendoza – RF Graves – C Margolis – CF Metts – 3B Petracek – P Nielson

The first scare of the game was on Nielson, or more precisely Tyler Stewart’s deep drive to center to start the game. Metts had that, and the Loggers didn’t reach base in the first inning. The Coons did, as Cookie singled, stole second, but after two groundouts was on third base only. Mendoza stepped in and crashed a 2-0 pitch from McCaskill, well gone outta leftfield for an early 2-0 Raccoons advantage! Graves let one fly right after that, in the other direction, although Brad Gore pulled it in right at the fence. Balls were flying all over the place early on, with Petracek and McKnight also close to homering in the next two innings. None of them got the ball out, however, and while Nielson allowed a few drives as well, the Loggers went down in order the first time through their lineup, but they got onto the board in the fourth when Kyle Burns launched a 437-footer to almost dead center to cut the lead in half, 2-1. Mendoza, Graves, and Petracek all hit more hard balls in the fourth and fifth innings – none falling in. In between, Nielson offered a leadoff walk to Mike Denny in the top of the fifth. Alberto Velez bunted, albeit badly, and Nielson played it to force Denny at second. The Loggers wouldn’t score in the inning, but got to the corners with one out in the sixth. Stewart walked, after which Burns hit a looper into right center that Graves cut off, but not quick enough to keep the tying run at second base. But – Nielson now faced two left-handers the Loggers didn’t bat for. Ian Coleman struck out, and Brad Gore flew out to Cookie in shallow left, ending the inning.

The Coons didn’t make anything out of a 2-out double by McKnight in the bottom 6th (Mendoza grounded out to Velez), and Velez’ 1-out walk in the seventh ended Nielson’s day. The Loggers sent a 5-for-16 Ricardo Martinez (yeah, that one) to pinch-hit, and he was a right-hander. Mathis came in to face him, threw one pitch, and Martinez knocked it over to Petracek for a double play. Margolis drew a 1-out walk in the bottom 7th and was run for by Bareford, who was promptly caught stealing by Mike Denny. Edwin Prieto replaced Margolis behind the dish after that rather than Olivares, due to his stronger arm and the Loggers being antsy runners. There was little defense to find for Mathis’ ****ty pitching, however. McCaskill(!) hit a 1-out single in the eighth, quickly followed by another single by pinch-hitter Javier Gonzalez. Burns lined out to Petracek in a major jump scare, and then Mathis vacated the mound for Ron Thrasher. This game needed shutting down right now, with runners on the corners and two outs in the eighth. Thrasher lost Coleman to a 5-pitch walk, loading the bases and sending me almost into madness before he struck out Gore. The skinny 2-1 lead had made it AGAIN through an inning. Petracek reached base with a leadoff single in the bottom 8th, but was doubled off when Eddie Jackson lined out to short on a hit-and-run call. Cookie grounded out, Thrasher wouldn’t have a cushion. ‘Who needs cushions?’ Thrasher probably wondered as he struck out Denny and Velez. Pinch-hitter Travis Griffen was at 1-2 when he knocked a liner into play – right at Thrasher, who swiped it in self-defense to end the game. 2-1 Coons!! Metts 1-2, BB; Nielson 6.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, W (2-0); Thasher 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K, SV (23);

Boston beat the Elks, 10-5, to stay relevant. A 3-way tie was still possible and would occur unless either the Coons or the Titans lost at least once between them in the final two games.

And now the surprise: Saturday did NOT see Chris Sinkhorn, but right-hander Ron Bartlatt (5-6, 3.97 ERA) on the mound. The Loggers were confident enough to waste one? Well, if anything, they would have Prevost in the tie-breaker against Abe, which sounded better than Bartlatt against Abe… And if they took at least one of the next two games, Prevost could lead off the CLCS. Lots to gain for the Loggers with this move. And the Coons first need another solid start from Guerrero and a wee bit of offense sprinkled on top of that.

Game 2
MIL: 2B Stewart – SS Burns – CF Coleman – RF Gore – 3B Velez – C Denny – LF Tesch – 1B Pagan – P Bartlatt
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – SS McKnight – 1B Mendoza – RF Graves – C Margolis – CF Metts – 3B Petracek – P Guerrero

Middle infielders came out with extra-base hits in the first inning. While Burns hit a double and was stranded, Yoshi hit a bomb and there was no way to strand him, with the Coons up 1-0. Mendoza would single, but was caught stealing by Denny, who was 3/3 against the Critters in this set. Velez reached with a leadoff single in the top 2nd, but Denny hit into a double play before Yoshi’s error put Brad Tesch on base. Pagan flew to right, where Graves raced in and made a sliding catch to end the inning to the ravenous joy of the home crowd. Bartlatt hit a leadoff single in the third, and Guerrero allowed three considerable flies after that, but all ended up with an outfielder to end the inning. The next chance was the Coons’. McKnight opened the bottom 4th with a soft single, then got forced on Mendoza’s grounder. Rookie to the rescue, Zach Graves doubled into the rightfield corner, putting men in scoring position for Margolis, who plated the Coons’ second run with a grounder to short. Metts singled to left, but shallow, denying Graves a chance to race home from second against Tesch, and Petracek struck out in a full count to leave them on the corners in a 2-0 game.

Guerrero got around a leadoff walk to Tesch in the fifth when Antonio Pagan rolled into a double play, and then almost stumbled over the Coleman/Gore combo that had saved Nielson the previous day, but both reached base (with the platoon advantage against the reverse-handed Guerrero) with two outs in the sixth before Velez grounded to Nomura to leave them on. The Critters also got a single (McKnight) and a walk (Graves) to work with in the bottom 6th, sending Margolis with one out, with Bartlatt getting out of shape and losing him to a walk as well. That set up a battle with Dwayne Metts that reached a full count, and ended on ball four near Metts’ shins to force home the team’s third run. When Petracek struck out, Guerrero got a slap on the shoulder, well done boy, but we need the runs. Jackson batted for him, but struck out, leaving a full set AND we had to go to the pen.

Adam Cowen sat down the 6-7-8 batters in order in the seventh, while Cookie opened the bottom of the inning with a single. Yoshi grounded to Velez, who had no chance for a double play, then threw wildly past Pagan for a gruesome error. The Coons now had two in scoring position and nobody out and HAD to put the game away. McKnight hit a sac fly, 4-0, and Mendoza was not bothered with, being put on intentionally. Left-hander Gary Ledford replaced Bartlatt to face Graves, who grounded to the right side. Pagan had it far behind first, and threw wildly past the hustling Ledford. Yoshi scored on the error when Denny had to vacate home plate to get the ball, and the runners were in scoring position in a 5-0 game. An RBI single by Margolis and Metts’ run-scoring groundout upped the score to seven, and this game was as good as in the books.

‘As good as’ is not the same as ‘is’, though. Blake Kelly got the eighth, and sucked. Two on, one out, Jason Kaiser replaced him, but walked both Coleman and Gore to force in a run before striking out Velez. Boynton appeared to see as to Denny’s demise, getting him to ground out to short on an 0-2 pitch. Disaster avoided, for now. Boynton remained in the for the ninth, and things just developed as they do. Pagan walked, Javier Gonzalez hit an RBI double. Kyle Burns hit a deep drive to center that looked like a lot more trouble, but ended up ending the game when it came down into Metts’ glove at the edge of the warning track. 7-2 Critters. McKnight 2-3, RBI; Margolis 1-2, 2 BB, 2 RBI; Guerrero 6.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K, W (11-9);

The Titans come back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Elks, 4-3, which keeps the 3-way tie in play.

Yoshi had only two hits in the series so far, dropping out of the batting title race under normal conditions. He sits at .336 before game 162. Marshall and Flack are tied at .341. Nothing a 5-5 day can’t fix, but…

The Loggers would change their mind again, sending Ian Prevost on regular rest into the Sunday affair to out-duel Jonny Toner and win the division before things could get really messy.

It is now time. Man against Man. Here it comes.

Game 3
MIL: 2B Stewart – SS Burns – CF Coleman – RF Gore – C Denny – 3B Velez – LF Cooper – 1B Stickley – P Prevost
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – SS McKnight – 1B Mendoza – RF Graves – C Margolis – CF Metts – 3B Petracek – P Toner

The Loggers got Burns aboard with a drag bunt for a single in the first inning. Gore walked, and the park gasped in unison when Mike Denny drove a ball to deep center, but again the Loggers came up short and the ball dropped into Metts’ mitten near the track. Toner would drive home his own lead in the bottom of the second inning, finding Graves on second, Petracek on first, and gently shoved the innings’ third single through on the left side between Velez and Burns. Graves scored handily, the first tally of the game. Cookie grounded out, and then rain began to fall. Nooooooooo!! Toner had gone through three innings, whiffing four, before a delay of almost an hour interrupted the game and all well-meant plans. The Raccoons had an eventless bottom of the third before Toner went back out to the mound, with the long guys silently stirring in the bullpen for both teams.

Toner walked Coleman at the start of the fourth, but Coleman was thrown out stealing by Margolis. Which was great, since Gore drew the next walk right away. Velez grounded out and Denny struck out, but I had a hunch that we wouldn’t get more than maybe five innings from Jonny, if that. Graves reached base on a Velez error at the start of the bottom 4th. Metts added to the pile with an infield single, but Petracek grounded out and Toner struck out to leave the runners in scoring position. A Petracek error would then put Jack Stickley on base with one out in the fifth, but Toner turned Prevost’s bunt, which wasn’t that bad from the looks of it, around into a double play, now qualifying for the 1-0 win that was on the table. Make that 2-0; the Coons scored a run in the bottom 5th with a Yoshi double and McKnight’s single. Toner retired Stewart and Burns to start the sixth – and that was it! With the left-handers approaching, the Raccoons made the move to Jason Kaiser, who entered in a double switch with Jackson, removing Graves. Ian Coleman homered right away, and this game was now down to a 2-1 score. Gore flew out to center, ending the sixth, and luckily the Coons had power, too: Margolis socked a huge shot leading off the bottom 6th, 3-1. Metts singled, Petracek singled, Jackson hit into a double play. Cookie sat at 198 hits on the year and had a mighty important one here, cashing in Metts from third base with a single to right, 4-1. Yoshi singled as well, the fifth hit in the inning off Prevost, but McKnight grounded out, and the Loggers brought the tying run to the plate right away in the seventh.

That tying run was Stickley, who faced Boynton after the right-hander had just replaced Kaiser, whose 79th appearance of the season had ended with a single by Velez and a 1-out walk by Brad Tesch. Boynton’s 2-1 was put in play by the .222 batter Stickley, grounded to short, McKnight all over that one and he turned the double play! Jason Seeley hit a leadoff double off Boynton in the eighth, who hung in there to retire Stewart and Burns. Nick Lester (not Thrasher) inherited the runner at third and Ian Coleman at the plate and would have the actual ****ing save opportunity unless the tying run came to the plate, since Thrasher’s reservoir of energy was finite after all. Lester ****ING STRUCK OUT COLEMAN, and the Loggers had only one more inning to come back and take the division the ordinary way. But before that, the Coons were batting. Jackson hit a 2-out single in the bottom 8th, giving Cookie a chance for hit #200 before the ninth inning could go HORRIBLY wrong. He got the hit off Ivan Morales, a single to shallow right center that sent Jackson to third, and brought up Yoshi, who was 2-for-3 on the day, but well short of the batting title, and grounded out to Stewart. Here it comes, 4-1 lead, Nick Lester, and the cleanup man for the Loggers, Brad Gore leading off the ninth. Gore struck out fishing. Velez struck out looking. And Denny rolled out to short. We were goddamn ****ing even. 4-1 Furballs!! Carmona 2-5, RBI; Nomura 2-4, BB, 2B; Metts 2-4; Petracek 2-4; Toner 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K, W (22-7) and 1-2, RBI; Lester 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K, SV (1);

It will be a 3-way tie, though. The Titans gutted out a 1-0 win against the useless Elks behind Jose Fuentes, who walked six without getting hurt. Kevin Clayton punched out ten for the Elks in a complete-game loss. There is no justice in the world.

In other news

September 28 – The Scorpions clinch their ninth overall and second consecutive playoff berth thanks to Denver’s 11-3 loss to the Warriors, which drops Sacramento’s magic number to zero. The Scorpions themselves lost on Monday as well, 6-1 to the Wolves. Sacramento has two World Series championships and has been celebrating the 25-year anniversary of their most recent championship all season long.
September 29 – LVA LF/RF Dan Brown (.255, 11 HR, 65 RBI) is out for the final week of the season with an elbow contusion. The team, with their magic number at one, hope to have him back for the playoffs.
September 29 – WAS SP Jose “Butch” Diaz (10-8, 2.69 ERA) 2-hits the Rebels in a 4-0 shutout.
September 30 – The Aces clinch the CL South with a 5-1 win over the Condors. Third baseman Izzy Alvarez (.261, 15 HR, 85 RBI) drives in three in the game, in which the Aces nail down their fourth playoff participation as well as the third consecutive. They are of course the twice-defending champions.
October 1 – SAC SP Ian Rutter (11-7, 3.07 ERA) strikes out 11 and holds the Wolves to two hits in the Scorpions’ 9-0 rout in Sacramento.
October 3 – Oklahoma’s SP Bryan Hanson (20-9, 2.82 ERA) not only takes his 20th win of the season in an 8-0 win over the Aces in Las Vegas, no, he also no-hits them. The 44th no-hitter in ABL history is the fourth for the Thunder franchise (all in the last 12 years), and the first October no-hitter since New York’s George Kirk no-hit the Raccoons on October 1, 2004.
October 3 – The Scorpions murder the Pacifics, 15-2, with #8 batter SAC 2B Ricky Luna (.285, 10 HR, 63 RBI) leading his team with four RBI on three base hits.
October 4 – The Aces come within a 2B/3B/CF Jeff Becker (.250, 5 HR, 69 RBI) single of returning no-hit favors to the Thunder in their 3-1 win in the season finale.
October 4 – The Wolves and Warriors go back and forth in a see-saw game that ends 13-12 in the Warriors’ favor in the 11th inning when they score three runs in the bottom of the inning to outdo the Wolves’ pair of runs from the top of the 11th.

Complaints and stuff

GASP.

Old foe (even when he wore the brown cap) Mike Bednarski won Hitter of the Month honors for September in the Federal League, batting .354 with 3 HR and 17 RBI. Traded mid-season from the Warriors to the Miners, Bednarski is having a .322 year with 20 HR and 88 RBI. He drove in 88 once as a Raccoon, but he never was remotely close to batting .322 …

The other Thunder no-hitter were authored by Alex Lindsey in 2008, and the two that Brian Furst threw in 2017 and 2018. Furst remains one of only two pitchers with two no-hitters, along with Henry Selph, and the only one to toss them for the same team.

Disturbing fact: with Thursday’s 4-1 win over the Indians, the Coons secured a 10-8 season series win. It’s the first time that the two teams have ended up with something other than a 13-5 or 11-7 split (in whoever’s favor) since 2013, when the season series ended up even, 9-9. The last time the teams won even numbers against another was 2012, a 12-6 Coons year.

ABL CAREER STRIKEOUT LEADERS
79th – Eduardo Jimenez – 1,830
80th – Dan Moriarty – 1,828
81st – Alfredo Collazo – 1,827
82nd – Dave Crawford – 1,816
83rd – Raimundo Beato – 1,791
84th – Jonathan Toner – 1,770 – active
85th – Ian Rutter – 1,769 – active
86th – Manuel Ortíz – 1,761 – active
87th – John Collins – 1,758

And now excuse me, I have to be near the phone when the ABL calls how the dice fell for the tie-breaker games.

* OOTP ****ed me here, showing D’Attilo on the main screen before switching to Shumway in the game. I had not replaced Olivares with Margolis because we were supposed to play a ****ing right-hander, so the lineup remained the same as in Wednesday’s game.
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Old 09-20-2017, 02:32 PM   #2363
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I literally can't remember feeling the tension and excitment scrolling through my phone in my life. What a week!

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Old 09-20-2017, 03:37 PM   #2364
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The league decreed that the Titans and Loggers would have to play the first tie-breaker in Milwaukee, owing to the Raccoons beating both teams head-to-head during the regular season, with the collective head-to-head record seeing this order:

Raccoons 22-14
Titans 17-19
Loggers 15-21

The game was scheduled in Milwaukee on Tuesday (with Monday reserved for make-up games around the league), where in a duel of southpaws Chris Sinkhorn outlasted Rick Ling as the Loggers squeezed out a 4-3 victory. The Coons entered Milwaukee the following day, playing for the real deal.

Raccoons (90-72) @ Loggers (91-72) – October 7, 2020

The Raccoons had won their only previous appearance in a tie-breaker game, against the Titans in 1995, when Miguel Lopez pitched seven shutout innings to outlast Jose Vidrio in a 7-2 victory.

This time, it will be on Tadasu Abe (12-10, 3.52 ERA) to clinch the division for us, while the Loggers will send right-hander Julio San Pedro (14-7, 3.27 ERA).

Neither Matt Nunley nor R.J. DeWeese were able to play in the game, failing their medical with the Druid. I heard that they had to meditate to clear the medical, and neither achieved zen. DeWeese smashed some things, though, and flung a rookie through a window. Not Graves, however, Graves will play in the most important regular season game in 25 years. Well, maybe beside that season finale in Vancouver in 2012, where Ray Gilbert whacked a pair off Rich Hood in a 2-0 game … BUT THAT NEVER HAPPENED.

Game 163 is upon us.

POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – SS McKnight – 1B Mendoza – RF Graves – C Margolis – CF Metts – 3B Petracek – P Abe
MIL: LF Tesch – SS Burns – CF Coleman – RF Gore – 3B Velez – 2B P. Hall – C Wool – 1B Stickley – P San Pedro

The Critters started the game with three singles off San Pedro, a soft one by Cookie, a medium one by Yoshi, and a hard one by McKnight, loading the bags with nobody out. All runs would score, with Mendoza plating two with a double over the third base bag on which Velez (34 errors on the year and counting) looked pretty terrible, and after Graves’ foul pop out, Margolis got McKnight home with a groundout. The early 3-0 lead was certainly promising! The Loggers got a leadoff single from Tesch in the bottom 1st, but despite stealing second he ended up stranded as Abe turned away the next three batters, including two strikeouts, but the Loggers got to him pretty soon. Paul Hall drew a walk in the bottom of the second inning, and Josh Wool banged a home run to right, cutting the nice lead down to 3-2 without much further ado.

Graves and Margolis hit 2-out singles in the third, but Metts’ fly to left ended up with Brad Tesch. On the other side of the inning, Ian Coleman missed a home run by less than ten feet, flying out to Graves on the warning track. Petracek’s leadoff infield single in the fourth inning was followed up by Abe bunting into a double play, and when Cookie walked after that, he never got a jump, nor did Yoshi, who needed a 4-for-5 or better to still get the batting title, get a ball to fall in, lining out to center. The Loggers also got a leadoff infield single in the bottom 4th, this one by Velez, who moved up as Hall grounded out. Josh Wool beat Abe again, this time for an RBI single to right. The 2-run homer was saved for the next batter, Jack Stickley going yard outta rightfield to give his team a 5-3 lead as the park burst into a frenzy.

San Pedro struck out McKnight and Mendoza to start the fifth, but the 1-2 to Graves got away and was knocked into the right corner for a double. Graves almost would have tried third, but shied away. Margolis’ single scored him anyway, 5-4, Metts also singled, but Petracek grounded out to Hall to end the inning. Kyle Burns beat Abe’s fielding skills for a drag bunt and a base hit to start the bottom 5th, and that was the last we saw of Abe. Kaiser replaced him, struck out Coleman, got Gore to ground into a fielder’s choice, and struck out Velez as well.

San Pedro faced only one more batter, walking PH Tim Prince to start the sixth. For a second we thought about bunting with Cookie, but what sane person would have Cookie bunt!? Facing right-hander Mike Kress, he swung away, sending a liner over Brad Gore’s head for a double, and the Raccoons were in business! Runners on second and third, no outs for Yoshi. The count between Kress and Yoshi ran full before Yoshi knocked a grounder up the middle, past the lunging Burns and into centerfield. Prince scored, Cookie scored, the Coons ahead, 6-5! McKnight struck out before Velez missed another shot by Mendoza for another double. With runners on second and third again, the Loggers walked Graves (.375) intentionally to bring up a right-hander for Kress to match. Margolis had two hits and two RBI in the game, and I kinda wanted to see where this could go. The destination turned out to be swinging strike three, but Metts lined softly over Burns’ glove for an RBI single, 7-5, before Petracek grounded out.

Oh well, just a dozen outs for the pen to collect. What could even go wrong!? Chun did away with the sixth flawlessly before we went really crazy, and the 7-5 lead was given to Nick Lester in the seventh, who just a scant few weeks ago had been the franchise’s worst-ever pitcher with 30+ innings pitched. He still had a horse in the race, but the Loggers sent left-hander Javier Gonzalez to pinch-hit to begin the inning, and had more lefties with Tesch, Coleman, and Gore looming, then the switch-hitting Velez, who was a natural lefty. Kaiser had been used, and Thrasher wasn’t gonna pitch three innings here. Hopefully. The Loggers AGAIN got an infield single to start an inning, as McKnight cut off Gonzalez’ grounder pretty deep behind short, and couldn’t get enough on the throw to first to beat him. Tesch singled to center, moving Gonzalez to third. Now what? Why are you looking at me? Do I know ****?

Burns popped out against Lester, who was still in the game although we should probably know better. But Coleman and Gore were up and I do NOT switch lefty for lefty, ever, unless divine interference occurs, or whatever. The pitching coach gave Lester a pep talk. Oh well, all we need is a double play! Tesch stole second on the first pitch to Coleman, and now the prickle was real. Lester got to 1-2 on Coleman before surrendering the score-knotting single to right center. Gore flew out to center, leaving Velez to deal with. That was when Coleman made it to third on a stolen base attempt that saw Margolis throwing behind McKnight and into centerfield. Lester was understandably flustered by know, so much that at 2-1 against Velez, he was concentrating on Margolis’ signs so hard, he dropped the ball from his hand. “BALK!!” barked the home plate umpire as he jumped out from behind Margolis, who fell forwards onto all his four paws in despair.

HE DID … WHAT???

Coleman weaseled home with the go-ahead run, and the Loggers were now six outs away from their first playoffs since approximately the President Taft administration. Velez flew out to Graves in right, while Milwaukee was turning into party town. Lester was soon caught crying in the dugout as the top of the eighth began – AND ON NATIONAL TELEVISION – and Mendoza stepped in to bat against Ivan Morales. He grounded out to first, but Graves singled to left once new pitcher Jody Loughran was in the game. That was a lefty, and it was the only batter he faced. Morgan Shepherd, a right-hander, moved in to face Margolis. No left-handed bats on the bench, Margolis was always gonna bat, but his high fly to left was well short and ended up with Tesch. Two outs, southpaw Gary Ledford appeared as the fourth reliever in the inning. Bareford batted for Metts, yet flew out to Gore. Paul Hall and Andrew Cooper hit singles off Chris Mathis in the bottom 8th, enough for an insurance run, 9-7.

The ninth was southpaw Quinn MacCarthy, 40 walks and 68 strikeouts in 78 innings this year, but also 46 saves. Olivares batted for Petracek, but popped out. Jackson batted for the useless Mathis, but grounded out to second. That left Cookie at the top of the order and having a 3-for-4 going. His hard shot to the right side was knocked down by Antonio Pagan, who made a blind throw to the hustling MacCarthy behind his rear end…

…and in time. 9-7 Loggers. Carmona 3-5, BB, 2B; Nomura 2-5, 2 RBI; Mendoza 2-5, 2 2B, 2 RBI; Graves 3-4, BB; Margolis 2-5, 2 RBI;

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to talk Nick Lester off the ledge atop the building here, and then I will personally chop all his ****ing paws off.

And then I'll throw him OFF that building. Along with Margolis.
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Old 09-24-2017, 05:18 PM   #2365
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2020 ABL PLAYOFFS

The 96-66 Sacramento Scorpions entered their ninth playoff campaign as well as the second consecutive and third in four years, but they had not won the championship since 1995. At least they would head into the playoffs having clinched home field advantage through to the World Series. The Scorpions had made it to the postseason almost entirely on the strength of their offense, scoring the most runs by a good margin in the Federal League, 880 counters in total. They also led the league in stolen bases and on-base percentage, but had been only average in home runs, with 112 total and not more than two players reaching even 15 individual bombs. The heart of their order with Pablo Sanchez (.376, 8 HR, 69 RBI), Ray Meade (.297, 24 HR, 124 RBI), and Jaiden Jackson (.316, 23 HR, 105 RBI) was fearsome, and even after the #5 batter Jackson there were another two .300+ batters, who had driven in almost 100 runs. There was no respite in pitching to this team, ever. And they had needed every bit of the offense, with a pitching staff that was frankly barely average, especially the rotation. Veteran Ian Rutter had gone 11-7 with a 3.07 ERA, which led the rotation by a huge margin, and only left-hander Brian Simmons (15-9, 3.88 ERA) remained with a sub-4 ERA. But when even Jaylen Symonds can win 16 games with a 5.12 ERA, maybe everything is possible?

Opposing the Scorpions would be the 91-71 Capitals. It was only the second playoff appearance for Washington in the last two decades plus change, and the eighth overall, a long drought after their three championship in the 1990s. The Capitals were banking on their pitching, especially the rotation, which was in the top 3 in the Federal League, and overall they had allowed the second-fewest runs in the FL. The rotation was an odd one, with three left-handed starters led by mid-season acquisition Jose “Butch” Diaz (10-9, 2.78 ERA), coming over from the Titans. The bullpen was not their strong suit, nor was the lineup, which overall lacked sparkle. Only Shane Walter (.345, 4 HR, 61 RBI) had managed to bat .300 (barely qualifying), compared to five .300 batters for the Scorpions. Vibrant shortstop Tom McWhorter (.265, 21 HR, 96 RBI) had led the power department, but at least they had four more double-digit home run hitters, who had paced them to third place overall in bombs in the FL.

Neither of these two teams had significant injuries, and both had a well-mixed lineup. Three left-handers against three right-handers in one or the other rotation would not have a big effect against a mixed lineup, so if all other things were equal, maybe the bullpen could make a difference? The Scorpions looked like they had at least the better top end to their bullpen, so maybe this could be an indicator of them pulling out of a long FLCS in a matchup that was otherwise mostly a tossup?

Always drowned out by somebody, the 92-72 Loggers had to battle through a last-week meltdown and then two tie-breaker games against the Titans and Raccoons to make it to only their third playoff appearance, and the first since 2000. The Loggers, who held the sad record of the most regular season wins in a non-playoff season (102-61 in 2001), had to acknowledge that they weren’t very good in any one area, except for leading the Continental League (and baseball overall) in stolen bases with 125. While they could run circles around the opposition with ease, getting on base was not exactly easy for them, with their .330 OBP ranking only seventh in the Continental League. They had ended up sixth in runs scored, and also only fifth in runs allowed, and how exactly they had made the playoffs was to be subject to more thorough analysis by a few certain other teams. The main problem for the Loggers were crippling injuries. They were down two dependable starting pitchers in Zach Boyer and Luis Guerrero, as well as their best slugger, Chris LeMoine (.279, 22 HR, 89 RBI). Their rotation was now led by Ian Prevost (14-8, 2.87 ERA), but was otherwise a bit mediocre. Their pen was serviceable, but their closer, Quinn MacCarthy had racked up a 3.19 ERA and wasn’t exactly bulletproof, either. Even with LeMoine out, the Loggers still leaned quite a bit to the left side in their lineup, and they would only face right-handed starters from the Aces.

Since making the playoffs only one in the first 41 seasons of the league, the 94-68 Aces had won the World Series twice in 2018 and 2019, and were back in the CLCS for the fourth time overall now. It would be their first time facing somebody other than the Raccoons in the CLCS, whom they had met in ’18, ’19, as well as previously in 1996. The Aces had paced a mediocre CL South, scoring the fourth-most runs and allowing the third-fewest in the CL, although their rotation lacked stars and a somewhat rejuvenated Juan Valdevez and his 3.34 ERA had led the starters, while Jason Clements (16-12, 3.40 ERA) had led the team in wins. The rear end of the Aces’ pen was quite solid, but the shallow end wasn’t, and they would enter three relievers with ERA’s worse than five into the playoffs, and had to hope that their starters would hold up well and cover distance. Offensively they had ended up second to the Loggers in runs scored, but they were also on base more frequently, ranking fourth in on-base percentage in the CL. Unfortunately for them, the team leader in home runs an RBI, Matt Hamilton (.290, 25 HR, 101 RBI), was out of the CLCS with back pain, leaving otherwise unassuming Izzy Alvarez (.257, 16 HR, 87 RBI) to lead both categories. Without Hamilton, their offense looked a bit weak in the tooth. Their lineup was leaning to the left, with the Loggers opposing them with three right-handed starters.

Despite the Aces’ own weakness in the lineup coming into the series, the Loggers’ pile of injuries should give them a very hard time, especially with their overall mediocre numbers to begin with. Most people see the Aces through in five or six games.

+++

2020 LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Loggers @ Aces … 0-3 … (Aces lead 1-0) … LVA Danny Rice 2-4, 2 RBI; LVA Juan Valdevez 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K, W (1-0);

Capitals @ Scorpions … 12-2 … (Capitals lead 1-0) … WAS Matt Wittner 3-5, HR, 3 RBI; WAS Terry Kopp 3-5, 2 HR, 5 RBI; WAS Sandy Sambrano (PH) 1-1, 2 RBI;
Loggers @ Aces … 5-1 … (series tied 1-1) … MIL Josh Wool 3-4, BB, HR, RBI; MIL Chris Sinkhorn 7.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, W (1-0); LVA Armando Martinez 3-5, 2B;

Capitals @ Scorpions … 3-5 … (series tied 1-1) … WAS Josh Baker 3-5, RBI; SAC Ray Meade 3-4, HR, 2B, 2 RBI; SAC Alberto Rodriguez 2-2, 2 BB, 2 2B, RBI; SAC Jimmy Staebell (PH) 1-1, RBI;

Aces @ Loggers … 1-4 … (Loggers lead 2-1) … MIL Ian Coleman 2-4, HR, 2 RBI; MIL Andrew Cooper 3-4, RBI;

Jason Clements goes the (eight-inning) distance for the Aces, but can’t hold on to an early 1-0 lead. In addition to that, the Aces also lose outfielder Armando Martinez, who had batted .296 with seven home runs in the regular season, to a sprained ankle.

Scorpions @ Capitals … 1-8 … (Capitals lead 2-1) … WAS Josh Baker 3-4; WAS Terry Kopp 1-2, 2 BB, HR, 3 RBI; WAS Jose Diaz 8.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, W (1-0);
Aces @ Loggers … 6-7 (11) … (Loggers lead 3-1) … LVA Izzy Alvarez 3-6; MIL Kyle Burns 3-6; MIL Brad Gore 2-5, BB, HR, 2 RBI; MIL Jason Seeley (PH) 1-1, 2B, 2 RBI;

The Capitals put up four in the first, and never have to even remotely look back, while in Milwaukee, the winning run for the Loggers scores on Justin Guerin’s wild pitch, allowing Kyle Burns to dash home from third base.

Scorpions @ Capitals … 9-7 … (series tied 2-2) … SAC Pablo Sanchez 4-5, 2B, RBI; SAC Ray Meade 4-4, BB, 2B, 2 RBI; SAC Ricky Luna 2-5, 2 HR, 5 RBI; WAS Jason Stone 2-4, HR, 3 RBI;
Aces @ Loggers … 4-3 … (Loggers lead 3-2) … LVA Juan Valdevez 7.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, W (2-0) and 2-2, 2 RBI;

Ricky Luna hits a grand slam in the first inning, but the Capitals roar back and lead 7-6 after eight before Ben Marx blows up in the ninth inning and gets run over for three runs that sends the FLCS into a tie.

Scorpions @ Capitals … 4-1 … (Scorpions lead 3-2) … SAC Ricky Luna 1-3, HR, 4 RBI;

Luna strikes again, this time with a sac fly and a 3-run homer in the eighth inning off Danny Arguello to get the Scorpions into the prime position for Game 6.

Loggers @ Aces … 4-7 … (series tied 3-3) … LVA Danny Rice 3-4, 2B, 3 RBI;

Capitals @ Scorpions … 1-9 … (Scorpions win 4-2) … SAC Jason LaCombe 2-3, BB, 2B; SAC Pablo Sanchez 2-5, R BI; SAC Ray Meade 4-5, 2 2B, 4 RBI; SAC Jaiden Jackson 2-5, HR, RBI; SAC Brian Simmons 9.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K, W (1-0);
Loggers @ Aces … 5-4 … (Loggers win 4-3) … MIL Tyler Stewart 2-2, BB, 2B; MIL Josh Wool 3-4, 2B;

Ian Prevost limps through six innings and trails 4-3 when his day is done, but Kyle Burns hits a home run in the seventh inning with a man aboard off Jason Clements to flip the score on the Aces, who can’t find a comeback in the last three innings against the Loggers bullpen and thus take their playoff exit and are denied their third straight title.

In Sacramento, the outcome of the game is never in doubt. The Scorpions score pairs in three of the first four innings and are never threatened by the Capitals.

+++

2020 WORLD SERIES

The Loggers’ first ever pennant(!) sees them up in the World Series against the Scorpions, who will have homefield advantage in their first World Series appearance since their 1995 championship.

Of course the Loggers were stacking up even worse against the Scorpions than they had against the Aces, but fighting through adversity seemed to be their thing after all. The Scorpions had a run differential more than 100 runs greater than the Loggers, outscoring them by 160 markers, while the 51-run difference in the Loggers’ advantage in runs allowed might be ascribed to the CL’s status as the more pitching-heavy and low-scoring league. The difference in league ERA in 2020 had opened to a whopping 0.30, the biggest mark in 16 years. Yes, the Loggers would have a pitching advantage, but only when it came to the rotation. Their bullpen had actually been a bit worse than the Scorpions’. And then there was the problem with the Scorpions being healthy, and the Loggers still missing two pitchers, slugger Chris LeMoine, and also interim first base starter Ron Tadlock, whom the Loggers now had to sub for with a .250 batter with only 14 RBI during the regular season, Jack Stickley. The Scorpions hold the edge in almost all offensive regards, and the Loggers’ rotation would have to be pretty much at 110% percent to give their team a good chance at a major upset.

All points appear set for the Scorpions’ first title in 25 years!

+++

Loggers @ Scorpions … 3-2 … (Loggers lead 1-0) … MIL Chris Sinkhorn 8.0 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, W (2-1);

Loggers @ Scorpions … 6-7 (12) … (series tied 1-1) … MIL Josh Wool 3-5, 2B, RBI; SAC Jason LaCombe 3-5; SAC Ricky Luna 3-4, HR, 3 RBI; SAC Danny Munos 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, W (1-0);

The Loggers’ Justin Carlin issues a single and three walks to consecutive batters in the bottom of the 12th, with Jorge Tovar taking a low 3-2 with the bases loaded to walk off the home team.

Scorpions @ Loggers … 8-3 … (Scorpions lead 2-1) … SAC John Staebell 3-5, HR, 2B, 4 RBI; SAC Jaiden Jackson 3-5, RBI; SAC Brian Simmons 7.0 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, W (2-0); MIL Jack Stickley 3-4, 3B, 2B, RBI;

Scorpions @ Loggers … 3-2 (11) … (Scorpions lead 3-1) … SAC Ricky Luna 2-3, 2 BB, 3B; SAC Sam Kramer 8.0 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K; MIL Chris Sinkhorn 8.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K;

The Loggers plate their two runs in the first inning, but the Scorpions come back to tie the score by the seventh. Ricky Luna, who is becoming the Man of the Playoffs, hits a leadoff triple off Ivan Morales in the top of the 11th and scores on Alberto Rodriguez’ sac fly. The Loggers draw two walks in the bottom 11th, but can’t get a hit off Alfredo Mendoza.

Scorpions @ Loggers … 4-2 (11) … (Scorpions win 4-1) … SAC Ray Meade 3-6, HR, 2 RBI; SAC Alberto Rodriguez 2-4, 2 BB, RBI; SAC Jaylen Symonds 7.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K; SAC Noah Bricker 2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K; SAC Danny Munos 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K, W (2-0);

Julio San Pedro lasts only five innings for the Loggers, which means they are deep in their pen in the 12th. Justin Carlin takes his second and the team’s fatal fourth loss in the series, conceding the go-ahead run in the top 12th o Jason LaCombe’s leadoff double. The runner advances on a balk, with Ray Meade plating LaCome with a single through the left side of the infield. The Scorpions plate another run, but won’t need the insurance, as the Loggers can’t come back against Munos.

2020 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS
Sacramento Scorpions

(3rd title)
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Old 09-27-2017, 11:42 AM   #2366
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Every season, no matter how long and depressing, has an end. That’s the good thing. The bad thing is, that every season will be followed by another one, and that new season will probably be longer and more depressing all along.

The Raccoons played amazing baseball for two months in 2020, then stopped that and toiled around at .500 the rest of the way, and for a considerable amount of the last four months even below that. It took a rousing 6-1 final week to get into a tie-breaker scenario they probably never deserved to be in, and how that ended is already entered indelibly into the history books … and has been scorched into that part of my brain that runs my personal nightmare theater at two in the morning, day after day after day. Nick Lester effortlessly joined Juan Diaz, Glenn Johnston, and others in the Raccoons’ Hall of Infamy, and everything could have gone so well at that point. And yet, it’s not Nick Lester’s fault.

Simplified, the Raccoons lost the division because they held on to Nick Lester with the season on the line, and hadn’t Nick Lester just very recently been the worst pitcher by ERA in franchise history with 30+ innings? We’re getting back to that, by the way. Sometimes pitchers blossom late, and sometimes they blossom never at all. Sometimes they throw three wild pitches in an at-bat, and sometimes they balk in the run that ends the entire team’s season. And sometimes that **** happens while the sterling silver star reliever is waiting in the pen, can’t quite believe it, and never enters the game at all. The Raccoons never entered Ron Thrasher on October 7, and the Loggers ended their season, 9-7 in the second tie-breaker. But hey, never change lefty for lefty, huh? The bottom line is, the Coons played 6-1 in the final week to even get into the second CL North tie-breaker (and we will get to “Tragic” Garrett eventually…), and then they lost that game of games because the guy that called the shots was the same stubborn, inflexible old cuck who still thought baseball was being played for something other than money, and still believed in the fastest guy batting first, keeps playing a powerless outfielder in a prime power position, while signing power batters that never develop any while on the roster.

Yeah, that cuck.

+++

The offseason was upon us, and with that came the most recent love letter from the Mexican Prick, who also had taken a few weeks to show any kind of reaction to the seventh on the seventh. When Ray Gilbert’s two home runs on the final day in 2012 ended the Raccoons’ season short of the playoffs in a sad 2-0 loss, I had a raging Spanish phone call at my house that same night. I understood precious little, but he said ‘bastardo’ quite a lot. Maybe he meant Gilbert?

But there are also good news, f.e. the cocaine trafficking industry in Mexico kept blossoming and in 2020 grew at a higher rate than what most analysts would have expected, leaving the Prick awash with cash and granting the Raccoons a budget increase from $32.5M to $34M. Somebody finally wants to see a championship, I guess?

While the Raccoons retained their third place rank in terms of the teams with the biggest budgets, years of successlessness saw the Crusaders slashing expenses and dropping to a $37M budget. This was still the biggest in the league, though. Federal league teams mostly completed the top 5, with the Cyclones second with $34.5M, the Scorpions fourth at $33M, and the Rebels, Gold Sox, and Bayhawks all knotted for fifth with $30.5M.

The poorest teams were the Indians ($25M), Warriors ($24.6M), Thunder ($24.2M), Falcons ($23.2M), and Wolves ($17.6M). The remaining CL North teams ranked 10th (VAN, $27.2M), 13th (MIL, $26.8M), and 14th (BOS, $26.6M). The median budget was $26.9M. The average budget for all teams was $27.7M. 9th and 22nd places in the rankings were merely one R.J. DeWeese contract apart.

+++

This brings us already to salary arbitration and free agents. The Raccoons have four players in each category, with a few problem cases, because you just can’t go without those, huh?

Arbitration cases were a wild mix between Asian imports that had five full years of service time and were at a critical junction thus; Tadasu Abe had experienced his worst ABL season, while Seung-mo Chun had been same old Mr. Bland-but-Consistent. The other two were backup infielders Tim Prince and Brian Petracek, both already 30 years old. I am not married to any of those two. Prince was a colossal implosion after his trade from the Miners, but in limited exposure in 2020 (213 AB) batted an interesting .272/.414/.380. Petracek was a terrible batter, would never get any better at batting, but was the super utility player I loved to have on the roster.

Free agents included Ronnie McKnight as well as most of the remaining back end of the bullpen in Ron Thrasher, Chris Mathis, and Jeff Boynton. Oddly, Mathis was type B compensation eligible, but Thrasher wasn’t. They are all drunk, all the time in that league office, I SWEAR TO GOD!! (throws empty bottle of booze against the wall, where it shatters and leaves a stain) McKnight is also a type B free agent.

I love Ronnie McKnight, but when I tried to dismantle the thing (briefly) in July, I couldn’t even turn him into a prospect. The Riddler seems to agree, with a scorching scouting report that leaves no good hair on McKnight from snout to tail:

Towns ablaze and bodies strewn –
The Wehrmacht was rolling through Poland.
McKnight’s swing is full of holes,
And burnt out like the Cathedrals in Warsaw.

That’s some hot stuff there. I guess other teams have similar poems on his hitting abilities, which I just don’t understand. (Full scouting report for McKnight below, the most impossibly underscouted player I have ever come across; also the full arbitration page)

McKnight and Thrasher are probably the biggest names and would be the more serious losses. Boyntons grow on trees, but the Thrashers of the world are special. However, both are expected to demand a heavy sack of coin for extensions, and I am uncertain whether I can even afford one of them, given that the Critters as usual have most of their budget raise eaten up by the escalating contracts I so happily and foolishly sign all the time. I must keep doing that. What do I care about the budget pinch of 2024? I need players NOW.

Of course, there would be a way to free up money, but I don’t think that other teams are yet stupid enough to buy into R.J. DeWeese and the remaining 2-yr, $6.6M on his contract. I would love to hang him on the Elks. That would be great. And then he would hit seven homers and bat .429 against the Raccoons in 2021. The other big earners on the team are impossible to trade without packing up and moving shop to Idaho altogether. Mendoza, who was the home run king in 2020, and Toner, who won another triple crown, are both signed for $2.6M this year. Cookie is on for $2.3M, and Yoshi for $2.2M. Those four are under contract through 2023, although three of them (all but Toner) have an option in the final year, a team option for Cookie, and player options for Mendoza and Yoshi Nomura.

Then you don’t know yet how many millions Abe will make, and Hector Santos will be in a contract year for $1.8M. Santos, 32, missed any kind of time for the first time since 2010 and 2011, being held to under 20 starts in both of those seasons, just as he tried to come up to the majors. From 2012 through 2019, he had made 32+ starts every year.

Matt Nunley is the only other player currently signed to seven figures at $1.1M. That contract runs through 2022. There are only two other players with guaranteed contracts past 2021, both relievers, with Joel Davis making $900k annually through 2023 (but will miss most or all of 2021 with Tommy John surgery and the following cleanup), and Jason Kaiser aboard for $400k per year through ’22.

Where do the Raccoons need help?

Well, the rotation is a no-brainer. We may have the best pitcher in the league in Jonny Toner, but behind him it’s grim. Tadasu Abe had a terrible second half with a 4.46 ERA after the All Star Break, and Hector Santos missed half a season (and might have ruined Jonny’s triple crown if he hadn’t, but the Coons might have won a championship after all…). The Coons dumped Cole Pierson on waivers in June (and his ERA with the Buffaloes was actually 1.63 runs *worse* than with the Critters, for a combined 2020 ERA for him of 6.02), and the best you can say about Bobby Guerrero is that he’s cheap. Numerous replacement for open spots failed completely and universally, foremost “Tragic” Garrett, who pitched to a 3-11 record and 5.15 ERA. This included the start in the Tuesday game of the final week, the 10-9 loss to the Indians that made the three-way tie possible in the first place. Somehow, the Raccoons lucked into six decent starts from Ryan Nielson (2-0, 3.29 ERA in 8 games total), but buried somewhere deep beneath the detritus were also nine starts handed over to Damani Knight in a resigning motion in July and August, resulting in a 2-4 record and 5.91 ERA for Knight.

To burst a bubble right away, the Coons can not afford to sign a quality starting pitcher *and* retain McKnight *or* Thrasher. This is a deal where you have to pick one of the three.

And to burst another bubble, although it would be foolish to even dream about it, but no, we have no other hidden prospects that could help in the foreseeable future. “Tragic” Garrett is as good as it gets, tragically.

The most prospect-like things we own are AAA SP Dave Dyer (3-6, 3.91 ERA in 15 AAA GS), who is only 22 and walked as many as he struck out, and then you already have to go to AA to find 2019 first-rounder Reese Kenny, promoted from Aumsville during the year. He went 6-5 with a 3.00 ERA in Ham Lake, with 66 walks and 90 strikeouts in 96 innings. He will be 21 just before the next season begins, so he’s a far way off. In single-A, Jason Butler, 19, struck out 133 in 125 innings, but managed to wind up with a 4.18 ERA anyway. Make of that whatever you want. Butler was a supplemental round pick in this year’s draft.

Bullpen reconstruction is also a topic, while unless we get rid of DeWeese [insert your mad laughter here] we don’t have any real openings in the lineup except for the gaping hole at shortstop. DeWeese isn’t going anywhere, and we pretty much are committed to the set of him, Cookie, Mendoza, and Nunley on the corners, as well as Yoshi at second base. Margolis was the most positive surprise of 2020 and is signed for cheap for another year, so no worries at backstop. Olivares can also stay.

Centerfield is a mess, where we rotated three quality defenders through this year to save Cookie’s legs, arms, and spine for the time being. The resulting slash line was grim, with Andy Bareford, Kevin DeWald, and Dwayne Metts combining for a slash line of .233/.290/.322 – and how many of those walks were intentional. Don’t look it up. DON’T … look it up.

Lots of work ahead.

+++

Normally, I’d tangle with free agent compensation now, but the big picture looks very much sane this season. So I will not make Thrasher type B eligible when he really should be at least that (and probably remove it from Mathis?), because in all fairness, then I would have to evaluate a whole lot more players that are currently not eligible for compensation. F.e., how do you evaluate Angel Casas – rock-hard, first-ballot, future Hall of Famer – who is now 38, but will be out of action until perhaps June, and had a so-so year between two teams before getting hurt? I will spare myself that and 15 other dilemmas.
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Old 09-28-2017, 08:07 AM   #2367
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The longer I looked at the rotation, the more worried I became. Couple that with a bullpen that will be stripped of most assets, and it looked a lot like the Raccoons might be badly starved for pitching in 2021. After all, right now, “Tragic” Garrett was our fifth starter heading into 2021. You need to carry an extra long man just to cover for all the times “Tragic” doesn’t make it out of the first inning. That happened twice in 2020, and in 18 major league starts he logged an out in the sixth inning only ten times. So there’s a strain on the pen right out of the gate. In other words, Garrett pitched only slightly more than five innings per start in 2020. Is there room for improvement? It doesn’t look like stuff is an issue for him with a very good cutter, although it only sits around 92, and a nasty curve. Also has a fork and a changeup, the latter merely for purposes of confusion because it goes wherever. That’s where wild pitches come from. Control is an issue for Garrett. He will be 25 in January. When does someone lose prospect status? And at that age? After 126 innings of 5.07 ERA ball?

On to the pen, where, once you struck Thrasher (free agent), Mathis (free agent), Davis (Tommy John), and Boynton (free agent), you would pretty soon find out that your best pitchers are now Seung-mo Chun (3.10 career ERA) and Jason Kaiser (2.71 ERA). And then? Is Adam Cowen a good pitcher now? What about Blake Kelly? And Nick Lester?

NICK LESTER?

Sifting through the raw sewage that were the Raccoons’ quad-A relievers was unpleasant at best, and it really looked like we would have to scramble hard to find pitching in remote places, because signing prime names costs money, and we weren’t going to have much of that. Also gotta re-sign Tadasu Abe, mind.

The best way to generate budget space has been for years a trade of R.J. DeWeese to somewhere distant and not routinely visited by common folk or even traveling salesmen. Barring the ABL settling a team in Barrow, AL, the next best option would be a trade of him to the Federal League, except there was the mild inconvenience of his OPS values in the last five seasons: .819, .762, .692, .745, .747; hey, hey-hey, I see improvement!!

An even better way to illustrate how limited his value (?) is would be to look at his splits vs. left-handed pitching. We managed to hold him to just 99 at-bats against southpaws in the last three years *combined*. He batted .111 with one home run in that sample. His splits vs. right-handers are still not pleasant, but if f.e. his nearly identical slashes vs. right-handers over the last two seasons (.238/.343/.440 in ’20, almost the same in ’19) would be his overall values, he might actually be a worthwhile player. But as things are, you need to carry some right-handed outfielder to platoon him with. You absolutely can not put him in the lineup vs. left-handers.

Which brings us to Eddie Jackson. Will horrors ever end? Jackson’s 2020 campaign was his third with the Coons after haunting them in the 2017 CLCS, and his worst by numbers. He logged between 273 and 281 at-bats in each of the three seasons, mainly employed as DeWeese’s excuse to have a day off against the most recent Bob Lefthouser some oddball second-division team had found stashed away in AAA. He had batted .253/.339/.363 in 2020, all worsts while a Coon, and pretty close to career-worst numbers. He also had failed at his secondary job, pinch-hitting, poking for a .174 clip in 57 chances. I think we might want to look into trading him for something younger that makes the minimum.

In a perfect world, Zach Graves would bat right-handed, which he doesn’t, which means that there is no room on the roster for a September call-up that batted .386/.470/.544 in admittedly limited exposure (66 PA). Unless we trade Cookie. (giggles)

But you know, maybe someone *is* going to be dumb enough to trade for R.J. DeWeese.

+++

October 30 – In a trade involving four outfielders, the Raccoons acquired OF Josh Stevenson (.265, 23 HR, 177 RBI) from the Thunder while unloading LF R.J. DeWeese (.242, 304 HR, 1,008 RBI) along with CF Andy Bareford (.242, 11 HR, 83 RBI) and AAA OF Chris Matty.
November 1 – The Canadiens acquire 1B/3B Antonio Fraijo (.294, 47 HR, 312 RBI), age 31, from the Stars, sending 30-yr old 1B/LF Mike Fellows (.240, 13 HR, 73 RBI) to Dallas.
November 3 – IND SP Zach Weaver (12-9, 4.12 ERA) is sent to the Miners. The 26-year old right-hander nets the Indians a pitching prospect in return.
November 17 – The Blue Sox trade 26-year old 3B/2B Mike Green (.250, 21 HR, 103 RBI) to the Titans, receiving two prospects in return.

+++

Before I explain anything, the boys have something to say to you. (points at the 32-strong boy choir of St. Edmund’s that has been squeezed into a corner of the office and unleashes a “HAH-LLE-LUYAH!!” that is just as angelic as it is smattering) Thanks, boys, thanks, that was terrific. Mrs. Maud outside will give you your free tickets for upper deck seats in early April, and Cookie Carmona will sign anything you want. – No, Father John, he won’t sign *that*. Shame on you!

Alright, back into the trade that rights the ship!

The trade started as a search for somebody capable of replacing Jackson while being cheap. Stevenson made the minimum in 2020, but was arbitration-eligible for the first time this year. (Thunder and Stevenson already agreed to a $384k deal in 2021, so we inherit that one.) Trading Jackson directly would have been one option, but instead I tried to drop DeWeese on the Thunder (who have roughly $8M in budget space), who really have nobody in leftfield right now. Their best bet, Steve Hollingsworth, is batting even less than DeWeese, despite making only a fraction of money. The Thunder actually listened, but I wouldn’t get off without sending them any kind of prospect. They were really into a few of our less-dubious youngsters, including Dave Dyer, whom I mentioned earlier, and another AAA guy in Rico Gutierrez (a southpaw, and we have a good track record with those), as well as AA catcher Elias Tovias, who has huge upside, although he struggled at age 20 in Ham Lake. I managed to fend that off, left them with outfielder Chris Matty, who does not excite any kind of rave reviews, but that meant that they wanted another player, and they gave me a list of ten to choose from:

Cookie, Yoshi, Abe, Guerrero, Garrett, Bareford, plus the prospects mentioned before, Dyer, Gutierrez, and Tovias, *and* a tenth player, Brazilian shortstop Daniel Bullock. I have expressed my curious fascination with him before. Basically, the first four and Bullock were of limits for them. That left Garrett (grrrr!), Bareford, Dyer, Gutierrez, and Tovias. Basically, you flick them Garrett and kill two flies in one swat.

Except … that it doesn’t make sense to trade Garrett *in this case*. Trading Bareford was completely logical, since Stevenson is basically doing everything that Bareford does, just as well or better. Both are terrific defensive centerfielders with impressive speed once on the bases, both have some pop but not a lot, and both are batting right-handed. Stevenson has more of a track record, and a better track record, and he also has a better arm and would be a strong sub on the corners. Bareford has no place on the roster anymore and thus was the right chip to throw into that deal.

DING-DONG, THE WITCH IS DEAD!!

Ahh…!! Isn’t live wonderful!?

(almost cries)

This trade *completely* changed the scenery regarding our free agents. Now we can go after at least one between McKnight and Trasher, while retaining Tadasu Abe (which would have been the default option earlier).

As amazing as Ron Thrasher was, his demands were outrageous. I see where a 33-year old needs to get his sheep into shelter, but the Raccoons could not agree to his terms of 4-yr, $6.8M, plus incentives. Remember that he has never clicked as official closer. This is money that will get you an actual lights-out closer, and then you still have change left over.

That means the Raccoons need to look into adding both a closer *and* a strong left-handed reliever that is also capable of getting right-handers out occasionally. Jason Kaiser’s splits are considerable, and he is more of a lefty specialist than a real setup guy that can also do away reliably with a right-hander wedged between two left-handers in the eighth. Failing to sign a left-hander would leave us with Nick Lester as next-best option, which means there’s no good option.

A few cases from the arbitration board were resolved quietly in the early days of November. Tadasu Abe signed a 1-yr, $2M extension, so he will hit the market after the 2021 season after all. Jeff Boynton signed for 2-yr, $1M, and Seung-mo Chun wanted more money, while I wanted more years, and in the end everybody was grumbling when he signed a 1-yr, $440k deal, lining up with Abe for free agency 12 months from now.

With Thrasher prohibitively expensive, there was still enough money to throw at Ronnie McKnight, who wanted to stay anyway and happily signed a 3-yr, $3.3M contract which starts at $1M in 2021 and adds 100 grand each season. There is also a $100k incentive available for making the All Star team. The 3-year deal gives Ronnie, who never matched the incredible output he had in his rookie season, a chance to hit the market again at age 32 to get a bigger deal then. I would be all too thrilled if he upped the ante, and it doesn’t matter much if we can resign him in 2023, because the entire team will fall apart then anyway.

Finally, we took Brian Petracek to arbitration, where he received our offer of $320k. Tim Prince was granted free agency as I wasn’t going to be fooled by his 200 decent at-bats in 2020 after years of misery. No offer was made to Ron Thrasher (who refused our last offer of 3-yr, $4M), while Chris Mathis was offered arbitration, which he declined.

+++

2020 ABL AWARDS

Player of the Year: CIN 1B/3B Eddie Moreno (.350, 17 HR, 120 RBI) and ATL C Ruben Luna (.318, 30 HR, 101 RBI)
Pitcher of the Year: SAC SP Ian Rutter (11-7, 3.07 ERA) and POR SP Jonathan Toner (22-7, 2.32 ERA)
Reliever of the Year: TOP CL Mike Baker (11-4, 2.06 ERA, 37 SV) and BOS Desi Bowles (6-2, 2.24 ERA, 28 SV)
Rookie of the Year: CIN 1B Luis Moreira (.270, 29 HR, 95 RBI) and IND MR Shane Baker (4-6, 2.84 ERA, 3 SV)
Platinum Sticks (FL): P PIT Pedro Hernandez, C DAL Matt Harry, 1B CIN Luis Moreira, 2B TOP Chris Owen, 3B CIN Eddie Moreno, SS CIN Andrew Showalter, LF PIT Joe Carter, CF SAC Ray Meade, RF PIT Mike Bednarski
Platinum Sticks (CL): P POR Jonathan Toner, C ATL Ruben Luna, 1B POR Hugo Mendoza, 2B POR Ieyoshi Nomura, 3B MIL Alberto Velez, SS IND Raul Matias, LF ATL Gil Rockwell, CF SFB Dave Garcia, RF LVA Matt Hamilton
Gold Gloves (FL): P TOP Alberto Molina, C SAL Armando Galan, 1B CIN Luis Moreira, 2B DAL Raul Maldonado, 3B DAL Miguel Salinas, SS NAS John Muller, LF DAL John Harris, CF CIN Nando Maiello, RF DEN Julio Candela
Gold Gloves (CL): P ATL Luis Flores, C LVA Danny Rice, 1B BOS Jose Duran, 2B NYC Sergio Valdez, 3B OCT Bobby Marshall, SS ATL Tony Jimenez, LF LVA Dan Brown, CF MIL Ian Coleman, RF POR Ricardo Carmona

DESI BOWLES?? Y’all nuts!! Thrasher finished second in the category, while Mendoza finished second to Ruben Luna for Player of the Year honors. Luna led the league in OPS, so he has a legit case, and while his HR/RBI are a bit lower than Mendoza’s, that is a factor of the nature of being a catcher. And he is a pretty ace defensive catcher, too, while Mendoza’s value was not helped by his average work at first base.

Luna also signed a DeWeeseian contract that will kick in with the new season, seven years for almost $25M. Factoring in inflation, it’s mostly the same as DeWeese’s deal, actually, although this one slightly escalates for three years before reaching $3.8M flat for the last four years.

I can start to laugh about the DeWeese deal now. That is good. That is good. Because that one was eating me up from the inside.

Compared to the Bowles bollocks, I am almost as stunned that Cookie gets some form of recognition, finally. Would you believe that he has been an All Star only once? It’s his first Gold Glove. Yoshi got his third stick, Mendoza his fourth, and Jonny Toner now has four sticks as well as four belts for the king of pitching.

Other things Jonny has led the league exactly four times in: strikeouts, WHIP, and WAR. He is now 128-48 with a 2.32 ERA and 1,770 strikeouts. He will be 30 on Opening Day.
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edtheguy (09-28-2017), pgjocki (10-01-2017)
Old 09-28-2017, 11:16 AM   #2368
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Ding dong DeWeese is gone.....

(celebratory chanting overheard while walking by a full pub in Portland late one night....)
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Westheim (09-28-2017)
Old 09-29-2017, 12:55 PM   #2369
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Teams with money to spend (which the Raccoons temporarily would belong to) had a fine selection of free agents to go after in this offseason. There was something for most every demand. Want a top notch starting pitcher? How about former Pacific Brad Smith. Sure, he’s 36, but he hasn’t let up much, so far. That would be around 15 million bucks.

Teams that had just gotten rid of a low-average, high(…)-power corner outfielder could elect to go after ex-Knight Gil Rockwell, who had batted .237 with 36 dingers in 2020. Like Smith, he was 36, but he was surely going to hold up for a wee bit longer. Deposit 18 million here please.

Need a closer? The Indians just lost Jarrod Morrison to free agency. He isn’t even 36. Only 35. And his strikeouts have come down a bit recently. Nevertheless, he’s yours if you can put 10 million in cash into an envelope.

Yeah, maybe we needed to go about this smarter. The first player I went after had zero major league experience. It was a 23-year old Cuban right-hander that had just washed ashore a few months earlier and hardly spoke a word in English. Jesus Sanchez had a 95mph fastball that was nicely complemented by a changeup, curveball, and slider. None of the three side pitches were overwhelming, but he had an uncanny ability to throw a slider exactly 1.5 inches off the plate to fool every kind of batter in the box. The Riddler saw star potential – at least the scouting report spoke a lot about Aries, Gemini, and Sirius behind a veil – but the question was whether he was major league ready.

Or to formulate differently: would he embarrass himself any more than “Tragic” Garrett?

Being a Cuban ‘emigrant’, Chavez would cost hard coin even when stashed away in AAA to start his stateside career, so this could be a move to sell the present for a better future, and it didn’t sound like me at all.

There were a few good relievers available, but we surely weren’t the only team that had to restock a flayed bullpen, so time was of the essence here. I quickly jumped on a few players and they were happy to sign soon.

+++

November 27 – The Raccoons sign two relievers in one day, reuniting with 32-year old ex-NYC/CHA CL Brett Lillis (29-43, 3.23 ERA, 175 SV) on a 4-yr, $7M contract, and also add 31-year old former Scorpions MR Noah “Bloody” Bricker (74-66, 3.71 ERA, 18 SV), who is going to make $365k in 2021.
November 27 – The Miners sign ex-IND C Jayden Jolley (.262, 130 HR, 734 RBI) to a 3-year deal. The 35-year old backstop, who batted only .228 in 2020, receives a 3-yr, $5.46M contract.
November 28 – Former Indians closer Jarrod Morrison (74-59, 2.72 ERA, 255 SV) signs with the Gold Sox, who will pay $4.66M over three years to the 35-year old right-hander.
November 28 – The Bayhawks also have themselves a new closer, signing ex-RIC CL Matt Collins (63-47, 2.73 ERA, 298 SV) to a 2-year deal for $3.24M.
November 28 – 26-year old SP Mike Fernandez (11-3, 3.57 ERA) is traded from the Cyclones to the Warriors for 26-year old C Brett O’Dell (.254, 5 HR, 42 RBI) and a prospect.
November 28 – The Falcons sign ex-LAP MR Dusty Balzer (57-45, 3.50 ERA, 85 SV) to a 2-yr, $1.72M contract.
November 29 – The Canadiens make a splash by signing 29-year old former Falcon C Ryan Holliman (.271, 124 HR, 455 RBI) to a 6-year deal worth $15.84M.
December 1 – Rule 5 draft: 14 players are taken over three rounds. The Raccoons are not affected.

+++

The only team to take three players in the rule 5 draft were the … Crusaders! Some entirely new rocket science going on over there in New Jorvik.

Thrasher’s price only went up after he attained free agency, so we went back to co-lights-out-lefty Brett Lillis, who had been a Raccoon in the latter half of 2019 for 27 games. Lillis had then joined the Coons at the deadline for a package that included Alex Duarte, and became a free agent after the season. He signed a 2-year deal with the Crusaders, who traded him to the Falcons mid-season, and he also missed two months with shoulder woes. Not seeing himself on a going-nowhere team, Lillis voided his $1.62M player option for 2021, and now signed a flat 4-yr, $7M deal with the Raccoons. The last year is another player option for 2024.

Bricker was high on our draft list all the way back in 2008, but was taken second overall by the Scorpions, with whom he spent his entire professional career so far. They used him as a starter for years, but he never was any more than mediocre in that role, transitioning to the bullpen first in 2017. The last three years have been trying seasons for Bricker, who only managed 45 appearances (12 starts) amidst repeated and consistent injury woes, reaching a low point in 2020 when he didn’t even pitch ten innings after hitting the DL with shoulder inflammation on May 3, never to return from there (but he still got his ring). It was the second time in three years that shoulder inflammation axed him in May, the other time being 2018, and he ruptured a finger tendon in May 2019, also burying him for the year. He is a reclamation project if we’ve ever signed one, but at least he’s dirt cheap.

I see Lillis as our closer in 2021 and beyond, and Bricker as setup, at least until the amputation that has already been scheduled for May. So it might not hurt to look for another eighth-inning-capable reliever. Handedness doesn’t really matter, but the market for left-handers is more or less Ron Thrasher after we signed Lillis.

As long as Bricker is on the roster, and depending on whether you think Adam Cowen can hold down the shallow end of the pen, that leaves one or two positions in the bullpen open. I hear we still have Nick Lester on
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Archelirion (09-30-2017)
Old 09-29-2017, 01:57 PM   #2370
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I dunno; "Bloody Bricker" sounds like a medical condition you want no part of.

Congrats on ridding yourself of DeWeese. I have a DeWeese in my farm system, but I'm content to let him hit .230 in AA.
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Westheim (09-29-2017)
Old 09-30-2017, 06:55 PM   #2371
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As December started, there was still the chance for the Raccoons to chase after LF/RF Gil Rockwell and his 362 career home runs. Don’t underestimate his power; before Hugo Mendoza kicked him off the home run throne this year, Rockwell had led the Continental League in long shots *seven consecutive times*. He was not exactly a gem defensively, but could be worked into leftfield. Cookie stays in right, and Zach Graves can stick to AAA meal money.

Except … Rockwell is looking for more money than DeWeese made (and is still making out of somebody else’s checkbook), and he dropped his batting average by 57 points in three years, from .294 to .237. Despite 36 home runs – the first time he failed to hit 40 since 2012 – he only slugged .448 and OPS’ed .781. For size comparison, Danny Margolis slugged .435 and had an OPS of .770 in 2020.

Yes, hello? Is this Gil Rockwell’s agent? – Yeah, I’m calling becau-

I’D BE MAD. I am mad. But not that mad. The Raccoons are still threatened to have “Tragic” Garrett in the rotation; they need the money elsewhere. I am pretty sure that Zach Graves has as good a chance to bat for a 1.014 OPS over a full season than Margolis has to have an OPS of .770 once more in his life, but it’s not worth the effort to stuff the giant, giant hole the departure of R.J. ********, who has been burned in effigy at least twice by relieved fans in front of the ballpark since the trade with Oklahoma, left in our hearts with all the money we got left. I could just as well exchange the budget space into pennies and dump it into a landfill.

Graves’ scouting report doesn’t exactly scream ALL STAR in your face, but neither does Ronnie McKnight’s, and for what it is worth, Ronnie has 854 career hits by now. And has been an All Star! And a Rookie of the Year, goddamnit. That was in 2015, the second consecutive Raccoons infielder (after Matt Nunley) to win the award, and also the most recent Critter.

Who else has won Rookie of the Year trophies in the brown dress? Well of course the remarkable Jong-hoo Umberger (2008), the long-forgotten Eddie Torrez (2003) – but honestly, who from 2003 hasn’t been forgotten yet; name ONE other player on that roster that is not Brownie, without peeking! – and lastly the pretty much unforgettable Vern Kinnear (1992), although the most prominent picture on his entry in that online encyclopedia thingsie shows that all too well known picture, taken from behind home plate, of him as he stomps first base with the right fist in the air and a yellow #16 on a blue shirt to walk off the Titans in the tenth inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.

Before the winter meetings, the Raccoons’ rotation still read Toner – Santos – Abe – Guerrero – Garrett. I kept looking at Garrett’s scouting report and kept telling myself that he should be a lot better, but somehow I had lost all confidence in the kid. You know, it surely wouldn’t hurt to look at the free agent market in this regard.

Depending on whether you wanted to burn your first round pick in 2021 (in the Critters’ case this would be the #20 selection), there was either nothing available or everything available. The least-gruesome option among non-type A free agents was probably Michael Foreman, a more or less unremarkable pitcher, except that he would have denied Jonny Toner his first triple crown a few years back if he had pitched just nine more innings and maintained his 2.17 ERA. But it turns out that this was Foreman’s far-and-away best season, and he has never even been remotely close to an ERA like that before or after. A Logger for most of his career, this right-hander had a 36-59 record, and while being a *Logger* was often reason for having a 36-59 record, and Foreman had never pitched for a team that had won more than 82 games, you couldn’t excuse Bob Joly from amassing a 16-39 record on the woeful turn-of-the-millennium Raccoons. True, the 2000-ish Raccoons couldn’t find their butthole in bright daylight without professional guidance, but Bob Joly was still an abysmal pitcher that didn’t improve much in his post-Portland days and finished his career with a 4.52 ERA. Foreman’s career ERA was a 3.98, and he had split 2020 more or less evenly between the Crusaders and Buffaloes, pitching to a 4.74 ERA with both individually. True, he had suffered from outright desolate defense especially with the Buffaloes, but there are limits as to what a 4 BB/9 and 6.5 K/9 rate can do for you to begin with – which are also more or less his career numbers.

There wasn’t much to find for our purposes (which asked for someone better than Garrett worth the money) behind Foreman, so let’s look at the type A free agents. I was not much into finesse pitchers these days, and wanted no part of Brian Benjamin, who had never broken 5 K/9 in any season in his career. He had won 19 games for the Crusaders with a 3.36 ERA, but just one year earlier had ended up 7-18 with a 5.72 ERA. The difference was in the sorry-ass defense the Crusaders had fielded one year ago. While the overall product had not improved for them in 2020, their defense had, and thus a finesse groundballer who would never strike out anybody would obviously draw the biggest advantage from much better defense. The Raccoons’ defense around the infield was probably at the “very good” level overall, but I still couldn’t look past his 106 K in 244 innings last year.

Ex-Titan Ozzie Pereira (18-9, 3.29 ERA in 2020) was a less extreme version of Benjamin, and still not up my alley, and former Rebel Cody Zimmerman (15-11, 3.55 ERA), a left-hander, was a bit of a human catapult at times. This would always get worse in Portland. How bad is the park for pitchers? Jonny Toner had a 1.94 ERA three years ago, and still surrendered 13 bombs. This year, Jonny had started 16 games in Portland, had allowed *less than four* base hits per game, and had still wound up conceding six dingers in Coon City.

Then you have Brad Smith, a 36-year old veteran whose skill is unquestioned. He spent his entire career in Los Angeles, and if he had been in the Continental League, Brownie and Jonny Toner would have a lot fewer accolades between them. Debuting at 19, Smith was 238-127 with a 3.07 ERA and 3,231 strikeouts, the latter putting him sixth overall in league history (dropping Brownie to ninth this year), and leading all active pitchers by a whole lot. He had led the FL in ERA four times, sprinkled throughout his career, and had led the FL in strikeouts also four times, all of those years coming at age 30 and later. Six-time Pitcher of the Year. You get the idea. So what does he give you now? Superficially, he had his worst year in a decade in 2019 with a 3.65 ERA and *over three walks per nine innings*. Yes, that qualifies as “worst” for some guys. He recovered in 2020, pitching to a 15-9 record and 3.20 ERA, and whiffing 187 in 230 innings. The last one was a red flag. It was his lowest K/9 (7.3) since 2006, and a dramatic drop from the 9.7 K/9 he had still piled up in 2019.

This was a type A free agent, the best guy on the market, and he was asking for around four million a year.

And I wasn’t gonna bite. The risk was too high, and he might turn into Bobby Guerrero before you can spell “Guerrero” correctly. I prefer my Guerreros to come at a $900k rate annually.

So, “Tragic” Garrett is in? That would be tragic. Maybe we can swing something at the winter meetings.

+++

December 2 – The Miners sign 35-year old ex-ATL SP Shaun Yoder (109-103, 4.24 ERA) to a 2-year contract worth $3.24M.
December 3 – The Bayhawks announce the addition of 36-year old 6-time FL Pitcher of the Year and lifetime Pacific Brad Smith (238-127, 3.07 ERA) on a 2-yr, $6.48M contract.
December 4 – $9.82M over five years wins former Canadiens outfielder Ezra Branch (.272, 154 HR, 668 RBI) for the Thunder.
December 4 – Veteran 3B/1B Antonio Esquivel (.304, 225 HR, 1,332 RBI) has seen a lot in a 17-year career and will see some more after signing a 2-yr, $6.08M contract with the Titans for his age 40 and 41 seasons. Esquivel batted .305 with 25 homers across the last two seasons with the Knights.
December 4 – The Raccoons sign 23-year old Cuban right-hander SP Jesus Chavez to a 4-yr, $3.6M contract.
December 6 – 30-year old RF/LF Saverio Piepoli (.249, 77 HR, 404 RBI) split 2020 between the Aces and Pacifics, and now signed a 5-yr, $12M contract with the Blue Sox.

+++

Chavez will make $600k in 2021, then $1M annually. This figures in that he may well start in AAA until we see what the kid has to offer. If he’s 7-1 with a 2.08 ERA in May, then heck, exchange him for Garrett, who will by then probably tragically be 2-6 with a 5.43 ERA in the majors, accounting for all of the Raccoons’ 3-game deficit in the North and taking the loss in another two games in which his team scored nine.

There is also a Hall of Fame ballot out. Look at Gerardo Rios. 1,999 career hits. That’s just sad. There’s a hard error chalked up to second baseman somewhere in 2003 that soiled a nice, round number. 1,999. Oh well, I got Neil Reece into the Hall on less hits than that. Ten less to be precise.

Nope, no Nick Brown yet, who will not appear on the ballot until 2023 for a 2024 induction. He will not even be the next Raccoon, because early indications are that Ralph Ford will be on the ballot one year earlier and has hinted at wanting to be inducted as a Raccoon if he would make it (he won’t). Ford spent 19 years in the major leagues, debuting with the 1999 Coons, and lost 17 or more games five times. His 202 career losses rank ninth in league history, although three pitchers with more losses have previously made it to the Hall of Fame, including Craig Hansen, Leland Lewis, and losses leader Bastyao Caixinha. Ford spent only five of his 19 seasons with a winning team, but also wound up with a 4.06 career ERA, hinting at the fact that he was no help to his teams most of the time. None of those winning teams were the Raccoons, who let Ford go as free agent after 2006, the last year of their 10-year stint in the losing desert.

Fun fact: Ford was acquired in 1997 as prospect during the firesale at the beginning of the losing decade, one of two players coming into the organization in exchange for Ben O’Morrissey, the old bitch. Nope, I still have not forgiven O-Mo. And I never will. But let’s see what Alzheimer’s can do.
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Old 10-02-2017, 06:47 AM   #2372
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The first day of the Winter Meetings quickly degenerated into a poker game during which I managed to lose my lunch money for all five days and had to call Steve from Accounting in Portland to wire me another $25, but at least I fared less badly than Falcons GM Daniel Ayala, who lost the naming rights of the Charlotte ballpark to Nashville’s GM Edwin Rodriguez.

Things got a bit more serious after that. For example, the Indians insisted that all the Raccoons needed to make the playoffs in 2021 was 1B Mike Rucker. 33 years old and having batted .248 with 20 homers and a .761 OPS in 2020, Rucker was an injury wreck, responsibility for which had been shuffled to another team mid-season three out of the last four years. We remember him of course as the first baseman for the Loggers from 2013 until 2017, and back then his body was actually still sound. He led the Continental League in OPS in 2017 and drove in 127 runs that year, but since then it has been a steady downhill tumble for him. I don’t think I want to play him over Zach Graves (because Mendoza would shift out to right if we were to play Rucker), and I also don’t think I want to send five prospects the Indians’ way for the honor to put Rucker on the DL in early April. These prospects included Daniel Bullock, who continues to be a primary target for other GM’s.

So Zach Graves dodged that bullet, but he wouldn’t dodge the next one. On the final day of the meetings, I managed to talk the Aces into a mind-boggling deal that tore a hole into our rotation, but added a killer’s bat to the lineup. Matt Hamilton had completed four years in the majors now and had been awarded $1.52M in arbitration. The Aces weren’t really sure how happy they were with him, despite him hitting 25 or more dingers each of the last three seasons. The 2017 CL Rookie of the Year had 97 home runs to his career at age 27, but had also led the league in strikeouts in ’18. I looked at Hamilton’s scouting report, and I looked at Graves’ scouting report. There was not even a question about what to do, and the price wasn’t as steep as one might expect…

+++

December 9 – The Cyclones sign ex-SFW RF/2B Stephen St. George (.273, 50 HR, 369 RBI) to a 2-yr, $2.34M contract.
December 9 – The Titans trade 26-yr old LF/RF/1B Jose Avila (.275, 16 HR, 129 RBI) to the Stars for 34-year old MR Alex Ramirez (48-33, 3.35 ERA, 132 SV), promising unranked prospect OF/1B Adam St. Germaine, and cash.
December 10 – The Falcons sign ex-NYC SP Brian Benjamin (85-108, 4.36 ERA). The 31-year old right-hander will make $9.34M over four years.
December 10 – Ex-BOS SP Ozzie Pereira (104-93, 3.95 ERA) is a Scorpion now after inking a 3-yr, $5.46M contract.
December 10 – After splitting 2020 between the Gold Sox and the Blue Sox, 34-year old right-hander SP A.J. Bartels (124-134, 4.40 ERA) will be a Cyclone in 2021 after signing a 2-yr, $2.64M deal.
December 10 – The Knights sign 33-yr old ex-POR MR Chris Mathis (29-14, 2.57 ERA, 32 SV) to a 2-yr, $1.41M contract.
December 11 – The Falcons add former Titans catcher Tim Robinson (.268, 119 HR, 444 RBI) on a 5-yr, $6.2M contract.
December 11 – The Canadiens send 31-year old MR Frank Yeager (15-13, 4.42 ERA) to the Gold Sox, along with a prospect, for 31-yr old RF/LF Justin Bellows (.236, 31 HR, 158 RBI).
December 13 – The Raccoons acquire 27-year old LF/RF/1B Matt Hamilton (.279, 97 HR, 366 RBI) from the Aces in a trade that sees 30-yr old SP Bobby Guerrero (71-68, 4.18 ERA, 2 SV) venture to Las Vegas.

+++

I always sign these guys, huh?

And boy, do we need pitching now! The new rotation reads Toner – Santos – Abe - ? – Garrett. Which you can also transcribe as Toner – comes back from injury – sucked in the second half – ? – ?. Unfortunately I already spent a fortune on the bullpen that needed fixing (and still isn’t fixed completely), so our new fourth starter has to come on a budget.

Is Damani Knight still in the organization?

Our lineup will again hang ridiculously to the left side, but how does a primary lineup against right-handers consisting of Cookie, Yoshi, Hamilton, Mendoza, McKnight, Margolis, Nunley, and Stevenson sound to you? Yup, Matt Nunley might bat seventh; the lineup might be THAT loaded.

But, yeah, pitching, huh? Gonna be a hard to find something that isn’t prohibitively expensive (and we are down to roughly $2M in budget space now, so the remaining top flight free agent starters like Cody Zimmerman are out of reach, demanding well more than that) and/or will cost us our first round pick. Not that I am married to first round picks. Hardly anything good ever springs out of the first round for the Critters. [Yoshi Nomura clears his throat in the background] Most of the time.

Alex Ramirez, the bum, is back in the division after one season away. Well, well, could I be happier? (tries to crack the lock on the cabinet with Maud’s crossbow)

Other ex-Raccoons that found a new roof above their head include Tim Prince joining the Loggers for 2-yr, $428k; Troy Charters linked up with the Rebels for 2-yr, $1.26M;
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Old 10-03-2017, 07:21 PM   #2373
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As the days passed and we got closer to the holidays, the Raccoons were in the bidding for two players. One was a candidate for a backup infielder’s job – there wasn’t anybody but Petracek on the 40-man roster now with Prince gone and Hudman and Aponte having been designated for assignment – while the other was Michael Foreman. Trading Bobby Guerrero for Matt Hamilton had more or less forced the hand of the Raccoons in this regard. There wasn’t a point in arguing for or against Brad Smith, because we couldn’t afford a $3M+ contract to begin with.

Side note: other players that had been waived and designated for assignment during the course of October and November had been Dan Riley, Owen Walker, and Roger Coolen. None had been claimed. Coolen hadn’t even ever been on the major league roster, a 26-year old starter-turned-reliever-turned-no-good-for-anybody.

The 40-man roster was still full at this point, even without signing anybody, and with only 27 players still on the major league roster. We had a giant pile of pitching on the secondary roster, and none of it was any good.

Quick recap of who is on the 40-man at this point to begin with (sorted by major league roster / minor league rosters):
SP: Tadasu Abe, Travis Garrett, Hector Santos, Jonathan Toner / Jose Castaneda, Jesus Chavez, Dave Dyer, Roger Kincheloe, Ricky Martinez, Trevor Taylor
RP: Jeff Boynton, Noah Bricker, Seung-mo Chun, Adam Cowen, Joel Davis(+), Jason Kaiser, Blake Kelly, Nick Lester, Brett Lillis, Ryan Nielson, Matt Schroeder / David Kipple(#), Will West
C: Danny Margolis, Ezequiel Olivares / Edwin Prieto
IF: Matt Hamilton, Ronnie McKnight, Yoshi Nomura, Matt Nunley, Brian Petracek / Russ Greenwald
OF: Cookie Carmona, Eddie Jackson, Hugo Mendoza, Dwayne Metts, Josh Stevenson / Kevin DeWald, Zach Graves, Brian Perakis
(+) injured; (#) assigned to AA

Cutting away the rotten meat is only easy at first glance. Matt Schroeder can be axed without issues. Blake Kelly is already tricky. He has awesome stuff, and maybe he can find the strike zone at 27? He struck out 17 in just 11.2 innings in the Bigs this year, but he also walked 40 in 46 innings in St. Petersburg and pitched to a 4.30 ERA there (6.17 in Portland). You know, we are paying him $170k, the league minimum, but if he gets run over by a dump truck tomorrow, all the compensation we get from insurance will be a fruit basket with a ‘Sorry?’ card.

Castaneda, 23, actually got a cup of coffee this year, which you may not specifically remember in a sea of miserable replacement pitching. He appeared in three games and piled up a 16.20 ERA and 6.00 WHIP. Chavez, Dyer, Kincheloe, Martinez, and Taylor are prospects of varying value. The last three are all 24 or older. None of them had a good year. Taylor pitched to a 5.02 ERA in St. Pete. Martinez was injured almost the entire season. Kincheloe was injured most of the season, but managed to somehow collect six big league appearances, an 8.18 ERA, and two walks for every strikeout. None of them has any kind of value. Same for Greenwald, DeWald, and Perakis. Will West had about 17 chances so far, and bungled all 20 of them.

Which means that despite 23 pitchers on the 40-man roster, we are still not able to pick a 12-man pitching staff together. We definitely need a starter, so we are after Foreman now. In terms of relievers, we have Lillis closing, Boynton and Kaiser setting up to the best of their abilities, Chun as another 7th/8th/auxiliary long man, whatever you can draw out of Cowen’s innards, and probably Bricker for at least a few games before he will have a terrible career-ending lawnmower accident. A lawnmower owned by the Raccoons. Inside the ballpark. What else? Ryan Nielson as additional left-hander?

The question here would be whether we can get another left-hander off the market now. In case you wonder, Ricky Martinez is the only other left-hander in the pile of bent bones. Technically also David Kipple, but he’s 22 and walked 8.7 per nine innings after his midseason promotion to Ham Lake.

Oh, and Nick Lester.

NICK LESTER.

Nielson or sign a left-hander? His career ERA was 4.49 with a 1.57 WHIP. The only thing maybe in his favor was a career BABIP of .333 over his 114.1 innings in the Bigs, accumulated over 36 games (17 starts) in four seasons. He was 28 now. Puppy protection was surely over for him.

…which was when my eye fell on Manobu Sugano. A Raccoons reliever for several years until 2016, Sugano had split 2017 between the Elks and Crusaders, but after that had fallen onto hard times and had pitched in the minors for parts of all of the last three seasons for three different teams. The scouting report was still decent in my eye.

The rising sun in the western sky
Amazing baseball sliding by
Sambu’s pride throws ninety-four
What could you possibly desire more?

Sounds almost like music…!

The problem was that even after the DeWeese deal I had almost used up all the budget space available. With an offer to Sugano, we were mostly at the end of the road unless we could find a trade that would send away Eddie Jackson – really the only bat I can reasonably trade right now – and get some other help back.

+++

December 22 – The Loggers sign LF Jose “Dingus” Morales (.327, 349 HR, 1,360 RBI) to a 1-yr, $1.38M deal. The 38-year old spent 2020 with the Crusaders is a 12-time All Star and 5-time Hitter of the Year, but batted only .271 with 16 homers in 2020.
December 25 – The Loggers fanbase awakes on Christmas Day that the Loggers have dealt star OF/1B Chris LeMoine (.267, 137 HR, 469 RBI) and cash to the Falcons for CL Ian Ward (42-53, 4.45 ERA, 88 SV) and unranked prospect Danny Mancia.
December 25 – The Raccoons give out a 1-yr, $250k contract to 30-year old former Warriors INF Adam Zuhlke (.263, 14 HR, 165 RBI).
December 26 – The Titans have themselves a new left-hander in ex-POR CL Ron Thrasher (34-30, 2.39 ERA, 76 SV), who will receive $4.62M over three years.
December 28 – The Bayhawks sign former Cyclones C Errol Spears (.287, 161 HR, 951 RBI). The 36-year old receives a 3-yr, $4.48M contract.
December 31 – 37-year old ex-LAP C Jose Flores (.276, 227 HR, 917 RBI) lands himself a 2-yr, $3.16M gig with the Cyclones.

+++

Loggers, huh? I’m not switching out LeMoine, who is 28 and in full juice for the 2021 version of “Dingus” Morales. It was nine years ago that the Raccoons signed Morales to a free-agent deal that ultimately resulted in Cookie and is a story that I have coughed up countless times, but right now it would be LeMoine I would like to have on the roster, and not Morales. He’s probably also not worth four prospects anymore at this point.

I guess, the CL North is the Raccoons’ for grabs now?

There is currently bidding going on for the services of Michael Foreman, with reportedly half the CL North involved, plus the Cyclones and Rebels, and probably also the Holy See, who knows these things…

Zuhlke (spelling guide: zool-key, with a long 'oo' like in zoo... or ghoul) is a semi-decent bench bat with variable uses around the infield. Nothing special for sure, but probably still preferable to come off the bench rather than Brian Petracek. He’s cheap, which is extra good when we need the money actually to sign pitchers.

Meanwhile the Crusaders spent $2.43M on shabby reliever Adonis Foster, when they could have had Matt Schroeder for free.

Trading Jackson would still hurt in terms of pinch-hitting, but Zuhlke is a right-handed batter, so there would actually still be two right-handers on the bench, including Olivares. Petracek is a switch-hitter, and in centerfield we will not employ a straight platoon between Stevenson and Metts, but Metts will get regular starts against right-handed pitching, so Stevenson will be on the bench as well from time to time. In this situation, Eddie Jackson isn’t purely needed for being a *right-handed* bat, although we may run into grave trouble against southpaws like a few years ago when we also had hardly any right-handed batters. Trading Jackson to make room for Graves doesn’t exactly sound great. Too much left-handed hitting…

Not a great situation. But the old cuck had to trade for yet another left-handed slugger. Absolutely had to.

One former Raccoon has a new team on a minor deal: William Waggoner got $256k from the Falcons.

+++

2021 HALL OF FAME VOTING RESULTS

TOP SP Tony Hamlyn – 1st – 99.6% - INDUCTED
MIL CL Robbie Wills – 1st – 87.1% - INDUCTED
MIL LF Bakile Hiwalani – 4th – 81.5% - INDUCTED
SFB CL Ryosei Kato – 1st – 71.8%
NAS 3B César Gonzalez – 1st – 65.6%
??? SP Chris York – 3rd – 39.6%
MIL CF Jerry Fletcher – 4th – 28.2%
SFB CL William Henderson – 10th – 26.9% - DROPPED
TIJ SP Kelvin Yates – 2nd – 15.4%
BOS SS Daniel Silva – 2nd – 7.9%
SFB C Gabriel Ortíz – 2nd – 7.0%
NYC SP Anibal Sandoval – 7th – 4.0% - DROPPED
??? SS Bob Hall – 2nd – 3.5% - DROPPED
TOP C Carlos Ramos – 2nd – 3.5% - DROPPED
SFW LF Dave Graham – 1st – 3.1% - DROPPED
??? RF Josh Thomas – 2nd – 2.6% - DROPPED
BOS 3B Mark Austin – 3rd – 1.8% - DROPPED
??? CF César Morán – 1st – 1.8% - DROPPED
RIC LF Gerardo Rios – 1st – 1.3% - DROPPED

Perhaps the best pitcher of his generation and the career leader in wins and strikeouts as well as innings pitched, Tony Hamlyn was an All Star a baffling *17* times in a career that spanned ‘only’ 19 years. He also made 33+ starts in 16 of his seasons, and usually delivered work that was nothing but excellent, finishing his career with a 308-173 record (in 612 starts, so he won more than half of them) with a 2.63 ERA and 3,952 strikeouts. He was Pitcher of the Year seven times, and won the CL Pitching Triple Crown in 2002, and the FL Pitching Triple Crown in 2010, the year he won his only World Series with the Cyclones. Hailing from Ontario, he was originally signed as a minor league free agent by the Bayhawks, with whom he debuted, but he would ultimately make the Hall of Fame as a Buffalo after spending the most seasons with them, including a fabled 2004 campaign in which he pitched a league-leading 272 innings for a mind-boggling 1.85 ERA.

The #18 pick in the 1995 draft, Robbie “Dawg” Wills was brought up by the Loggers, with whom he racked up 311 of his 489 career saves (10th all time) during their hey-days around the turn of the millennium. He led the league in saves once, in 2001, but would sign as free agent with the Crusaders before the 2007 season, just in time to be part of their first of consecutive three-peats, and while he pitched for the Blue Sox from 2010 to 2012, he came back to the Crusaders after that and won two more titles with them. He was an All Star seven times, and wound up with a 81-77 record and a 2.51 ERA as well as 1,509 strikeouts. A rare feet for a reliever, Wills struck out 100 or more batters five times in a season, including 110+ three consecutive years from 2006 through 2008.

Wills won’t be the only Logger to make the Hall of Fame in this class, as electors also bumped corner outfielder Bakile Hiwalani over the hump. The Kansas native with three quarters of Pacific Islanders’ ancestry was the Loggers’ first-round pick one year ahead of Wills, taken seventh overall in ’94. Hiwalani would burst onto the season in the latter half of the 1990s, slugging himself to four consecutive RBI titles starting with his sophomore year in ’97. He would win the RBI crown six times in total, all with the Loggers, with hom he played until a trade to the Wolves in 2009. He led the league once in home runs and doubles (both in 2006, also his last RBI title), but would drop off by his mid-30s. He saw out his career with uneventful stints in Salem and Cincinnati. Hiwalani was an All Star four times, all nominations coming in his 20s, and ended up with a .271 batting average, 312 home runs, and 1,592 RBI. He still ranks fourth in career RBI behind Will Bailey, Martin Ortíz, and Ron Alston.

Trivia: Robbie Wills takes over the last place of Hall of Famers in alphabetical order, bumping dear old Grant West out of the bottom slot. It’s okay for Grant, who maintained the upper hand over him in his career, nudging 33 more saves (522 total) and had a .39 better ERA.

In a bizarre twist of events, the Loggers, who have never won a championship and just dismantled their team in a severe case of cerebral diarrhea, now have the most Hall of Famers, with six: Martin Garcia, Bartolo Hernandez, Bakile Hiwalani, Cristo Ramirez, Neil Stewart, and Robbie Wills. Next: Scorpions with five, and Gold Sox, Thunder, and Raccoons with four. The Aces, Bayhawks, and Wolves have no Hall of Famers to their name.

And now for our big prize bonanza! I have four tickets behind home plate for our 2021 home opener (caution: it might smell in the park) for the smartas- ... the very knowledgeable Raccoons fan who can flawlessly name all the former Raccoons that were on the Hall of Fame ballot.
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1983 * 1989 * 1991 * 1992 * 1993 * 1995 * 1996 * 2010 * 2017 * 2018 * 2019
1 OSANAI : 2 POWELL : 8 REECE : 10 BROWN : 15 HALL : 32 WEST : 46 SAITO

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Last edited by Westheim; 10-03-2017 at 07:28 PM.
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Old 10-04-2017, 12:30 PM   #2374
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Of more than a dozen type A free agents this offseason, those remaining in the new years were mostly first baseman ostensibly past their prime, with Alberto Rodriguez, Gil Rockwell, Stan Murphy, Steve Butler all lingering. The Raccoons had no interest in any of them (although I did half-heartedly try to trade for Rockwell a number of years ago), they were after Manobu Sugano secondly, and Michael Foreman firstly.

The Foreman deal was taking a long time to take shape. Entering bidding with a $2.4M offer over two years, the Raccoons were soon in for it for more than $3M total. This was becoming an issue as at least six teams were bidding on the best remaining starting pitcher that was not encumbered with free agent compensation. Our budget was simply not big enough to go much beyond $1.6M per year.

The bidding progressed past that by the beginning of February. I offered 3-yr, $4.5M, but he wouldn’t take it, sparing me the woes a few years from now where to dump that third year of his contract to. My final offer was for $1.6M in 2021, $1.8M in 2022. It had to be that, or else…

OR ELSE … DAMANI KNIGHT!!

+++

January 7 – Former Rebels SP Cody Zimmerman (107-100, 3.67 ERA) wins a 6-year contract from the Crusaders. The 30-year old left-hander will make $20M over the length of the deal.
January 8 – The Raccoons reunite with 35-yr old ex-DEN MR Manobu Sugano (17-13, 2.64 ERA, 14 SV). The left-hander pitched for the Raccoons from 2012 through 2016 and comes back aboard for a 1-yr, $300k deal.
January 18 – Former OCT C Casimiro Schoeppen (.259, 43 HR, 407 RBI) signs a 2-yr, $1.62M contract with the Rebels.
January 29 – 28-year old SFW SP Jose Acosta (44-34, 3.38 ERA) announces his retirement after failing to recuperate from a torn labrum suffered in July. The Colombian right-hander had surgery twice, neither being successful.
January 31 – 36-year old ex-Knight 1B Gil Rockwell (.266, 362 HR, 1,063 RBI) lands the Scorpions’ first base job with a 3-yr, $8.12M contract.
February 2 – Ex-WAS SP Ted McKenzie (96-103, 4.34 ERA) becomes a Pacific thanks to a 4-yr, $11.82M offer from the Los Angeles team.
February 2 – 32-year old INF Emilio Farias (.318, 7 HR, 563 RBI) split 2020 between the Bayhawks and Loggers and has now hooked up with the Rebels on a 2-yr, $2.44M deal.
February 10 – The Scorpions’ former first baseman, 38-year old Alberto Rodriguez (.292, 169 HR, 1,265 RBI) gets a 2-yr, $2M deal from the Blue Sox to continue his career. The Blue Sox will be Rodriguez’ fifth team, all in the Federal League. Rodriguez has led the FL in doubles six times, including this past season.
February 13 – MIL SP Ian Prevost (41-31, 2.81 ERA) falls off the roof of his house while trailing to patch a leak. The Loggers announce that he is well, but will have to delay his season preparations by two weeks with an undisclosed injury, which the media soon speculates is a butt bruise.
February 20 – Ex-NAS 1B Steve Butler (.305, 285 HR, 1,225 RBI) can’t get more than a 1-yr, $750k contract from the Aces. Butler, 36, batted .296 with 22 HR and 100 RBI in 2020.
February 20 – The 2020 season of RIC SP Mike Brugh (78-58, 3.61 ERA) ended in May, when the 30-year old right-hander tore his medial collateral ligament. Nine months later, he still struggles with putting weight on his leg and will require more surgery to fix the knee. Returning to pitching is out of the question for him; Brugh announced his retirement in the afternoon.
February 23 – The Raccoons win the bidding race for ex-NYC/TOP SP Michael Foreman (36-59, 3.98 ERA) with a 2-yr, $3.4M offer.

+++

Wheez. That one came down right to the wire. Without Foreman I really don’t know what we would have done. The free agent market was picked thin thanks to the season being merely five weeks away.

Did I mention that Foreman has struggled to remain healthy for his entire career? Nah, between him and “Bloody” Bricker, what can even go wrong?

There was the slightest predicament with the Sugano signing. Manobu had worn #30 during his first stint with the Critters, but we had given that one out to Matt Hamilton the previous month – he had also worn #30 with the Aces. Hamilton wasn’t giving it back now, and Sugano had to settle for #35.

To get Sugano onto the major league roster, we had to DFA another player. To my surprise, we managed to sneak AAA 1B Russ Greenwald through waivers. Not that there was anything special to Greenwald, a 26-year old AAA player with horrendous defense and precious little power (11 HR in 2020). I shopped him before waiving him in the hopes of getting a negligible minor leaguer in return and shave $170k off the payroll, but the only teams interested were the Warriors and Stars, and both were overbudget and couldn’t claim Greenwald off waivers.

Nick Lester was waived and designated for assignment when we signed Foreman in late February, but he also found no takers.

Right now we still have 15 pitchers on the extended roster, which includes the rotation (Toner, Santos, Abe, Foreman, Garrett), plus Joel Davis, who will go back to the 60-day DL once the season starts. We have nine other relievers who are currently not dead in the water: Lillis, Bricker, Boynton, Chun, Cowen, Kaiser, and Sugano will be on the roster anyway. I am currently trying to work Ryan Nielson onto the roster as additional long man, but every time I try, I end up counting 26 players. Blake Kelly is the odd guy out that nobody really needs for anything.

If the Raccoons would carry Nielson on the roster as well, that would give them four left-handed relievers, also an odd mix, plus we don’t have the roster spot to begin with. Except I can somehow skim a few pounds off everybody and hide the remains in a suitcase when he hit the road.

How do you fit 26 players on the 25-man roster after all? Something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgfT2myMQl8 – in reverse!

Also: Joey Mathews signed for $352k with the Gold Sox; Jason Bergquist is back in the division with $246k from the Crusaders; Luis Reya joined the Cyclones for $332k;
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Old 10-06-2017, 11:18 AM   #2375
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The Raccoons did not have an overly busy March. The budget was mostly used up and safe for a nutty trade with some other team there was nothing left to do. Except for cleaning house a bit. There was so much terrible pitching throughout the organization… I released seven minor leaguers in early March, including Dan Riley and a number of players that had never made the majors. The highest draft pick included was 2015 fourth-rounder C Karl Otto. I would have released Matt Schroeder as well, but at this point the Coons were already on the hook for a minimum salary for him, so this wasn’t going to happen. Who knows whether we will need a long guy in August when we’re 17 games out… I’d be happy to trade him for a 2017 tenth-rounder with only one leg, but I’m not releasing him.

Stan Murphy was the last type A free agent coming off the board, joining the Titans in early March.

+++

March 2 – The Titans sign 31-year old southpaw SP Tim Dunn (111-131, 4.02 ERA) to a 1-yr, $590k. Dunn spent 2020 between the Miners and Wolves and will pitch in the Continental League for the first time.
March 4 – Another veteran ends up in Boston, with the Titans signing 41-yr old ex-RIC 1B Stanley Murphy (.289, 351 HR, 1,457 RBI) to a 1-yr, $790k contract.

+++

Pat Slayton keeps soldiering on and signed a $292k deal with the Buffaloes. Joe Cowan signed a $304k contract with the Stars. Sam Armetta was a Raccoons pick that was sent off in the Cole Pierson trade with the Capitals and has since just barely managed to not starve. He will continue to not starve, having signed a $188k deal (didn’t know you still could get players that cheap!) with the Blue Sox.

Well, March just is the dullest month.

What do you say? March Madness? – What’s that? – Do I look like I know about basketball, or went to college?
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1983 * 1989 * 1991 * 1992 * 1993 * 1995 * 1996 * 2010 * 2017 * 2018 * 2019
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Old 10-07-2017, 07:42 PM   #2376
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2021 PORTLAND RACCOONS – Opening Day Roster (first set in parenthesis shows 2020 numbers, second set career numbers; players with an * are off season acquisitions):

SP Jonathan Toner, 30, B:R, T:R (22-7, 2.32 ERA | 128-48, 2.32 ERA) – Jonny won his second triple crown and his fourth Pitcher of the Year title in 2020 thanks to another dominating performance. He has struck out 11+ over nine innings for four straight years, and his WHIP has been under 1 for six straight years. Batters still haven’t caught up with him. About his repertoire it is sufficient to state that he throws raw filth that nobody can cope with. In addition to 98mph heater he also has a nasty curve and an off-the-charts circle change. If he feels like it, he throws a changeup, just for giggles. AGAIN: Best pitcher in baseball right now!
SP Hector Santos, 32, B:S, T:R (8-0, 2.16 ERA | 116-80, 3.03 ERA) – hasn’t lost a ballgame since 2018 thanks to going undefeated in 15 outings in 2020 before tearing a rotator cuff at the end of June. His slider is the bane of batting, but unfortunately he tends to leave things hanging over the middle from time to time to get clonkered. He’s allowed 168 homers in 1,844 innings.
SP Tadasu Abe, 29, B:R, T:R (12-10, 3.67 ERA | 61-40, 3.23 ERA) – huge arsenal that allows him to dazzle batters and keep them guessing; consistently strikes out almost eight per nine innings and has the ability to often get out of a mess that he gets into. However, he had his worst career season in 2020 thanks to a rotten second half.
SP Michael Foreman *, 30, B:R, T:R (8-17, 4.74 ERA | 36-59, 3.98 ERA) – right-hander that cost a pretty coin after the Guerrero/Hamilton trade. Foreman both comes off a terrible season split between New York and Nashville, and several injury-riddled seasons before that. He was nine innings short of a CL ERA title only three years ago, so we still pretend that there is some class pitching here.
SP Travis Garrett, 25, B:R, T:R (3-11, 5.15 ERA | 4-12, 5.07 ERA) – between the iffy control and the countless home runs conceded, Garrett was a whole lot less than the sum of all his parts in 2020, sliding from one terrible start right into the next. He should do well with an upper-echelon curve and a good cutter, but he really, really isn’t.

LR Adam Cowen, 26, B:R, T:R (1-2, 3.59 ERA | 1-3, 3.33 ERA) – groundballer with a fastball splitter combo that was picked off the trash heap a few years ago and has since trundled into the typical quad-A role of any right-hander with average stuff but a durable arm. Appeared in only 29 games for the Coons, but amassed 52.2 innings, and also was up and down on the Interstate and pitched in another 24 games in St. Petersburg.
MR Seung-mo Chun, 32, B:S, T:R (1-3, 2.93 ERA, 1 SV | 13-13, 3.10 ERA, 6 SV) – routinely handles the seventh inning with great consistency, but he lacks the stuff to put hitters away reliably in close situations, which in our view limits his value in later innings. We do appreciated his workhorse attitude, though, having pitched a career-high 70.2 innings in ’20.
MR Manobu Sugano *, 36, B:L, T:L (2-2, 2.95 ERA, 1 SV | 17-13, 2.67 ERA, 14 SV) – exclusively situational left-hander with almost ridiculous splits, Sugano returns to the Coons as free agent after changing shirts five times in the previous four years.
MR Jeff Boynton, 31, B:S, T:R (4-1, 3.82 ERA, 6 SV | 37-27, 3.44 ERA, 98 SV) – solid-to-good middle reliever that also featured in the Raccoons’ closing committee in 2020. He achieved at least a handful of saves for the first time since 2016 with the Bayhawks, but the addition of Brett Lillis as entrenched closer should see him more conventionally in the seventh and eighth inning. His ERA was up quite badly in 2020, but like everybody else in the bullpen he was constantly overworked due to the creaky rotation.
MR Jason Kaiser, 34, B:L, T:L (4-2, 1.85 ERA, 1 SV | 17-16, 2.71 ERA, 6 SV) – is routinely abused by the Raccoons, leading the league in relief appearances for the second time in three years, meeting his 2018 mark of 80 games; I assume he’s glad he can work virtually every day given that he entered his age 31 season with 87 big league appearances and pretty much had been parked on a dead track. Has really blossomed with the Coons and is under contract for two more years.
SU Noah Bricker *, 32, B:R, T:R (1-0, 1.86 ERA, 3 SV | 74-66, 3.71 ERA, 18 SV) – murder stuff for this free agent addition, who unfortunately just can’t seem to stay healthy and pitched in only 45 games in three consecutive injury-plagued campaigns.
SU Brett Lillis *, 32, B:L, T:L (5-2, 3.74 ERA, 22 SV | 29-43, 3.23 ERA, 175 SV) – his cutter/curve combo kills; the second returning pitcher in the bullpen, Lillis’ 2020 numbers have to be taken with the odd grain of salt given a combined .345 BABIP against him between the Crusaders and Falcons. Only the latter used him as closer, while the Crusaders used him wherever they fancied. The Raccoons hope to return to law and order at the back end of the pen after signing Lillis to a 4-year deal.

C Danny Margolis, 30, B:R, T:R (.287, 16 HR, 78 RBI | .256, 32 HR, 178 RBI) – Margolis had a breakout season in his first year as starting catcher, matching his home run total from his six years as a backup on this team. Not necessarily a selective batter who doesn’t strive for ball four, Margolis can but the hurt on opposing teams with a knack for the occasional huge home run. He also controls the running game well, certain seventh-inning incidents in second tie-breaker games notwithstanding.
C/1B Ezequiel Olivares, 30, B:R, T:R (.273, 0 HR, 17 RBI | .276, 0 HR, 17 RBI) – Olivares was a decent backup to Margolis, especially for a 29-year old rule 5 pick. Unfortunately he belongs to the rare breed of players who live to see a major league roster as 30-year-olds without ever having hit a major league home run. Or a triple.

1B/LF/RF Matt Hamilton *, 27, B:L, T:L (.290, 25 HR, 101 RBI | .279, 97 HR, 366 RBI) – acquired from the Aces for Bobby Guerrero, Hamilton is a well-polished home run hitter; meeting or besting 25 in the last three seasons, he has put up considerable OPS and OPS+ values as well. Is also good for at least 25 doubles (with 38 in 2020) per season. He will be the third former Rookie of the Year on the Coons infield, adding to Nunley and McKnight.
2B Ieyoshi Nomura, 37, B:L, T:R (.337, 9 HR, 56 RBI | .305, 72 HR, 876 RBI) – there was nothing to complain about during Yoshi’s return season after six years of wandering in the desert; Yoshi challenged for a batting title, which he lost, but at least brought home a Platinum Stick. Despite not being a traditional power hitter, letting one fly only occasionally, his high-AVG, high-OPS playstyle and a knack for hitting the gaps (505 career doubles) have seen him put up OPS values of .860 or better in five of the last six seasons.
SS/2B/3B Ronnie McKnight, 30, B:L, T:R (.273, 13 HR, 77 RBI | .272, 85 HR, 429 RBI) – a unicorn, combining a power bat with a top notch glove at the premium defensive position on the field. What is not to like about that? Ronnie was slated for free agency, but signed a 3-year extension that helps keeping the core together for yet another postseason push.
3B Matt Nunley, 30, B:L, T:R (.270, 10 HR, 60 RBI | .286, 73 HR, 447 RBI) – excellent defensive third baseman that has somehow yet to win a Gold Glove, Nunley recovered well from a traumatizing 2019 season in which nothing worked for him from start to finish; his OPS is receding, however, with 2020’s .678 mark his worst in a qualifying season.
RF/3B/2B/1B/LF/CF Brian Petracek, 30, B:S, T:R (.225, 1 HR, 17 RBI | .230, 14 HR, 91 RBI) – super utility player that is able to fill in everywhere in the field, although he usualls spends most of the season under the Mendoza line.
2B/SS/3B Adam Zuhlke *, 30, B:R, T:R (did not play | .263, 14 HR, 165 RBI) – backup infielder that spent all of 2020 rotting in the Warriors’ minor league system and comes aboard as free agent.

LF/CF/RF Ricardo Carmona, 29, B:L, T:R (.307, 1 HR, 56 RBI | .323, 19 HR, 414 RBI) – Cookie keeps enjoying good health since moving out of centerfield and played a career-high 159 games in 2020, and the league also finally recognized that he exists and gave him a Gold Glove for his work in rightfield, which he promptly moves out of with the departure of R.J. DeWeese, shifting over to left. Stole 34 bases in 2020 (315 total) and has 28+ SB for eight straight years, but an odd drop in doubles (only 16) in 2020 saw him only hit for a .708 OPS, his first sub-100 OPS+ (99) in a full season.
RF/LF/CF/2B Josh Stevenson *, 28, B:R, T:R (.290, 3 HR, 55 RBI | .265, 23 HR, 177 RBI) – acquired from the Thunder in the deal that got rid of R.J. DeWeese, Stevenson is the new starting centerfielder, combining good defense with a bat that lacks power, but has generated up to 44 extra-base hits in the past.
RF/LF/CF/1B Hugo Mendoza, 30, B:L, T:L (.319, 38 HR, 133 RBI | .319, 249 HR, 975 RBI) – it took three-and-a-half years, but finally the Raccoons got what they hoped for from Mendoza, who led the league in home runs and RBI, as well as slugging, for the first time since his last full season as a Dallas Star. We expect more defense from him in rightfield than from addition Matt Hamilton, so Mendoza moves to the outfield again after spending only 42 games across all three outfield positions across the last three years.
LF/RF Eddie Jackson, 36, B:R, T:R (.253, 6 HR, 34 RBI | .267, 75 HR, 492 RBI) – very qualified pinch-hitter and still decent as a corner outfielder, but with the level of talent on the team Jackson can’t get more than a support role – unless injuries strike. Jackson didn’t figure as a starter in any of his three previous Raccoons campaigns, and still always got more than 300 plate appearances.
RF/CF/LF Dwayne Metts, 25, B:L, T:L (.260, 4 HR, 28 RBI | .260, 4 HR, 28 RBI) – good defender on all three positions, he is the only one of 2020’s three roving centerfielders to make the Opening Day roster (and one of two left in the organization); not much to the bat, which produces mostly singles with only 12 extra-base hits in 196 at-bats in his rookie season.

On disabled list:
SU Joel Davis, 29, B:R, T:R (3-4, 3.25 ERA, 8 SV| 24-29, 3.11 ERA, 27 SV) – Davis has a devastating curveball that he showed off numerous times against the Raccoons as a member of the Indians squad before joining the Coons prior to 2020 as a free agent. Performed well in a late-inning role until tearing his UCL in September and his currently recovering from Tommy John surgery. He is not expected back before September, and then it could be hard for him to get warmed up when the minor league seasons end early.

Otherwise unavailable: Nobody.

Other roster movement:
SP/MR Ryan Nielson, 28, B:L, T:L (2-0, 3.29 ERA | 5-5, 4.49 ERA) – waived and DFA’ed; the Raccoons lucked into a few decent starts by him in 2020, but his weird spot start / long man package wasn’t enough to sneak him onto the roster in the end.

Opening day lineup:
Vs. RHP: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – SS McKnight – C Margolis – 3B Nunley – CF Stevenson – P Toner
(Vs. LHP: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Jackson – 1B Hamilton/Mendoza – C Margolis – SS McKnight – CF Stevenson – 3B Nunley – P Toner)

I don’t expect Hamilton and Mendoza to need rest this frequently, but Jackson could also sub Cookie Carmona. Metts will get regular starts against right-handed pitching, but I don’t expect Petracek and Zuhlke to get much playing time over any of the three remaining infielders.

OFF SEASON CHANGES:

The Raccoons’ only significant free agency departures were Ron Thrasher and Chris Mathis, who should be replaced adequately with Brett Lillis and Noah Bricker – at least until Bricker keels over. The thin rotation got torn another hole when we traded Guerrero to the Aces for Matt Hamilton, although BNN appreciated the trade for a healthy +3.3 WAR gain. He only other offseason trade was the unloading of DeWeese onto the Thunder, which was almost WAR neutral, but of course only facilitated the team with the money to make most of the other moves. Overall the Raccoons finished the offseason in sixth place according to BNN with a gain of +4.1 WAR.

Top 5: Bayhawks (+6.1), Cyclones (+5.8), Canadiens (+5.4), Titans (+5.1), Miners (+5.0)
Bottom 5: Capitals (-4.7), Warriors (-5.4), Pacifics (-7.1), Indians (-8.0), Knights (-9.0)

PREDICTION TIME:

This time 12 months ago I predicted the Crusaders to win the North handily and that the Loggers, who gave the Coons a scare in 2019, the Coons most recent and then third-consecutive playoff campaign, would not even be close. Well, the Loggers overcame Mount Lester on the way to the postseason, while the Crusaders lost 87 games and couldn’t quite figure out what to make of their first pair of back-to-back losing seasons since the early 2000s. I did correctly guess the Coons coming in second (…) with 90 wins, though.

The rotation is the big question mark this year, although the bullpen isn’t shy of risk candidates. But the rotation consists of at least two-and-a-half question marks, with Abe struggling after the All Star break, Santos missing half the season, Foreman coming off a rugged year on two losing teams, and Garrett being Tragic and nothing else. Also, did someone notice that there are only *five* players on this team that are younger than 30? I can not remember a Raccoons team that leaned this hard towards autumn.

The offense should be the best part of the team with a dense lineup that knows no holes and a few capable backup options. Of course, that only means the bench. Outside of Zach Graves in AAA, there are no known replacement position players of any value in the organization, and all the pitching depth is a flood of quad-A right-handers that can’t find a way in even AAA.

Overall, the Raccoons should be able to find a hole unless injuries tear them apart. The Loggers trading Chris LeMoine was stunning to begin with and should hurt them enough to drop back in line. The Coons should be able to stave off all challenges and win 93 games on the way to the playoffs, but they might not clinch until the last week of the season.

PLAYER DEVELOPMENT:

Progress! After three straight years in the bottom two of all teams, the Raccoons’ farm system squeaks up a few positions from 23rd to 20th overall.

The number of ranked prospects increases from five to seven, although only two of those are inside the top 100 (up from one). Of last years’ ranked prospects, oddly enough the top selection, #70 SP Reese Kenny, dropped out of the list despite showing okay results after a promotion to AA.

30th (new) – AAA SP Jesus Chavez, 23 – 2020 international free agent signed by Raccoons
100th (+63) – A INF Ismael Pastor, 21 – 2015 international free agent signed by Raccoons
143rd (new) – AA LF Justin Gerace, 21 – 2020 supplemental round pick by the Raccoons
146th (+10) – AA SP Rico Gutierrez, 21 – 2015 international free agent signed by Raccoons
169th (-54) – AA SP Pete Molina, 21 – 2018 first round pick by the Raccoons
181st (new) – AA 1B Ruben Santiago, 22 – 2017 first round pick by the Raccoons
185th (-59) – AAA SP Ricky Martinez, 26 – 2011 international free agent signed by Raccoons

The franchise top 10 were completed by unranked AAA INF Daniel Bullock, 23 (2016 IFA), AAA CL Mike Rehbock, 24 (2017 2nd Rd.), and AA SS/3B Hugo Ochoa, 19 (2018 IFA);

The top 5 overall prospects this year are:

#1 SFB AA 3B/LF Shane Sanks (was #1)
#2 NAS AA SP Matt Huf (was #5)
#3 CHA AAA SP Doug Moffatt
#4 DEN AAA SS/3B Omar Camacho (was #3)
#5 TIJ AA SP George Griffin (newly drafted in 2020)

#1 SFB AA 3B/LF Shane Sanks (was #1)
#2 SAL ML MR Jorge Beltran (was #3)
#3 DEN A SS/3B Omar Camacho (was #14)
#4 BOS AA SP Dustin Cory (newly drafted in 2019)
#5 NAS A SP Matt Huf (was #5)

Sanks is the #1 selection for the third straight year. Last year’s #2, MR Jorge Beltran, debuted on the Wolves Opening Day roster, pitched to a 4.44 ERA in 52.2 innings and is slated to be their closer this year at the tender age of 22. The #4 prospect, Boston’s SP Dustin Cory, went 8-13 with a 4.38 ERA in AA and showed enough worrisome signs that he dropped out of the Top 200 completely.

Final notes: The Canadiens traded C Dave Padilla, who batted .270 with eight homers in 2020 and has a career .284 average with 83 HR and 525 RBI, to the Titans on Opening Day, receiving 2B Josh Downing in return. Downing is a career .274 batter with 111 HR and 689 RBI. Both are 33 years old.

Next: first pitch.
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Old 10-08-2017, 05:36 AM   #2377
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Raccoons (0-0) vs. Titans (0-0) – April 6-8, 2021

A 10-8 season in 2020 had marked the fourth straight season series victory of the Raccoons over the Titans, but overall the Titans were still the only CL North team the Raccoons had an all-time losing record against, 393-400. Both teams had finished 2020 on identical 90-73 records after both had lost a tie-breaker to the eventual pennant winners, the Milwaukee Loggers. The Titans would have two left-handed starters in their rotation, while the Raccoons had none for the first time since time immemorial, while the Titans’ lineup would lean heavily to the right side.

Projected matchups:
Jonathan Toner (0-0) vs. Chris Klein (0-0)
Hector Santos (0-0) vs. Jose Fuentes (0-0)
Tadasu Abe (0-0) vs. Tim Dunn (0-0)

Klein had gone only 13-11 last year, but that was only a thin veil on the fact that he was silently becoming one of the best starters in the Continental League. In his fourth full season, the then-25-year-old had struck out 218 while leading the CL in innings pitched, and had lowered his ERA to 2.79, a marked improvement from the 6.04 ERA he had put up in his rookie year in 2017. Tim Dunn joined Rick Ling as southpaws in the Titans rotation. Dunn was the persistently red-faced pitcher that you had routinely seen as the losing pitcher for the Wolves on the 11pm newscasts all these years. At 32, he was the oldest hurler in the Boston rotation.

Enough babble now, time for baseball!

Game 1
BOS: CF Reichardt – LF Baker – 3B A. Esquivel – RF Almanza – C Salas – 1B Murphy – 2B M. Green – SS Kane – P Klein
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – SS McKnight – C Margolis – 3B Nunley – CF Stevenson – P Toner

The Raccoons had the first scoring opportunity, putting Yoshi on with a single and Mendoza with a walk, but consecutive groundouts by Hamilton, the prime addition to the lineup, and McKnight kept them in scoring position in the bottom of the first. Toner was barely touched the first two innings, but issued a leadoff walk to Mike Kane in the top of the third, an inning that quickly degenerated into a swampy mess. Klein bunted his man over, and Toner also lost Adrian Reichardt to a walk. Josh Baker’s RBI single marked the first run of the season, albeit on the wrong side of the board, and when Antonio Esquivel grounded to Yoshi, Hamilton dropped his throw to first, and the Titans had the bags full with one out. Chris Almanza, the former Baybird, ran a full count before bouncing to short, where McKnight started a double play that got Toner out of the inning before it could get really bad. The Coons had no immediate answer to the deficit, and struggled to get even a second base hit before Mike Kane stunned the crowd with a leadoff jack in the fifth inning, extending Boston’s lead to 2-0. Josh Stevenson led off the bottom 5th with a double into the right-center gap, finally the second Coons hit, Toner grounded out to Stan Murphy, but the ex-Coon missed Cookie’s grounder that escaped between him and Mike Green for an RBI single, 2-1. Yoshi popped out to shallow left, but the middle of the order had something up their sleeves: with two outs, Mendoza hit a ball past Josh Baker in left for a double, and Cookie had been dashing all along and scored with the tying run, and Mendoza was then driven in by Hamilton, who notched his first Coons RBI with an RBI single to left. McKnight flew out to Baker, but Toner held a 3-2 lead through five.

The Titans wouldn’t get a comeback against Toner, who retired the next six to finish with a perfectly decent season-opening start, striking out nine in a seven-frame, three-hit outing. He got just a wee bit over 100 pitches at the end, but his spot was up to lead off the bottom 7th, and Dwayne Metts hit for him. Metts snipped a little roller, the infielders failed to get to it in due time, and the leadoff man was on with an infield single. Unfortunately, the top of the order managed only two grounders and a pop, all to Mike Green, and no insurance run was added to the tally. Noah Bricker made his Coons debut in the top 8th, striking out two before yielding to the returning Manobu Sugano, who struck out Baker for a three up, three whiffed inning. The Coons still couldn’t find insurance in the bottom 8th, and Brett Lillis inherited the middle of the order, all right-handers, in the ninth inning. Slight panic resulted from a four-pitch walk to Esquivel at the start of the inning before Lillis regained control, got Chris Almanza to fly out to shallow center, and then struck out both Pedro Salas and Murphy to end the game and nail this one down for Toner. 3-2 Coons! Metts (PH) 1-1; Toner 7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, W (1-0);

Not an unusual picture: the Titans had only six runners against Toner (five earned), but still managed to score two of them. Four runners came in the third inning, including both walks and the error.

Ah, 1-0 is 1-0.

Game 2
BOS: CF Reichardt – LF Baker – 3B A. Esquivel – RF Almanza – C Salas – 1B Murphy – 2B M. Green – SS Kane – P J. Fuentes
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – SS McKnight – C Margolis – 3B Nunley – CF Stevenson – P Santos

The Coons got the early start in game 2 of 162, with Cookie opening with a single to left and taking his first bag of the year. Mendoza walked, and while Jose Fuentes struck out both Yoshi and Hamilton, McKnight got a hold of the 2-2 pitch and rammed it through the ancient salt column at first base for an up-the-line, 2-out, 2-run double. Margolis grounded out, Santos struck out the side in the second, and then Green was charged an error, throwing Nunley’s grounder into the stands to start the bottom 2nd. The runner would come around to score on Stevenson’s deep fly out to center and Santos’ grounder to second, upping the score to 3-0.

Through five, Santos allowed only three hits and kept the Titans shut out. The Coons had only two hits through four innings – and none since the first – but then saw Fuentes walk the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. That brought up McKnight again, who had come through in the first, but grounded out to Green on the first pitch, which was a rather impatient approach to a pitcher who had just thrown 12 of his last 16 pitches for balls. The Titans made it to the corners in the sixth, bringing up Almanza with two outs, but Almanza popped out to McKnight to end that inning.

Like Toner the day before, Santos would end up going seven innings, but unlike Toner he kept the Titans to zero runs. No further support was on the horizon; when Cookie hit a leadoff single off Willie Alonzo in the bottom 7th he went on to be caught stealing by Salas, who became the center of attention in the bottom 8th, where Desi Bowles appeared to be out with a clean inning after getting pinch-hitter Eddie Jackson to pop up a 3-2 pitch with two outs. Salas dropped it in foul ground, and maybe this was - … nah, Jackson struck out on the next pitch. After a clean and quick eighth inning by Jason Kaiser, the Raccoons turned back to Lillis in the ninth. There was another walk to Esquivel, but there was also another double play hit into by Almanza, and that one ended the game. 3-0 Raccoons. Carmona 2-4; Nunley 1-2, BB; Santos 7.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K, W (1-0);

The offense is not yet up to smoke. In 16 batting innings, they have managed only ten hits and six runs, which were luckily enough to win twice.

Game 3
BOS: CF Reichardt – LF Baker – 3B A. Esquivel – RF Almanza – C Salas – 1B Murphy – 2B M. Green – SS Kane – P Dunn
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Jackson – 1B Hamilton – C Margolis – SS McKnight – CF Stevenson – 3B Petracek – P Abe

Adrian Reichardt led off the game with a double, but Abe managed to keep him on the bases thanks to a key K to Esquivel with the runner at third base. The Raccoons would get into a bases-loaded situation in their half of the first inning. After Cookie made the first out, Yoshi walked, Jackson singled, and Hamilton took a disputed 3-2 ball call on the corner to fill them up. Both catchers then featured in a drama around home plate. Margolis chopped the first pitch he got from Dunn into the dirt right in front of the plate; Salas jumped out and tried to grab the high bounce with his bare hand, but the ball hit his palm and bounced away into the infield. By the time the Titans had recovered, the Raccoons had all hands safe and the first run across the board on the error, Salas’ second in as many defensive innings. McKnight hit an RBI single past Murphy, 2-0, but after that Stevenson and Petracek made poor outs to end the inning. Murphy would at least get his first hit of the series and season in the second, doubling to right off Abe, but he also wouldn’t score. Talking about first hits of the year, Margolis would have his in the bottom 3rd, a solo home run to left, also the Coons’ first long ball in 2021, and it ran the score to 3-0.

In things that didn’t change, Almanza hit into his third double play in the third game of the season, erasing a leadoff single by Esquivel in the fourth inning. The Titans would get their second homer in the fifth inning, and again it was the #8 hitter Kane. He took Abe deep with a 2-run homer to left center, collecting Mike Green, who had singled just before that. The Raccoons tried to counter in the bottom of the inning, with Hamilton singling and Margolis drawing a 2-out walk, but McKnight’s soft line to short was no real challenge for Kane and the score remained 3-2 with five hits a side. The Titans were on Abe by now, though. Baker led off the sixth with a soft single to left, and this time Esquivel hit into the double play to Petracek and Almanza singled. With everybody’s world upside down, Salas flew out easily to keep the Coons narrowly in front, 3-2. Abe held up, though, retiring Murphy and Green in the seventh before being replaced by Sugano, who struck out Kane to finish seven and then Dunn to start the eighth, with Bricker getting the other two outs from Reichardt and Baker. I was hesitant to use Lillis in all of the first three games of the season, so an insurance run in the bottom 8th would be quite great. The Raccoons were hoping to get Mendoza into the box in the inning, and Hamilton’s leadoff single off Dunn in the eighth wouldn’t present the Raccoons with a chance in the end thanks to McKnight hitting into an inning-ending double play with Stevenson in the on-deck circle, but Mendoza wielding a stick on the dugout steps. Jeff Boynton was tapped for the ninth inning, facing the middle of the order, with .556 batter Antonio Esquivel leading off. He flew out to center, Almanza grounded out to short, and then Yoshi bungled PH Gil Cornejo’s grounder and put the tying run on base. Murphy gave it to the Coons with a 2-2 pitch blasted over the leftfield fence, flipping the score in the Titans’ favor. So we came to see Ron Thrasher in the ninth inning as the Titans pulled the protective foil off their bullpen addition. Stevenson struck out, Zuhlke hit for Petracek and grounded out to Murphy, and while Mendoza did get to bat after all, his fly to left died near the track and in Baker’s glove. 4-3 Titans. McKnight 2-4, RBI; Abe 6.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K;

Still no offense worth mentioning…

Raccoons (2-1) vs. Aces (1-3) – April 9-11, 2021

The Aces’ offense also had yet to wake up, having scored only ten runs in their first four games, which amounted to even less per game than the Critters’ nine total runs. Their batting average was only .203, they had been 1-hit by the Condors on Tuesday (Danny Rice hitting a single to save them) while at the same time they had allowed the second-most runs. The Raccoons had won the season series with Las Vegas for five consecutive years, with a 6-3 mark in 2020 that tied with three other seasons for the best individual year in that span. Postseason games not included in calculation…

Projected matchups:
Michael Foreman (0-0) vs. Clark Johnson (0-0)
Travis Garrett (0-0) vs. Juan Valdevez (0-1, 3.86 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (1-0, 2.57 ERA) vs. Nehemiah Jones (0-1, 1.04 ERA)

Three right-handers; like the Critters, the Aces lack a left-handed starter. The Raccoons would not see Bobby Guerrero in the series, who had been roughed up for a four runs by the Condors on Thursday, taking the loss in the process.

Game 1
LVA: CF A. Martinez – 2B March – RF D. Brown – 1B S. Butler – 3B I. Alvarez – C D. Rice – SS Navarro – LF Serrano – P C. Johnson
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – SS McKnight – 3B Nunley – C Olivares – CF Metts – P Foreman

Foreman retired the first four, including Steve Butler, who already came in 0-for-13 on the season, before Izzy Alvarez hit a triple to centerfield. Foreman walked Danny Rice before conceding the run on a Jose Navarro sac fly. Danny Serrano singled, but Johnson grounded out to Hamilton to end the inning. Foreman would strike out six in his first five innings as a Brownshirt, but also allowed a home run in the third inning, a solo shot by Dan March that ran the Aces’ lead to 2-0. The Raccoons had a Cookie single in the first, a Hamilton double in the fourth, and literally nothing in between, and absolutely nothing in terms of runs scored through four. Nunley drew a leadoff walk off Johnson in the bottom 5th, and while I feared that this would mostly serve as a plot device for another sorry-ass double play grounder to short, the Coons were first robbed when Dan Brown spoiled an Olivares liner to right before Dwayne Metts went yard to left, a game-tying 2-run shot that just barely made it over the fence, with Serrano leaping in vain trying to catch it. The Raccoons would get Cookie on with a 2-out single, he stole second, only for Yoshi to walk anyway, but Mendoza couldn’t get the ball to fall in, flying out to center and dropping to 1-for-9 in the admittedly young season.

Unfortunately the Aces made up the two runs immediately off Foreman, with Brown hitting a 1-out single in the sixth before Butler at least worked a walk. Alvarez lined to left for an RBI single, the runners advanced into scoring position on Cookie’s throw home, and Danny Rice plated Butler with a sac fly for a 4-2 deficit from the point of view of the team that owned the place. That was Foreman’s last inning, which had partly something to do with an Armando Martinez error that extended the bottom of the sixth with two outs. With McKnight on first, Olivares had sent a fly to center, but Martinez stumbled and had the ball hit off his wrist, which was both painful and shameful and put runners in scoring position. Metts got four wide ones, and Eddie Jackson got to hit in Foreman’s place, knocking a 2-1 pitch up the leftfield line. Alvarez dove, but missed it, and the ball made it all the way to the leftfield corner; Jackson with a bases-clearing double and the Raccoons have the lead!

Alas, the lead didn’t last. Cookie grounded out to leave Jackson on second, and the top 7th saw Chun’s season debut and a Serrano double to left right away. Adam Flack pinch-hit and grounded out, moving the runner to third, and with left-hander Bill Hebberd pinch-hitting for Martinez, Jason Kaiser came in. Kaiser had Hebberd at 0-2 before throwing a wild pitch that would have hit a leaping Hebberd in the knee if not for his evasive action. The runner scored, game tied, and Kaiser at least retired Hebberd and March to prevent further damage. The Aces brought a left-hander of their own in Alex Morin in the bottom 7th, who hit Yoshi, almost allowed an extra-base hit to Mendoza, who was robbed by Rich Arrieta in deep, deep center, but conceded a single to Hamilton. McKnight popped out, and rolling of the dice was required as Adam Zuhlke hit for Nunley, the first right-hander for Morin after four left-handed bats. The Aces stuck with Morin, and Zuhlke popped out harmlessly to Dan March, ending the seventh. Dan Brown hit a leadoff single off Boynton in the eighth and then Butler ended his 0-for-15 skid with a 2-run bomb to right. Boynton failed to get out of the inning, putting two more runners on board that Adam Cowen had to deal with. The Aces patched the eighth with three different relievers who put two Coons on, but kept them on, and while Hamilton managed to his a ninth-inning single off Alex Silva to get the tying run into the box, Danny Margolis’ pinch-hitting appearance resulted in a game-ending grounder to second base, which Dan March used to start a double play. 7-5 Aces. Carmona 3-5; Hamilton 2-4, BB, 2B; Jackson (PH) 1-1, 2B, 3 RBI; Cowen 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K;

Game 2
LVA: CF A. Martinez – SS Hebberd – RF D. Brown – 1B S. Butler – C D. Rice – 3B Navarro – 2B Arrieta – LF Hubbard – P Valdevez
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – SS McKnight – C Margolis – 3B Nunley – CF Stevenson – P Garrett

I expected nothing but the worst from “Tragic” Garrett, and when Steve Butler hit a 2-run homer in the first inning, I merely shrugged. All of Butler’s hits this year were 2-run homers off Raccoons right-handers now. The Coons put runners on the corners to start their efforts thanks to singles by Cookie and Yoshi in the bottom 1st. Mendoza’s rotten first week continued, his average dropping to .083 with a double play grounder to Arrieta. At least Cookie scored, cutting the gap to one run. The next genuine scoring opportunity developed with nobody out in the second inning, as McKnight singled and Margolis doubled. The Coons managed to score no runs in the inning, thanks to Jimmy Hubbard throwing out McKnight at home plate on Nunley’s fly to left, and Stevenson grounding out to Navarro to keep Margolis on the bases. The Aces got leadoff man Martinez on base in the third with a leadoff single, Martinez stole second and ended up scoring, 3-1.

The bottom 4th saw Hamilton with a leadoff single. McKnight grounded out, moving him to second base, and Margolis singled to left, near enough to the line for Hubbard to take a while to play it and allowing Hamilton to chug home and inch closer again in what was now a 3-2 game. Nunley singled, and Stevenson hit a 2-2 pitch to deep center. No chance for Martinez, but it also was not deep enough to clear the fence, but hit off the upper half of the artificial boundary. Margolis was in for sure with the tying run, Nunley was waved around, Stevenson tried for third, when Bill Hebberd cut off the throw home, but had to reach into his glove twice to get a firm grip for his throw to third base, and that cost him the play. Stevenson was safe, both runs were in, and the Coons were up 4-3. Garrett grounded out to Arrieta, which allowed Stevenson to score, and with two outs and the bags clean, Cookie singled to left. He stole second and scored on Yoshi’s single to right, which gave the Critters five runs in the inning, a 6-3 lead, and Valdevez an early exit for the showers. Enrique Guzman struck out Mendoza to end the fourth inning.

Watching the game in my office with Slappy, I wagered five bucks into a shallow brown plastic bowl on the table that had held some chocolate treats at the start of the game that Garrett would blow the 3-run lead without even making it out of the fifth. He retired the side in order, winning Slappy five bucks and that was reason enough for him to open another bottle of booze. Margolis whacked a solo shot in the bottom 5th to extend the lead to 7-3, but Garrett would not get another out this time. Hebberd hit a leadoff triple in the sixth, and then Dan Brown homered to straight center. With plenty of left-handed bats around, Sugano entered the game along with Metts in a double switch at Stevenson’s expense, who had made the last out in the bottom 5th. Sugano faced six and retired five of those, spilling only a leadoff single to Arrieta in the seventh, and Arrieta was still on first when Chun replaced Sugano with two outs. Martinez sent a weak grounder in the direction of third base, Nunley made a play on the run and zinged him out by half a step to end the inning.

Bottom 7th, Alex Morin pitching again. He got Hamilton to start the inning, but McKnight singled, the Coons’ 15th hit in the game. A wild pitch advanced him, and the Aces shied away from Margolis now, who was unretired in the game and was walked intentionally. Matt Nunley screwed them anyway, singling up the middle; McKnight scored, 8-5, and NOW we could hit Eddie Jackson for Chun! Unfortunately he flew out to left this time, and Metts grounded out to Butler, leaving two stranded. Bricker walked Hebberd to start the top of the eighth, but struck out Brown. That brought up a lot of left-handers again, and the Critters sent for Brett Lillis to pitch a 5-out save, please. Butler rolled out and Rice popped up to get out of the eighth on four pitches. Arrieta proved to be a pest once more with a 1-out single in the ninth, but Lillis struck out Navarro and Hubbard before getting pinch-hitter Izzy Alvarez to ground out to Hamilton. 8-5 Raccoons! Carmona 4-5; Nomura 2-5, RBI; Olivares (PH) 1-1; McKnight 2-4; Margolis 3-3, BB, HR, 2B, 2 RBI; Nunley 3-4, RBI; Sugano 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K; Lillis 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, SV (3);

Had to get four innings from the pen against a wildly left-handed lineup and still managed to preserve Jason Kaiser for Sunday. I call that a moral victory.

Three homers on the team now, all by either Margolis or Metts.

Do we have any more players with initials DM in the minors? *

Game 3
LVA: CF A. Martinez – SS Hebberd – RF Brown – 1B S. Butler – 3B I. Alvarez – 2B March – C T. Perez – LF Hubbard – P N. Jones
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – SS McKnight – C Margolis – 3B Nunley – CF Metts – P Toner

Toner struck out five the first time through, yielding only a single to Alvarez. Martinez wrestled a 2-out walk from him in the third inning, but was caught stealing by Margolis. Unfortunately, the Raccoons were also held to a single base knock, a Yoshi single, the first time through by Nem Jones, who had nemesised them a couple of postseasons ago. Their bane was poor contact; while both pitchers yielded two hits and no runs through four innings, Toner struck out seven, while Jones whiffed only one batter. The bottom 5th then saw the Critters get their first man into scoring position with a little luck. Margolis legged out an infield single – which usually indicates three infielders falling over each other or a chasm spontaneously opening on the field and swalling the ball and the pitcher alike – and advanced to second on a wild pitch on the 1-0 to Nunley, who met the next pitch for a liner into the rightfield corner, the first extra-base hit in the game, and also the first run, 1-0 Critters on the RBI double. Nunley was stranded on second by three unhelpful outs by the next three batters, so this was probably all Jonny’s now, but he required a little mound visit in the sixth. He had not struck out anybody in the fifth or to start the sixth (which began with Nem Jones, who put good wood on a fly to left that Cookie took care of), and this was almost newsworthy. Martinez singled, a determined liner that fell well in front of Cookie, and Hebberd flew out to deep center on 3-1. Some counseling by the pitching coach later, the Martinez problem dissolved in another caught stealing, but we had to have an eye on Toner, who would face the middle of the order in the seventh. Y’know what would be great? Some runs.

When Yoshi hit a leadoff single up the middle, a sorry squibbler that fit just barely between Hebberd and March, all it did was bring up some ****ty .059 hitter. Oh, it’s Mendoza. With the Mendoza line far away, Mendoza did what he could and CRUSHED a Nem Jones fastball for a no-doubter to rightfield, his first home run of the season, and it extended the lead to 3-0. Hamilton tried to follow up, but fell short, having to settle for a double at the edge of the track in slightly center-ish rightfield, and just out of Dan Brown’s reach. Jones regained control and retired the next three, with Hamilton stranded on third base. Toner had used the time to reconcile with his stuff and struck out Brown at the start of a quick and painless top of the seventh. The bottom of the inning was anything but for the opposing pitcher, as Nem Jones allowed a leadoff double to Metts, and then a single to Toner. Metts initially had to hold and wait for Hebberd to miss Toner’s quick bouncer, thus couldn’t score on the play. The runners were on the corners with no outs for the top of the lineup, where Cookie was 0-for-3 after a 4-hit game on Saturday. He hit a looper right where they weren’t into shallow left center for an RBI single, 4-0, Yoshi grounded out to move the runners to scoring position, and Mendoza ended Jones’ day with a hard single to left, so hard in fact that Cookie had to be held at third coming from second base. Only Toner scored on the play, 5-0. Justin Guerin allowed another run on Jones’ behalf after entering the game on Hamilton’s RBI single up the middle before retiring McKnight and Margolis. Toner entered the eighth on only 78 pitches, but put the first two men on as Dan March singled and Tony Perez reached on a full-count walk. Toner battled through it, though; Hubbard grounded out to Hamilton, who elected the out at second base, Jose Navarro bounced back to Toner, who looked back March and then got the out at second again, and Martinez popped out easily to Mendoza in shallow right. The fans were delighted when Toner came back for the ninth despite an on-base experience in the bottom 8th when Mike Espinoza couldn’t find the strike zone and walked him with two gone. Top 9th, Hebberd K’ed, Brown bounced out to short, and Butler was called out on strikes – it’s a shutout! 6-0 Furballs! Nomura 2-4; Mendoza 2-4, HR, 3 RBI; Hamilton 3-4, 2B, RBI; Toner 9.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K, W (2-0) and 1-3, BB;

Toner’s heroics combined with a Loggers loss bumped the Coons into first place at the end of the first week.

In other news

April 7 – VAN OF Alex Torres (0-for-8, 0 HR, 0 RBI) will miss the rest of April of his sophomore campaign. The 23-year Dominican old has torn ankle ligaments and needs to sit out for at least four weeks.
April 7 – Blue Sox and Capitals don’t score a run for 12 innings before both get a run in the 13th. The Wednesday game is not resolved until the 18th inning, with the Blue Sox plating two for a 3-1 win. NAS INF Sam Armetta (.250, 1 HR, 2 RBI) takes Luis Guerrero (0-1, 9.00 ERA) deep to score both runs.
April 8 – A single by pinch-hitter Cody Starmand (1-for-2, 0 HR, 0 RBI) is all that stands between the the Bayhawks notching a combined no-hitter through Mark Roberts and Tony Harrell over the Thunder. SFB OF Dave Garcia (.364, 2 HR, 4 RBI) homers twice and drives in four runs in the 7-0, 1-hit shutout.
April 10 – SFB CL Matt Collins (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 SV) has his 300th career save in nailing down an 11-8 win of the Bayhawks over the Crusaders. With his sixth employer, the 38-year old Collins, a left-handed pitcher and switch-hitter, is 63-47 with a 2.72 ERA in his career encompassing 844 relief outings. He set an all-time record for saves with the 2018 Rebels, notching 63 that year, and was Reliever of the Year twice, in 2013 and his save-record season.
April 10 – A crazy back-and-forth game between the Capitals and Gold Sox sees the latter prevail, 12-11. Teams combine for 37 hits and six home runs. While the Capitals hit four of the homers, the Gold Sox overall cash in more of their runners. DEN OF Tom Reese (.250, 1 HR, 4 RBI) and DEN LF Ramon Luna (.211, 1 HR, 4 RBI) both drive in four runs in the game, while Luna leads all players with four base hits, including one of Denver’s home runs.
April 11 – The Titans get crushed by the Falcons in a 15-1 mauling, with the Falcons scoring a dozen by the third inning. CHA C Tim Robinson (.091, 1 HR, 4 RBI) hits a grand slam in the first inning to get things rolling early. The rout comes in the second leg of a double-header, which the Falcons sweep thanks to a 6-3 win in the opener.

Complaints and stuff

The Aces also tried to make a trade while they were in town, offering backup infielder Jose Navarro for AAA 1B Russ Greenwald and genuine catching prospect Elias Tovias. Umm…. Nah.

I thought we might probably lose him, but Ryan Nielson cleared waivers and was assigned to St. Petersburg again.

Toner’s Sunday gem gave him his 16th shutout of his career. He has had at least one in every season except for his debut late in 2013, but the trend has been going downwards. After logging five shutouts in his first full season in ’14, he’s never had more than two in a season, and only one in both of the last two seasons. With 16, he is not that far off the career top 10 as you might think. In fact, he is tied for 16th with Joe Ellis and Jorge Silva, and needs only two more to get into the top 10, which holds a few familiar names.

ABL CAREER SHUTOUT LEADERS
1st – David Burke – 35
2nd – Tony Hamlyn – 30 – HOF
3rd – Neil Stewart – 29 – HOF
4th – Bastyao Caixinha – 26 – HOF
5th – Anibal Sandoval – 22
6th – Juan Correa – 21 – HOF
t-7th – Aaron Anderson – 20 – HOF
t-7th – Kisho Saito – 20 – HOF
t-9th – Nick Brown – 18
t-9th – Alex Miranda – 18
t-9th – Miguel Sanchez – 18

Anybody remember Alex Miranda? This goes WAY back. Miranda was the Coons’ #1 starting pitcher in the inaugural season in 1977, but ended up going 9-17 with a 3.38 ERA, which says a thing or two about the initial Coons’ offensive ineptitude. He also led the league in walks and was shipped off to Tijuana after the season in a deal that yielded equally futile Jorge Romeo, but also Cam Green, who was the Coons’ third baseman for a number of years in the 1980s before the emergency of Ben O’Morrissey WHO WILL NEVER BE FORGIVEN.

Miranda led the league in losses three times (1978, 1979 with Condors, 1984 with Indians) but ultimately finished a respectable 145-166 with a 3.72 ERA to his career. Two-time All Star… he did wind up with more walks than strikeouts for his career, though. That might be one of the many reasons why he is in the minority of players on this list who are not in the Hall of Fame.

Why the Secret Ninja Committee that conducted Hall of Fame elections in hiding before the 2000s didn’t give more consideration to David Burke is a mystery. While not a superstar like Tony Hamlyn, Burke was Pitcher of the Year twice in 1981 (with Pacifics) and 1985 (with Miners) and led the Federal League in wins four times, in ERA once, and in strikeouts twice, connecting all the dots for a triple crown in 1981.** He was 179-132 with a 3.27 ERA for his career. A right-handed finesse pitcher he made the All Star team six times, but overall his numbers are a wee bit too weak for the Hall. That does not explain some other players that *were* inducted by the SNC, though.

And while technically nobody among our two competitors gained a position this week, for overview purposes the career strikeout board in excerpts:

ABL CAREER STRIKEOUT LEADERS
79th – Eduardo Jimenez – 1,830
80th – Dan Moriarty – 1,828
81st – Alfredo Collazo – 1,827
82nd – Dave Crawford – 1,816
83rd – Raimundo Beato – 1,791
84th – Jonathan Toner – 1,789 – active
85th – Ian Rutter – 1,779 – active
86th – Manuel Ortíz – 1,761 – active
87th – John Collins – 1,758
[…]
94th – Larry Cutts – 1,714
95th – Carlos Guillén – 1,699
96th – Paul Kirkland – 1,698
97th – Juan Garcia – 1,684
98th – Jesse Carver – 1,682
99th – Hector Santos – 1,672 – active
100th – Samuel McMullen – 1,660 – active

*Dave Mirabella, Dan McCoy, and Devin Mansfield; home run threats listed: zero;

** This triple crown is not listed in the in-game achievements. I might have to go the long tour and pick all triple crowns together manually. I stated before that Jonny Toner is the first player to win two triple crowns. That is not true. As I wrote during the Hall of Fame introductions, Tony Hamlyn has two triple crowns, but the game only lists one. The other one was pre-2004, so in OOTP 12, but the game also lists Tetsu Osanai’s triple crown from ’86, so I am confused now. I will prepare a full list soon.
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Old 10-09-2017, 05:26 PM   #2378
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Raccoons (4-2) vs. Falcons (3-3) – April 12-14, 2021

The Coons had owned the Falcons in the last few years, winning the season series three years in a row and beating them 7-2 in each of the last two seasons. Out of the gate, the Falcons had shown some offense, scoring a whopping 34 runs in their first six games, and their pitching had been about average, with 24 runs conceded. Since one of their games had been the 15-1 drubbing of the Titans on Sunday, the +10 run differential didn’t really show in their record. Outfielder Travis Benson was batting .375 and led all of the ABL with three home runs and 12 runs driven in after the first week.

Projected matchups:
Hector Santos (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Doug Moffatt (0-1, 18.90 ERA)
Tadasu Abe (0-0, 2.70 ERA) vs. Alex Vallejo (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Michael Foreman (0-0, 6.00 ERA) vs. Brian Benjamin (0-2, 4.50 ERA)

All of their starters are right-handed, and there is only one left-hander in their pen, 25-year old J.J. Rodd, who was a tenth-round pick by the Raccoons in 2014. He was one of the two prospects – joined by Michael Wilkerson – in the 2018 deadline trade for Bobby Guerrero. His career ERA in 27 innings is 7.67, so I sense an advantage Coons here. Wilkerson, a first baseman, is also on their roster, but has yet to make it into the starting lineup in 2021. He got 88 at-bats in ’20, batting .227 with one home run.

Game 1
CHA: 2B Good – RF Benson – 1B Fowlkes – LF Feldmann – CF LeMoine – C W. Garza – 3B J. Estrada – SS Tanaka – P Moffatt
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – SS McKnight – CF Stevenson – 3B Nunley – C Olivares – P Santos

Santos had notched an RBI in his first start of the year, and got another one in this game, although the main heroics were on Josh Stevenson, who had led off the second inning with a walk. Nunley singled, moving him to second, where he remained while Olivares lined out softly to Matt Good. Stevenson then took off to swipe third, narrowly beating the throw by Willie Garza, and was able to scamper home when Santos flew out easily to Ryan Feldmann in left. That was the first run of the game. Not much offense happened until the Coons brought up the same situation again in the bottom of the fourth. This time Stevenson led off with a single, Nunley also singled again, and Olivares grounded out to Juan Estrada, advancing the runners into scoring position for Santos, who hung in for a full count before softly lifting a fly to center. Chris LeMoine had no trouble with that, but also couldn’t get Stevenson at home. Nunley remained at second, at least until the Falcons battery produced a wild pitch AND a passed ball during Cookie’s at-bat, scoring Nunley, 3-0, before Cookie flew out to shallow left.

While Santos did most of the hard work hitting (although the 6-7 spots contributed nicely), he was also completely in control of the Falcons. Actually, the Falcons had a base runner in each of the first seven innings of the game, but they never had more than one, and they never gained more than one base to begin with, never putting Santos in trouble. After a McKnight error in the first, Santos allowed singles, one each time, from the second through the fifth innings. He walked Feldmann in the sixth, hit Garza in the seventh, but the Falcons could never pile it on him. Technically, Santos also allowed only one runner in the eighth, but that one came on a leadoff triple by Matt Good, and knocked him from the game after 94 pitches. Noah Bricker replaced him and yielded nothing of value to Charlotte, but Good still scored on Pat Fowlkes’ groundout to short after Benson had popped out to keep being glued to 12 RBI (nobody on the Critters had more than four at this point). Lillis came in for the ninth facing the 5-6-7 batters, which were all left-handers. He struck out LeMoine and Garza before Hamilton took care of a Juan Estrada pop to the foul side of first base, ending the game in a crisp 2:27. 3-1 Raccoons. Mendoza 3-4, 2B; Nunley 2-4; Santos 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, W (2-0) and 0-0, BB, 2 RBI;

Game 2
CHA: 2B Good – RF Benson – 1B Fowlkes – LF Feldmann – CF LeMoine – 3B T. Thomas – C W. Garza – SS J. Estrada – P Vallejo
POR: LF Carmona – 3B Nunley – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – SS McKnight – C Margolis – CF Metts – 2B Zuhlke – P Abe

Nunley drove in Cookie, who had singled and stolen second base, in the first inning, but got the Falcons started in the top of the second with a throwing error that put leadoff man Feldmann on second base. Abe was not really in a groove, allowed an infield single to Tom Thomas, walked Garza, and then McKnight and Zuhlke, who made a spot start over Yoshi Nomura, who was struggling out of the gate, couldn’t turn the double play on Estrada’s grounder, allowing the tying run to score before Vallejo struck out to leave them on the corners. Leadoff men kept getting on; McKnight hit a double to start the bottom 2nd and scored after a Margolis groundout and Metts flying out to left, while Abe walked Good to start the top 3rd, and the Falcons would maneuver him around, too, to tie the score again at two.

Metts would give the Coons the lead a second time in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Falcons had stranded two runners in scoring position in the top 4th when Good struck out, while Metts found Mendoza on second and McKnight on first with two gone in the bottom half. Both runners had reached on infield singles, which was odd enough. Thankfully, Metts hit one out of the infield, a roller over second base into center that was quick enough to escape but slow enough to allow Mendoza to score handily. Zuhlke got wood on a 1-2 pitch and hit a single to shallow right center, his first hit as a Critter. This was probably not a good enough hit for McKnight to score from second, but Abe was a notoriously poor hitter, and the third base coach waved McKnight around. Benson raised an index finger in admonishing fashion, “uh-uh!”, and threw him out by 15 feet, ending the inning. Abe, true to fame, popped up to start the bottom 5th and was easily retired by Estrada, after which Cookie lined a double into the leftfield corner. Nunley singled to right, easily scoring Cookie for our first 2-run lead of the game, and after that Mendoza legged out another grounder on the infield for two infield singles in as many at-bats. Hamilton raked a pitch to deep right for an RBI double, and one more run scored on McKnight’s soft RBI single to shallow left before Vallejo finally stumbled out of the frame with shallow fly outs by Margolis to right and Metts to center. Abe held a 6-2 lead now, retired another four batters, but got bopped by Good with a solo homer in the seventh. Over 100 pitches, he was swiftly removed for Seung-mo Chun, who got out of the inning despite allowing a single to his first man, Benson. Chun got four outs total, which left four to get with a 6-3 lead. Sugano came in; starting with Willie Garza, the Falcons would send up left-left-pitcher-left. Maybe Sugano could even finish this one. He struck out Garza to begin with, but what threw a wrench into the plan was for Falcons righty Kyle Anderson to allow four base hits to the Coons in the bottom 8th. Up 7-3, Mendoza had the bags full and one out, grounded to short, but the Falcons only got Nunley from first, with Mendoza being safe. A run scored, and the next batter was … Sugano; Hamilton had been removed with Jackson entering the game in a double switch with the #9 slot up to bat third in the bottom 8th. The Coons were up by five; they could afford hitting Sugano in this spot. He struck out willingly, allowed another homer to Matt Good with two down in the ninth, but finished the game anyway. 8-4 Critters. Carmona 2-4, BB, 2B, RBI; Nunley 3-4, BB, 2 RBI; Mendoza 2-5, RBI; McKnight 3-4, 2B, RBI; Metts 1-2, BB, 2 RBI; Nomura (PH) 1-1;

When Mendoza legged out that grounder in the eighth inning to break up the double play and plate another run, that gave him 5 RBI. He is the first player on the team to reach that mark as he broke a 5-way tie for the lead with Margolis, Nunley, McKnight, and Metts.

Metts?

Game 3
CHA: 2B Good – RF Benson – 1B Fowlkes – LF Feldmann – CF LeMoine – 3B T. Thomas – C W. Garza – SS Tanaka – P Benjamin
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – SS McKnight – C Margolis – 3B Nunley – CF Stevenson – P Foreman

Foreman’s first pitch of the game went into the rightfield corner for a double, and he added to the runners with a walk to Pat Fowlkes, but Feldmann bounced into a double play to get the Critters out of the first. LeMoine and Garza drew walks in the second; Ryozo Tanaka’s grounder to short did not give the Coons a double play with Garza ready to knock over Yoshi if he didn’t yield, and with two outs and runners on the corners Foreman surrendered an RBI single to right to Brian Benjamin, the first run of the game. Benson got his 13th RBI in the third inning with a solo homer to right after being held dry for two days. Foreman pitched behind in the count constantly, issuing four walks in the first four innings, including Garza with nobody out and Tom Thomas already on base in the fourth inning. Tanaka popped out, Benjamin bunted, and Good was retired on a running grab by Cookie in leftfield. Foreman got through six innings eventually, striking out five against his four walks, but left on the hook, because the Raccoons had yet to show up. They had gotten three hits off Benjamin in the first five innings, most notably a leadoff double by Matt Hamilton in the bottom 2nd that had led nowhere, and the Falcons were still 2-0 ahead. It didn’t get better in the sixth, and the Coons were at Sugano again in the top 7th, which was led off by Good, who again refused retirement at Sugano’s left paw and drew a leadoff walk. Benson struck out, and Boynton replaced Sugano with right-handers up. Fowlkes’ bomb to right hit on a 2-0 pitch got the Falcons up to 4-0 and Boynton’s ERA to 20.25 for the year, although he struck out Feldmann and LeMoine to get out of the inning. The Coons at least got on the board for one run in the bottom 7th, Nunley singling home Margolis, who had doubled, to join Mendoza atop the team RBI leaderboard with a paltry five. Nope, the Coons were corner-nibbled into the shadows by Benjamin in this game, and there was probably no hope. Adam Cowen entered the eighth for only his second appearance of the year and had a clean inning, and then the Coons did get the tying run up in the bottom 8th. A walk and a single put Yoshi and Mendoza on base with one out for Matt Hamilton, who had yet to homer in the brown uniform. THIS would be a good spot! He did hit a ball hard to center, but it was well short of the wall and easy fodder for LeMoine, too. The Falcons saw trouble moving up and replaced Benjamin with righty Blake Parr right here. Parr faced only one man, conceding a hard RBI double to McKnight that got between the outfielders in right center. New righty, Jose Menendez, to face Margolis with the tying runs in scoring position then. Margolis struck out, and that was it; Dusty Balzer pressed a pillow onto the Coons’ snouts in the ninth and retired Nunley, Jackson, and Olivares in order. 4-2 Falcons. McKnight 2-4, RBI;

Raccoons (6-3) @ Crusaders (4-5) – April 16-18, 2021

47 runs allowed had the Crusaders with the second-highest mark in the Continental League after three series played. They were also fourth in runs scored with 38, but their rotation and its 5.37 ERA was certainly reason to worry at least a little bit. They had taken the season series with the Raccoons last year, claiming ten of the 18 games as victories of theirs.

Projected matchups:
Travis Garrett (1-0, 9.00 ERA) vs. Alejandro Mendez (1-1, 8.76 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (2-0, 1.13 ERA) vs. Hwa-pyung Choe (0-0, 4.50 ERA)
Hector Santos (2-0, 0.64 ERA) vs. Cody Zimmerman (1-1, 2.08 ERA)

The Crusaders also had Thursday off, which presents them with a chance to skip general handyman Choe on Saturday. If they elect to do that, Mike Rutkowski (1-1, 2.57 ERA) would move into the series. Any which way, Zimmerman is the only southpaw the Raccoons can expect, with Dave Butler (0-2, 8.78 ERA), their other left-handed starter, having pitched on Wednesday to not so much success.

I was *this* close to skipping Travis Garrett right away. His turn fell on the off day on Thursday, but there would be another off day coming up right after this series on Monday, so if he annoyed me in the series opener, we could start next week with Abe and shove Garrett all the way to the end of the line into the Saturday game, which then would put him in line for the off day following that, Thursday in two weeks. I like the sound of that plan. But hey, all he has to do to not get walked over twice on consecutive off days is to pitch a decent game for once. I am not asking for much. Six innings, three runs would already be progress.

Game 1
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – SS McKnight – C Margolis – 3B Nunley – CF Stevenson – P Garrett
NYC: SS Casillas – C J. Vargas – 3B S. Valdez – CF Duarte – RF Erickson – LF Loya – 1B Perkins – 2B Bergquist – P A. Mendez

Yes, that was Alex Duarte hitting cleanup, which makes me wonder whether the Crusaders spent all their money on golden jacuzzis and platinum private jets.

Through three innings, neither team amounted to much. The Coons had one single (McKnight) and two walks (Yoshi, twice) off “Ant” Mendez, while Garrett yielded a walk to Tony Casillas and a single to Jose Vargas, and no runs. Max Erickson hit a hard double in the fourth that was one of those wakeup knells that served to alert those that had dozed off in the preceding hour that there was still a game going on, but Garrett starved him on second base with a Ricky Loya pop over the infield and Josh Perkins grounding out to Nunley. Jason Bergquist’s leadoff double in the fifth was even more critical, with Mendez bunting him to third. With one out, Casillas had only one job, but bounced back to Garrett for the second out while Bergquist had to hold, and Vargas struck out to leave the game scoreless. The Coons were just not there. Cookie hit a leadoff single in the sixth, but was caught stealing. Sergio Valdez was robbed of extra bases by Mendoza to start the bottom 6th, which was doubly important once Erickson hit a 2-out double to center. The Crusaders would have had a lead by now, buy Loya grounded out to McKnight, and things remained zip-zip. Bottom 7th, Garrett hit Perkins to start the inning. Maybe we should get the bullpen up. Before we knew what was going on, Bergquist had bunted Perkins to second, and Mendez was taking swings. That was some odd strategy! Even odder was that it worked, when Mendez singled past Nunley on a 2-2 pitch and Perkins came around to score. That was all they got in the inning, but maybe it was enough.

Well, Nunley hit a leadoff double into deep left to start the eighth, so maybe we weren’t entirely dead yet. Stevenson struck out, “Ant’s” seventh on the day. Jackson batted for Garrett, but grounded out to short, and then Cookie struck out as well. Nunley never got off second base. Kaiser pitched a scoreless eighth, before the Crusaders sent their closer, Troy McCaskill, until last year a starting pitcher for the Loggers. He also was a right-hander, so maybe the lineup could find SOMETHING against him. Nomura flew out softly to center. Mendoza grounded out. Hamilton was down to two strikes when I packed my various crap into my bag to scream inside my head for the entire bus ride back to the hotel, and then Hamilton socked a ball into the fourth row in rightfield – down to the final strike, the Raccoons had tied the game. McKnight flew out, sending the game to the bottom of the ninth, where Boynton walked Perkins before losing his third game of the season with singles hit by Bergquist to center, and pinch-hitter Brian Skinner to left center. 2-1 Crusaders. Garrett 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K;

When “Tragic” Garrett is your best guy in a game, you know you lost without looking at the box score.

Game 2
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – 3B Nunley – SS McKnight – CF Metts – C Olivares – P Toner
NYC: SS Casillas – C J. Vargas – 3B S. Valdez – 1B A. Young – CF Duarte – RF Erickson – LF Loya – 2B Bergquist – P Choe

Toner walked a pair, including leadoff batter Casillas, and Jose Vargas hit a double in the first inning to give the Crusaders an early 1-0 lead before Erickson grounded out to first to strand Vargas and Duarte on the corners. The run was pulled back by the Critters in the top 2nd, with Nunley hitting a leadoff double before moving around on a grounder to Bergquist by Ronnie McKnight and a quite deep sac fly in left hit by Dwayne Metts, who thus also tied for the team lead of measly five RBI. That tie was broken up in the fourth inning when Ricky Loya misplayed a McKnight floater with two outs so badly that McKnight ended up with a double and Nunley(!) scored from first base. That gave the Critters a 2-1 lead – with Metts flying out to end the frame – but Toner and the strike zone were absolutely not in sync in this game. He needed *67* pitches through three innings, walking three and throwing a wild pitch as well while giving Olivares a bit of a workout behind home plate and in frequent mound visits. This was about gutting it out for five, six if things improved markedly all of a sudden. He retired the Crusaders in order in the fourth, including K’s to Erickson and Loya, but then had to suffer through a full count at-bat with Choe(!) to begin the bottom 5th. Casillas and Vargas made outs, Toner was almost up to 100 pitches, and with the middle of the order, 3 through 6, holding three left-handed batters, his time in this game was over.

An add-on run or two would be nice, but Choe held his own and kept the Coons’ lead at 2-1 in the top of the sixth. Kaiser was sent into the bottom 6th, where the only batter that reached – cursed ex-Coon Adam Young – did so on Kaiser’s own error when he dropped Hamilton’s feed on a grounder behind first base. Nothing came of that for New York, but they had Chun in the wringer in the seventh. Loya drew a leadoff walk, but got doubled up on Bergquist’s grounder to short. Brian Skinner and Tony Casillas hit a pair of 2-out singles, prompting a move to Noah Bricker in a dire spot, with Vargas flying out to center to end the inning.

The Coons would hit a ball occasionally, with Yoshi and Hamilton getting singles off Joe Medina in the eighth. Nunley hit a ball all the way to the rightfield fence with two outs, but Erickson got there to make the catch. The Coons were in a pickle, too, facing the lefty part of the lineup in the bottom 8th. Sugano would face Duarte if he came in now, but if we went to Lillis now, there were only Boynton (0-3) and Cowen left for the ninth inning. Oh, it’s Duarte! It’s not like a proper batter is coming up. Sugano walked Valdez at the beginning of his outing, and when Young flew out to center, the ball was so deep that Valdez tagged and took second. Duarte grounded out to Nunley, after which switch-hitter Jalen Parks pinch-hit for Erickson. And what now? Parks was weaker against southpaws, but mind Sugano’s absurd splits. Nah, screw this. The bullpen door opened and washed forth Brett Lillis to come in right here and now in a double switch at Nunley’s expense. Parks and Lillis battled for a full count before Parks grounded up the middle. Yoshi got there, threw to first in time, and the Coons wiggled out of this game. Medina threw a second inning in the ninth, with the Coons only getting on base with two outs and only on an error by Medina on Olivares’ grounder. That sent Petracek, Nunley’s replacement, to bat, he WALKED, and now we just needed Cookie to .. .not fly out to right, but he did. Lillis hit Bergquist with one out in the bottom 9th, Perkins struck out pinch-hitting, and then Casillas flew to left, Cookie over, and he had it. 2-1 Coons. Mendoza 2-4; Lillis 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, SV (5);

Yes, you have already forgotten he was ever in this teeth-gnasher, but Jonny Toner went to 3-0 while just barely pitching five innings on 96 pitches.

When Garrett has a better start than Toner, you better grab an umbrella before leaving the house. Locusts might rain from the sky at any time now.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I’d be in for a 9-2 snoozer now. Yes, of course the Coons would be the team with nine!

Game 3
POR: LF Carmona – 3B Nunley – RF Jackson – 1B Mendoza – C Margolis – SS McKnight – CF Stevenson – 2B Zuhlke – P Santos
NYC: SS Casillas – C J. Vargas – 3B S. Valdez – 1B A. Young – CF Duarte – RF Erickson – LF Loya – 2B Bergquist – P Zimmerman

The Crusaders sure looked closer to throwing nine onto the board than the Coons in the first inning. Santos was behind all batters he faced, with Casillas hitting a clean single to center and Vargas drawing a walk before Sergio Valdez hit a 2-0 pitch into left center that was a double against ordinary outfielders, but Cookie managed to race his way into the gap and take the ball before it could do harm to woodland creatures. Young hit into a double play on the first pitch, which was exactly the kind of behavior he had showed throughout his Portland stint. The second brought more trouble for Santos, who allowed singles to Erickson and Loya, then threw a wild pitch. Runners on second and third and one out, he encountered another ex-Coon, with Bergquist popping out to short. Zimmerman got blasted by fireballs for a strikeout; another jam escaped!

The Furballs had no base hits the first time through the order, but had drawn a walk (McKnight) and Valdez had made not one, but two errors. The first put on Margolis in the second, but nothing happened there, and the next allowed Santos to reach beginning the third inning. Cookie hit one through a hole for a single, and there were two on with nobody out for Nunley, who had come in with almost a .400 clip (which put him in the lineup rather than the switch-hitting Petracek), but dropped to 0-2 with a grounder to Bergquist. The runners advanced for Jackson, who was 2-for-12 early in the season, and didn’t improve on his average, instead walking onto the open base, bringing Mendoza up with the bags full. An extremely poor fly to Loya in left got the Coons nowhere, and Duarte would take Margolis’ fly to center to end the inning. Spending an entire inning on the bases appeared to have given Santos the rest. Casillas hit a leadoff single in the bottom 3rd, but was double-played off by Vargas. Young drew a leadoff walk in the fourth, with Erickson and Loya adding to the mess with 1-out singles. Santos struck out Bergquist, had Zimmerman at 1-2 … then threw one over Margolis’ head, sending the umpire diving to safety. Young scored, putting the Crusaders up 1-0 before Zimmerman popped out on the next pitch, leaving two in scoring position, as Margolis would do in the fifth, flying out to center with Nunley and Mendoza on base. Santos was knocked out in the bottom 5th after three straight singles, one run scoring right away and another one on the sac fly that Boynton allowed to Duarte upon replacing Santos. The Crusaders led 3-0 on ten hits, and the Raccoons were just not getting it done. The Crusaders had another two hits off Cowen in the bottom 6th, including a 1-out single to get it going by Zimmerman, who was on second after Casillas’ groundout and was sent around on Vargas’ single to right, but was thrown out by Eddie Jackson. At least that much…

Top 7th, Cookie extended his day to 3-for-4, which was then 60% of the team’s base hits, with a single into shallow center to start the inning. Nunley had so far not been a big help, but also singled up the middle, and then Zimmerman threw a wild pitch on the 2-1 to Jackson before losing him anyway on the following pitch. Mendoza grounded to first, where Young’s only play was on Mendoza himself, so at least the team was on the board now and the tying runs were in scoring position for Margolis, who was 2-for-18 recently, but we can’t think about that right now, just hit one somewhere where they ain’t. The best he could do was a sac fly to Duarte, and McKnight struck out, leaving the Critters a run short. The bottom 7th was a clean inning for Cowen, followed by a 30-minute rain delay, just not quite long enough to call the game. Not that it helped any. Between Sugano, Bricker, and Kaiser, the Raccoons’ pen collapsed in the bottom 8th, with four hits and a walk netting the Crusaders three more runs. A Cookie double and a Hamilton walk (in place of Jackson) off Logan Sloan put two on in the ninth, creating a save situation for McCaskill with one out. The Critters were surely teasing; Mendoza hit a soft roller to right, a single that loaded the bases, with Margolis coming up as the tying run. He knocked the first pitch into play, direction of short, but hard hit and escaping past a diving Casillas for an RBI single. 6-3, three on, still one out for McKnight, who grounded up the middle as well. Bergquist intercepting it, no play at second, throw to first – MCKNIGHT BEAT IT!! RBI SINGLE, COONS BACK WITHIN TWO!! That brought up Stevenson, batting under .200 like Margolis had just minutes earlier. He also hit the first pitch into play, like Margolis, a liner that was inches too high for Valdez to catch it before it made its way into leftfield and turned into foul ground well behind third base. Backup outfielder Rico Miranda had a long way to go, all the way into the corner, Mendoza in, Margolis in, McKnight windmilled around by the third base coach, relay throw by Casillas – LATE – COONS HAVE THE LEAD!!! BASES-CLEARING DOUBLE BY JOSH STEVENSON, ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!??

At this point, McCaskill was hauled in, replaced by left-hander Joe Jones, who got fly outs to center from both Zuhlke and Olivares. Brett Lillis was pretty much the only guy left in the pen besides Chun, and got into an UNEXPECTED save opportunity here, facing three lefties, including two replacement outfielders, in the 5-6-7 holes. One of the replacements, Steve Witt, ripped a leadoff single to left in his first at-bat of the year. Erickson struck out, Miranda struck out, which left Bergquist, a right-hander with a career .238/.310/.323 slash in some 1,600 at-bats, most of those sadly for the Coons. Lillis’ first pitch nailed him, which put the winning run on for the Crusaders, but … their bench was empty! Joe Jones had to bat. Despite only 12.1 innings of major league experience, Jones, a left-handed pitcher and batter, had batted once before, in 2020, striking out then. He would meet the same fate again here, as Lillis had absolutely no mercy with him and threw him the mean stuff. 7-6 Raccoons. Carmona 4-5, 2B; Mendoza 2-5, 2B, RBI; Stevenson 1-3, 2 BB, 2B, 3 RBI; Cowen 2.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K;

That was… exhausting.

I feel dehydrated.

In other news

April 13 – WAS 1B Andy McNeal (.389, 2 HR, 7 RBI) goes 5-for-6 with a walk, a triple, and a double in the Capitals’ 21-8 smashing of the Stars. McNeal drives in only two runs as leadoff batter, but scores four times.
April 13 – The Rebels’ 37-year old veteran SP Jorge Gine (0-2, 8.22 ERA) was not exactly good in his first two starts this year, and medical examination reveals a partial tear of his labrum. He will have to sit out two months.
April 15 – Cyclones and Buffaloes play a 20-inning blinder, which the Cyclones eventually win 15-13. Eddie Moreno (.417, 0 HR, 4 RBI) has five hits for them in nine attempts, but CIN 1B Luis Moreira (.333, 1 HR, 5 RBI) does one better, and goes 6-for-10 with two doubles and a the game-winning home run in the 20th inning. Moreira drives in two runs in the game while becoming the 57th player overall to collect six hits in a game, and the fourth Cyclone (Alex White, 1980; Max Reynolds, 1982; Will Bailey, 2010).
April 15 – Regularly injured SFB OF Dave Garcia (.429, 2 HR, 4 RBI) is down and out again. The 26-year old will miss at least a month with a quad strain.

Complaints and stuff

Alex White! ALEX WHITE! (foams)

There was not a single ‘easy’ game this week. You know, the type where you lean back and enjoy a 7-1 win that is never threatened. They cranked the drama to the max this week, with a fitting climax on Sunday, pulling a game that was dead in the water into the win column with five runs in the ninth inning – without making an out.

Dave Garcia is like Neil Reece reborn. Both strong defensive centerfielders with a high average and good pop, and they could never stay on the field. Reece batted .340 with 21 HR and 90 RBI in his age 25 season (1992!), which gives good comparison with Garcia, who actually managed to get into 143 games last year – the same as Reece in ’92 – which is not a given for him, and batted .336 with 24 HR and 106 RBI.

I am actually selling Garcia short here. He’s a 2-time Player of the Year, a title that Reece never won. Yes, I am selling a Baybird short comparing him to a Hall of Famer. A RACCOONS Hall of Famer.

Cookie leads the CL in stolen bases with five early on, but his margin is only one bag. Oddly enough, Nando Maiello has TEN sacks taken in the Federal League, and even odder, the Raccoons rank first in the CL with six total stolen bases. Stevenson chipping in one is enough, it seems.

Saving the best for the end, the oddest thing this week has been Jimmy Eichelkraut winning CL Player of the Week batting .429 (9-for-21) with 2 HR and 7 RBI. He did WHAT?

ABL CAREER STRIKEOUT LEADERS
78th – Anibal Sandoval – 1,832
79th – Eduardo Jimenez – 1,830
80th – Dan Moriarty – 1,828
81st – Alfredo Collazo – 1,827
82nd – Dave Crawford – 1,816
83rd – Jonathan Toner – 1,795 – active
84th – Raimundo Beato – 1,791
85th – Ian Rutter – 1,786 – active
86th – Manuel Ortíz – 1,761 – active, free agent
[…]
93rd – Billy Robinson – 1,728 – HOF
94th – Larry Cutts – 1,714
95th – Carlos Guillén – 1,699
96th – Paul Kirkland – 1,698
97th – Juan Garcia – 1,684
t-98th – Jesse Carver – 1,682
t-98th – Hector Santos – 1,682 – active
100th – Samuel McMullen – 1,674 – active
Attached Images
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Old 10-10-2017, 01:30 PM   #2379
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Raccoons (8-4) @ Indians (4-9) – April 20-22, 2021

While the Raccoons were in a comfy position in the CL North after two weeks, being the only team with a winning record after a Titans loss on Monday, the Coons’ off day, the Indians had gotten off to a truly wretched start, batting a paltry .240 as a team and scoring a CL-low 39 runs in their 13 games. The pitching was … well, two sides of a coin. The rotation had put up a strong 2.80 ERA, but most of that had been undone by a league-worst bullpen with a 5.82 ERA. The Raccoons had taken the season series in 2020, winning ten out of the 18 games.

Projected matchups:
Tadasu Abe (1-0, 2.77 ERA) vs. Dan Lambert (2-0, 1.52 ERA)
Michael Foreman (0-1, 4.50 ERA) vs. Shane Baker (1-0, 2.25 ERA)
Travis Garrett (1-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. Tom Shumway (0-2, 4.61 ERA)

Shumway was one of the Indians two southpaw starters, the other being Tristan Broun (0-2, 3.52 ERA), who would move into the series if one of the others would be skipped due to the off day. The Raccoons would not skip Garrett or push him to the end of the line after he had held off the Crusaders well on Friday. It hadn’t been his fault that the team had lost that game, 2-1.

Game 1
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – 3B Nunley – C Margolis – SS McKnight – CF Stevenson – P Abe
IND: 3B Ruggeri – CF Otero – 1B M. Rucker – RF C. Martinez – LF Genge – SS Matias – 2B Rolland – C T. Delgado – P Lambert

To put it mildly, Abe got smothered by the Indians right from the start of the game. The first two batters hit him for extra bases, a double to right off the bat of D.J. Ruggeri and then a no-doubt home run in the same general direction hit by rookie Leo Otero, the first longball of his career. Abe also made an error to put Lowell Genge on base with two outs, but Raul Matias neglected hurting the Raccoons for once, grounding out instead. The Indians were greedy in the second inning, which cost them a run in the top of the frame. McKnight hit a 2-out double, presenting a neat open base to walk Josh Stevenson onto and to give Lambert an opportunity to undress Abe with breaking pitches. None of that happened, with Stevenson being pitched to and singling up the middle; McKnight scored, and his next time up hit a 2-run homer with Margolis aboard to flip the score the Coons’ way in the fourth. While the 3-2 lead was short-lived with Cesar Martinez tying the game via a solo shot to left in the bottom of the same inning. Neither starter looked any good, both were surrendering plenty of hard contact, and it was only a question of who would collapse first now.

That would have been Lambert. Abe was struck out to start the top of the fifth, but Lambert then surrendered singles to right center to both Cookie and Yoshi before Hugo Mendoza hit a tremendous moonshot to left center to plate three and give Abe a 6-3 lead. Lambert was yanked instantly, while Abe was allowed to fudge around a little while longer. The Raccoons didn’t see it coming when Martinez led off the bottom 6th with a single and Lowell Genge walked on four pitches. While Matias flew out to right and Jaylen Rolland struck out, Tony Delgado – very much a Craig Bowen type of catcher – became the third Indian to fire an arrow all the way over the fence in this game, levelling the score at six. Abe’s bison picked apart, the Raccoons would have to join the bullpen game by the seventh, but would do so with a renewed lead. Mendoza hit a single to start the seventh, but Hamilton hit into a double play. Matt Nunley parked the 45th pitch by reliever Manny Ortega in the leftfield stands, and the Raccoons were up 7-6 on Nunley’s first dinger of the year. The inning wasn’t over; after Margolis’ 2-out single, McKnight came up a triple short of the cycle, but only hit a weak roller through between Rolland and Mike Rucker, who looked quite bad on the next play when Josh Stevenson hit a bouncer right past him and across his front lawn. The ball became a double up the rightfield line, Margolis scored, McKnight was sent around, but Martinez threw him out at the plate, ending the inning with an 8-6 score. Bottom 7th, a double by Otero and a walk to Rucker – issued by Jason Kaiser – and then a 4-pitch walk by Boynton facing Martinez loaded the bases with only one out and the left-hander – with pop – Genge appearing. The Raccoons were already thin in the pen despite the off day, and had to get something good from Boynton right now. An RBI single allowed to Genge and 2-out walk issued to PH Danny Morales did decidedly not fall into that category. We were tied AGAIN, with Delgado grounding out to Nunley to end the inning. Adam Cowen was picked apart for singles by C.J. Tanner and Leo Otero, a sac fly by Rucker, and then an RBI double by Martinez with two outs and the Raccoons headed into the ninth trailing, 10-8, which immediately became 10-9 when right-hander Tony Lino got blasted for an estimated 430-footer by Mendoza that put a dent into the batter’s eye. Hamilton and Nunley grounded out, but Margolis extended the game with a single to left. McKnight still wouldn’t complete the cycle, singling to center for his fifth hit of the game instead. Dwayne Metts batted for Stevenson for a platoon advantage, but flew out to Martinez to end this bonkers game. 10-9 Indians. Carmona 2-5; Mendoza 2-4, BB, 2 HR, 4 RBI; Margolis 3-5; McKnight 5-5, HR, 2B, 2 RBI; Stevenson 3-4, 2B, 2 RBI;

10-9 Indians rings familiar. And I don’t like it. We out-hit them 17-11, but it just wasn’t meant to be… (sour expression) Yeah, that was two or three blown leads too many for my taste…

Game 2
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – SS McKnight – C Margolis – 3B Nunley – CF Stevenson – P Foreman
IND: CF D. Morales – 2B B. Reyes – 1B M. Rucker – RF C. Martinez – LF Genge – SS Matias – 3B Rolland – C T. Delgado – P Baker

The Critters unpacked a 3-spot in the first inning with the kind support of Shane Baker, who walked three in the inning, including Cookie and Yoshi at the very beginning. Hamilton hit an RBI single and Nunley plated two with a 2-out single. The Raccoons would add single runs to their tally in the third, in which Hamilton stole a base and came around on groundouts by McKnight and Margolis, and in the fourth, which saw Yoshi hit a sac fly to center with Stevenson and Cookie on the corners. Foreman was in a spot of bother once early on, starting the second inning by hitting Martinez and allowing a single to Genge, but worked his way out of the mess on Matias’ pop and Rolland’s double play grounder to short. Foreman even got to shine with the bat, extinguishing his opponent in the fifth inning with a 2-out, 2-run single to center, his first hit as a Critter. McKnight and Nunley scored; the latter had drawn a walk, but McKnight had reached on a throwing error by Bob Reyes, making both runs unearned. Not that it helped Baker, who was yanked in a 7-0 deficit. The Indians briefly tested their bows in the bottom 5th: Genge singled and stole second leading off, and Matias walked onto the open base in a full count. But Rolland grounded to short, McKnight claiming the out at second base, and Nunley smothered a quick bouncer by Delgado and turned it around on the extremely slow catcher for the second inning-ending double play the Coons had turned in the game. The score continued to tilt thanks to a sixth-inning 2-piece that Matt Hamilton hit off Rafael Urbino, who had walked Mendoza just before the dinger. The Raccoons hauled in some of their regulars during the seventh-inning stretch, with Cookie, Mendoza, and McKnight all getting replaced by Metts, Jackson, and Zuhlke. Foreman got his pat on the back after eight innings of shutout ball, which took him 104 pitches, and Nunley and Margolis were subbed out during the ninth, so only Yoshi, Hamilton, and Stevenson finished the game among the starters. Chun allowed a single and a walk in the ninth inning, but the Indians still couldn’t get a run across. 9-0 Furballs. Carmona 2-3, BB; Hamilton 3-5, HR, 3 RBI; Nunley 2-4, BB, 2 RBI; Stevenson 2-5; Foreman 8.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K, W (1-1) and 1-3, RBI;

Ah, finally the calm game I had been waiting for! So relaxing!

Foreman isn’t a guy that can be chased to 120 pitches or beyond. He is more on the Santos side of the stamina spectrum. In a 9-0 game I always send my guy back out for the ninth, except that Foreman looked visibly tired and the Indians hit two substantial fly balls (for outs) in the eighth inning already. In 147 career starts, Foreman has only three complete games, and only one shutout.

At this point, Cookie Carmona led the batting race with a healthy .397 clip, and Matt Nunley has a 10-game hitting streak.

The Indians indeed moved Tristan Broun into the series, albeit at the expense of the other left-hander, Tom Shumway.

Game 3
POR: LF Carmona – 3B Nunley – RF Jackson – 1B Mendoza – C Margolis – CF Stevenson – SS Zuhlke – 2B Petracek – P Garrett
IND: CF D. Morales – 2B B. Reyes – 1B M. Rucker – RF C. Martinez – LF Genge – SS Matias – 3B Keeley – C Tanner – P Broun

Garrett allowed a run in the first after a leadoff walk to Danny Morales and singles by Reyes and Genge, but made up for it in the second inning, which saw Broun load the bases with walks to Margolis and Zuhlke as well as an infield single by Petracek. Garrett came to bat with two outs and flipped a single into center to tie the game. Cookie flew out to right in a 3-1 count, stranding a full set of runners. The Indians had another leadoff man on in the bottom 2nd, with Garrett striking Paul Keeley in the chest, but this time nothing came of it, thanks to an aggro play by Mendoza on Broun’s bunt, which he took to second base to erase Keeley. While Morales hit a 2-out single, nothing came of it when Bob Reyes swung over a 1-2 fork to strand the pair.

The Arrowheads would score two on Garrett in the third, nipping him for three singles and a stolen base, but the Coons had the tying runs in scoring position right away in the fourth, thanks to Stevenson walking (the fourth free pass given up by Broun) and Zuhlke hitting a double into the gap in left center. Petracek got the free pass intentionally, bringing up Garrett with the bases loaded and no outs. His sorry grounder to Broun netted him a double play, home-and-first, Cookie walked onto the open base, but Nunley’s fly to center was taken by Morales hustling in, and the Coons left another three on base.

Garrett went five and two thirds with an odd line including eight strikeouts, but also ten base hits allowed. He departed with two runners on base after a 2-out single by Rucker and a subsequent walk drawn by Martinez. Sugano came in to face Lowell Genge, who gave an 0-2 pitch a ride to deep right, but Eddie Jackson was there to take it near the track. Jackson hit a solo dinger in the top of the seventh, but the Raccoons were still on the short end with that, down 3-2. In the bottom of that inning, Jeff Boynton walked the bases full, facing the bottom of the order, a situation that Noah Bricker managed to defuse with pop outs over the infield harvested from Morales and Reyes atop the lineup. Maybe the Indians would invite the Coons back into the game in the eighth… With one out and nobody on, Stevenson popped up a 2-1 pitch by Jerry Counts behind home plate. C.J. Tanner was befuddled, ran in circles, and eventually had the ball drop three feet behind him and was charged an error. Stevenson singled on the next pitch, and with Zuhlke in the box a wild pitch by Counts moved him into scoring position. Zuhlke ended up striking out, and with two outs Matt Hamilton hit for Petracek. The Indians countered with Killian Savoie, a left-hander, but Hamilton still singled to left center, and the ball was plenty far away from the defenders for Stevenson to score. Tied ballgame! Too bad that an overworked Jason Kaiser got hit for a leadoff double by Mike Rucker in the bottom of the inning and conceded the run on consecutive groundouts. The Indians had another lead, 4-3, and sent Tony Lino into the ninth, which again didn’t go flawlessly for him. Nunley hit a 1-out single, extending his hitting streak at the last chance, and after McKnight hit for Jackson and flew out to center, Mendoza scratched out a walk in a full count. That brought up an 0-for-3 Margolis, who hit an 0-1 pitch to center and past Morales, who got a favorable carom off the wall. Nunley scored on the double to tie the game again, but Mendoza was thrown out at home plate to end the inning. The Coons had only Cowen and Lillis left in the pen and went with the former, which as usual was a mistake. Batting ninth and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, D.J. Ruggeri creamed a 93mph fastball by Cowen for a walkoff jack around the right foul pole. 5-4 Indians. Stevenson 2-3, BB; Petracek 2-2, BB; Hamilton (PH) 1-1, RBI;

Not. A good game.

With the walkoff homer, Ruggeri dumped Cookie from the top of the batting title race. Cookie went 0-for-5 and shed 26 points of average in the game. Plus, the Coons dropped into a tie with the Loggers for first.

Not. A good game.

Raccoons (9-6) vs. Knights (9-6) – April 23-25, 2021

The Knights sat second in the CL South, fourth in runs scored, and fifth in runs allowed in the Continental League. Their rotation had been the second-best so far with a 3.02 ERA. Leading in that category? The Raccoons, with a 3.00 ERA. The Raccoons’ pen was quite a bit worse than that and had a 1-5 record so far, and the Knights had their own share of bullpen woes. Both teams were certainly hoping to knock out the opposing starters early. The 2020 season series had ended up with the Knights, 5-4.

Projected matchups:
Jonathan Toner (3-0, 1.29 ERA) vs. Leon Hernandez (3-0, 2.74 ERA)
Hector Santos (2-0, 1.96 ERA) vs. Luis Flores (3-0, 1.61 ERA)
Tadasu Abe (1-0, 4.74 ERA) vs. Eduardo Valdez (0-2, 3.43 ERA)

Southpaw on Saturday. The Knights were missing one of their more important batters, with Marty Reyes being parked on the DL with shoulder woes. He had batted .407 in the first week of the season. Without him, their lineup was pretty much hanging to the left side, just like the Coons’. Too bad we don’t have any left-handed starters…

Game 1
ATL: 3B Jam. Wilson – 2B Hibbard – C Luna – 1B Herlihy – SS T. Jimenez – RF Lyle – CF Walrath – LF Mims – P L. Hernandez
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – 3B Nunley – SS McKnight – CF Metts – C Olivares – P Toner

Neither pitcher found the strike zone in the first inning. Toner walked two, Hernandez walked three, neither team scored, both half-innings ending on a gruesome swing and a miss, Trent Herlihy’s in the top and Ronnie McKnight’s in the bottom half. Jonathan Lyle had the second led off with a double, except that he tried to take another base and Hugo Mendoza told him NO YOU WON’T, throwing him out with a perfect throw from the rightfield line. Olivares challenged for his first career dinger in the bottom 2nd, hitting a drive to deep right that was caught by Lyle, before Hernandez walked Toner on four pitches to extend the inning, but Cookie rolled out. 93 pitches total, one base hit in the first two innings – this was one of those stupid games that would cost you sleep even three, four days later.

That was before the rain, and before another completely ****ed up inning for Toner, who allowed two hits and another two walks in the top of the third, this time bleeding two runs on Tony Jimenez’ 2-out single to left center. The Coons were hitless so far; Yoshi reached base on a Jamie Wilson throwing error at the start of the third inning. He scored on Hamilton’s double to the fence in rightfield, but Hamilton managed to hit the second base bag with his chest and was in discomfort. Eddie Jackson replaced him, with Mendoza moving in to first base. Jackson was left on base, and Toner lasted only FOUR innings in the game, throwing 111 pitches for four hits, five walks, and seven strikeouts. Are you ****ing kidding me!? I could see most relievers’ hearts banging through their chests already! The Coons tried to scratch two innings off Manobu Sugano’s wet carcass, which was never going to work, and Kyle Mims extended the Knights’ lead to 4-1 for it, bombing a 2-run homer off Sugano in the sixth, his second inning of work. Devin Hibbard homered off Cowen in the eighth, and until Yoshi Nomura hit a single to center in the seventh inning, the Knights had made more errors (three) than they had conceded hits to the Coons (two). Nope, this game was firmly entrenched in the loss column pretty much as soon as it started, and the Raccoons would never even get another base runner after the Nomura single. 5-1 Knights. Hamilton 1-1, BB, 2B, RBI;

Nunley ended his hitting streak, Cookie had another 0-for-5, Hamilton is day-to-day with a rib cage issue, and the Loggers zoomed ahead.

Help?

Game 2
ATL: 3B Jam. Wilson – 2B Hibbard – C Luna – SS T. Jimenez – RF Lyle – CF Walrath – 1B M. Rivera – LF Mims – P L. Flores
POR: LF Stevenson – 3B Nunley – RF Jackson – 1B Mendoza – C Margolis – SS McKnight – 2B Zuhlke – CF Metts – P Santos

The Raccoons hoped for nothing more than a long, fruitful outing from Hector Santos, with their bullpen more or less reduced to rubble. Lillis (0.00) and Chun (2.08) aside, everybody had an ERA of 4+, and most of the guys were tired or in the oxygen tent. Of course Santos did anything but sparkle, hitting Jamie Wilson with his first pitch of the game before walking the bases loaded, throwing only one strike in his first ten pitches. The Knights would score all three of the runners thanks to another walk issued to Jonathan Lyle, a wild pitch, and a run-scoring groundout by Jeffrey Walrath. The Knights had not notched a base hit, but at least had made Santos throw 27 pitches already. To the home crowd’s surprise, the Raccoons came back for two runs in the bottom 1st, three singles and an RBI double by Margolis, and flipped the score in the bottom 2nd, which saw Santos get the team going with a shy 2-out single to left. Stevenson doubled to center in a full count, with Santos flinging the paws all the way around to score, and Stevenson came home on Nunley’s clean single to right, 4-3. But don’t be mistaken! Only agonizing games are allowed in here! Santos was ticked for three 2-out singles in the third, allowing the Knights to tie the score and raise his pitch count over 70.

Santos ended up squeezed out for 112 pitches, which didn’t even get him through the sixth inning. He departed with a 5-4 lead, courtesy of a Stevenson sac fly in the bottom 4th, and the tying run on second base. There wasn’t much to be found in the bullpen in terms of a pulse. The battle plan was to pry an out from Kaiser’s lifeless arm against left-hander Jamie Wilson, then somehow abuse Bricker and Lillis for nine outs without losing, while hiding the TERRIBLE DISAPPOINTMENT with Toner and Santos in succession. Kaiser struck out Wilson, then had to be carried into his bed by Hugo Mendoza after collapsing for exhaustion in the tunnel to the clubhouse. A leadoff jack by Adam Zuhlke, his first homer and first RBI as a Raccoon, extended the gap to 6-4 in the bottom of the sixth. That was not the last home run in the inning, but before we could get to Stevenson’s first bomb as a Coon, Dwayne Metts singled and was double-played into oblivion by Cookie Carmona’s pinch-hit double play grounder to short. The Stevenson blast finally got rid of Flores, but the Raccoons had yet to stop ****ing up as well. Noah Bricker got nobody out before Ruben Luna hit a 2-run homer to immediately axe back the lead to a single run.

The Knights wanted to play with their food a while longer and let Bricker get through the seventh. The bottom of the inning saw a single by Jackson off Luis Calderon to get going, with the right-hander yielding a walk to Mendoza afterwards. Margolis grounded out, advancing the runners, and McKnight singled to center, plating one run, 8-6. That brought up Zuhlke, who had tasted blood and had liked it, blasting a 2-2 pitch to deep left and WELL outta here. That made for an 11-6 game, but we may want another insurance run or six given that we were one hostile 4-spot away from giving Danny Margolis another pitching cameo. Mims walked with one out in the eighth. With Trent Herlihy pinch-hitting and running a full count, Mims went into motion. Herlihy struck out against Bricker, and Margolis nailed out Mims at second base to end the inning. The ninth started with a 5-run lead, Lillis pitching anyway, and a McKnight error that put Wilson on base. Lillis hissed at the shortstop, hissed at Devin Hibbard who was innocently walking into the box, then struck him out. Two soft outs later, the Coons had somehow claimed a W. 11-6 Blighters. Stevenson 3-4, HR, 2B, 3 RBI; Nunley 3-5, RBI; Mendoza 2-4, BB, RBI; Zuhlke 2-3, BB, 2 HR, 4 RBI; Metts 2-4;

We were a wee bit concerned with Matt Hamilton, who had sat out the Saturday game entirely and still was uncomfortable on the left side of the chest. He was not in a great deal of pain, but still listed as day-to-day and the Druid had read in his tea leaves that this condition would probably persist into the middle of the next week. Hamilton was not in the lineup for the Sunday rubber game, but we considered him available to pinch-hit.

I could go into detail about how we need a long, clean outing from Abe, but… to throw only one number into the room, Jason Kaiser is on pace to pitch in 94 games this year.

Game 3
ATL: 3B Jam. Wilson – 2B Hibbard – C Luna – 1B Herlihy – SS T. Jimenez – RF Lyle – CF Walrath – LF Mims – P E. Valdez
POR: LF Carmona – CF Stevenson – 3B Nunley – 1B Mendoza – SS McKnight – 2B Nomura – C Margolis – RF Jackson – P Abe

Two grounders and a strikeout against Ruben Luna in the first, and Abe had already a foot in the door for the best start since Foreman went on Wednesday. But rest assured that things unraveled in due time for him. Walrath opened the third with a single. Mims flew out, but when Valdez bunted, Abe tried to get the lead runner while ending up not getting anybody out. Wilson’s grounder to first had Mendoza get Valdez out at second base, but there was no time for a relay throw, runners were on the corners with two down, and Devin Hibbard’s slow grounder was overrun by Nunley for a run-scoring error. Abe proceeded to walk Luna to fill the bags, couldn’t remove Trent Herlihy in a 1-2 count and conceded a 2-run double to right, and only Tony Jimenez finally ended the inning by glaring at an 0-2 pitch in the lower half of the zone – a pretty fat pitch actually. All three runs were unearned, like that was any consolation. Just like the day before, the Raccoons reacted to the Knights’ 3-spot by putting up two runs of their own. Nunley doubled over Kyle Mims’ head with two outs in the bottom 3rd, plating Jackson and Carmona from the corners. Both runners had reached on infield singles, with the latter breaking an 0-for-13 spell for Cookie. Mendoza flew out to left to end the inning.

The heavens came down anyway, in metaphorical form for now, but who knew whether the Portland skies had another torrential rainstorm in their hand? Abe retired only one more batter before leaving the game with shoulder discomfort, sending the Raccoons’ bullpen into an irrecoverable doom spiral by default. There was no way we could collect 5 2/3 innings from the charred remains of the pitchers out there. Boynton was sent out first and collected five outs, give or take a single by the opposing pitcher in between. His spot was up in the bottom 5th, with Matt Hamilton batting for him. There was nobody out and the tying run was on first after Eddie Jackson’s leadoff single to center. Hamilton singled hard to right, only for Cookie to find his way into another double play… Adding to the misery was Seung-mo Chun’s outing in the sixth inning that saw him walk a pair before being blown up for three runs by Jonathan Lyle’s RBI double and Jeffrey Walrath’s 2-run single, giving the Knights a 6-2 lead. He somehow dragged his ass through another inning before giving the ball to Cowen, who had a scoreless eighth, but allowed two singles to Mims and Mike Rivera at the start of the ninth. Lillis was sent into the game, the last redoubt before the Knights would raid Margolis Castle. That never happened, with Lillis getting out of the inning while conceding one of Cowen’s runs on a Hibbard sac fly. Mendoza’s leadoff jack off Harry Merwin in the bottom 9th failed to spark a major rally. 7-3 Knights. McKnight 3-4; Nomura 2-4; Jackson 2-3; Hamilton (PH) 1-1; Boynton 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K;

Somehow, somehow… somehow we out-hit the Knights 11-7. Oh yeah, but … but Coons pitcher issued five walks, while Knights pitchers issued zero. Then there was the Nunley error, and… ugh.

In other news

April 21 – The Gold Sox fall victim to a 3-hit shutout authored by SFW SP Blaine Barnard (2-1, 1.48 ERA), who takes the W in the 3-0 game.
April 22 – CIN RF/LF Winston Jones (.250, 0 HR, 0 RBI) reaches the 2,000 hits mark with one hit in his four attempts in the Cyclones’ 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Capitals. Jones, 37, is a 2-time All Star and Platinum Stick winner and has three Gold Gloves in a 16-year, 6-city career spent almost exclusively in the Federal League. His career slash is .292/.346/.440 and he has 171 HR and 1,063 RBI accumulated. With the Rebels, he led the Federal League in triples in 2010, and in RBI in 2011. Jones’ milestone hit comes with the Cyclones down to their final strike in the game, a single hit off Danny Arguello on an 0-2 pitch.
April 22 – SAC OF Ray Meade (.188, 2 HR, 13 RBI) ends a 16-inning bonanza with the Pacifics with a walkoff grand slam, giving the Scorpions a 7-3 win. Meade had 6 RBI in total in the game, plating two more runs on groundouts in regulation.
April 23 – The Pacifics get murdered by the Capitals in a 23-6 onslaught, with Washington’s Terry Kopp (.338, 3 HR, 19 RBI) and Guillermo Obando (.486, 0 HR, 10 RBI) having the most productive days with five hits, including a double and a triple, and 4 RBI for the former, and five hits with a triple and 6 RBI for the latter.
April 23 – DEN 1B Justin Godown (.368, 0 HR, 7 RBI) has a 20-game hitting streak going after two hits in the Gold Sox’ 4-1 win over the Miners.
April 24 – Hitting streak over for DEN 1B Justin Godown (.347, 0 HR, 7 RBI) who goes down four times in a 3-1 loss to the Miners.

Complaints and stuff

Boy, are we in the ****.

First, the injuries aren’t that serious. Hamilton should be as good as new by the middle of next week. Abe has been assessed as having mild shoulder inflammation, which made me almost faint, but, as the Druid pointed out, it was exactly the type of shoulder inflammation that could be treated with a soothing ointment processed by throwing two yellow-spotted, fat-assed frogs that only live in southeastern Middle Bolivia into a blender and letting it rumble for a few minutes, AND … he happened to have a few of these frogs at hands, by chance.

So, Abe is headed to the DL, but we may get away with a black eye here and he could be back as early as 15 days from now. SAYS THE DRUID. I sure hope I won’t find a fly in that ointment, which – by the way! – smells like dead people– Mena! Get outta here!

No, this was not a good week. Bracketing Lillis, the bullpen has entirely collapsed, which is no wonder when outside of Foreman nobody managed to even go six innings. Toner and Abe didn’t even get close. I sure hope that Toner gets his annual full-count parade that usually takes three to four weeks out of his system before we actually take a dive in the standings.

The really interesting question is who will take Abe’s starts while he’s on the DL. But – ah-hah! – here comes a bright idea. We have an off day on Thursday, so the week starts with Foreman, Garrett, Toner… into Santos, Foreman, Garrett. We don’t actually need another starter next week, which allows us to call up a relief pitcher from AAA instead. Tuesday the following week is where we need a spot start. I might call up Charlie Cogger since he can give the shallow end of the pen some length and do the spot start, but we’ll see what happens on Monday.

Coons will play the Thunder and Titans next week.

ABL CAREER STRIKEOUT LEADERS
78th – Anibal Sandoval – 1,832
79th – Eduardo Jimenez – 1,830
80th – Dan Moriarty – 1,828
81st – Alfredo Collazo – 1,827
82nd – Dave Crawford – 1,816
83rd – Jonathan Toner – 1,802 – active
84th – Ian Rutter – 1,797 – active
85th – Raimundo Beato – 1,791
86th – Manuel Ortíz – 1,762 – active (signed with Wolves this week)
[…]
92nd – Henry Becker – 1,729
93rd – Billy Robinson – 1,728 – HOF
94th – Larry Cutts – 1,714
95th – Carlos Guillén – 1,699
96th – Paul Kirkland – 1,698
97th – Hector Santos – 1,688 – active
98th – Juan Garcia – 1,684
99th – Jesse Carver – 1,682
100th – Samuel McMullen – 1,678 – active

Anybody else unable to help but to think of ALF whenever the Indians’ Tom Shumway rolls around (or doesn’t, like this week)?
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Last edited by Westheim; 10-10-2017 at 01:33 PM.
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Old 10-11-2017, 09:47 AM   #2380
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Raccoons (10-8) vs. Thunder (10-9) – April 26-28, 2021

Eight times in the last eleven years, the Raccoons had taken the season series from the Thunder; but not in 2020. Last year the Thunder claimed five wins in the nine games the two teams played with another. Time for revenge? Out of the gate, offense hadn’t been the Thunder’s strong suit, scoring just under four runs per game (though that still ranked them eighth in the CL), but the Raccoons seemed to routinely meet top three teams in terms of preventing opposition runs. The Thunder’s 65 runs conceded ranked them second in the CL, even ahead of the Raccoons, who had been plucked of some feathers last week.

Projected matchups:
Michael Foreman (1-1, 2.70 ERA) vs. Bryan Hanson (1-0, 2.02 ERA)
Travis Garrett (1-0, 4.58 ERA) vs. Evan Greenfield (2-1, 4.50 ERA)
Jonathan Toner (3-1, 1.80 ERA) vs. Steve Kreider (2-2, 4.62 ERA)

Starting with the left-hander Hanson and continuing with the right-handed Greenfield and Kreider, the Thunder expected to send all their pitchers into their games on short rest in this series. The scheduled pitcher for Monday, southpaw Nick Lombardo (3-0, 1.91 ERA) had been felled with a fever and would probably not be able to pitch before the weekend. He was not on the DL, but the Thunder’s outfield import R.J. DeWeese was, having suffered an ankle sprain in the second week of the season. He had been batting .209 with two home runs at the time of the injury and would probably miss time until late May.

God bless you, Thunder, god bless you.

The Raccoons injury report still had Hamilton as day-to-day as the week began; with the left-hander starting on Monday, he was conveniently selected to have another day on the bench to start the series. Meanwhile, Tadasu Abe was placed on the DL on Monday, with a call placed to St. Petersburg to send up Blake Kelly. The original plan had been to call up Charlie Cogger, but he was not rested, and the Raccoons needed a rested pitcher. The human equivalent of an afterthought, Kelly had not yet pitched this season. He had achieved the odd feat of striking out 17 batters in 11.2 innings and still wind up with a 6.17 ERA.

Game 1
OCT: CF Bareford – 3B Marshall – RF Branch – C Pizzo – 2B Becker – 1B Gershkovich – LF Hollingsworth – SS Paull – P Hanson
POR: LF Carmona – CF Stevenson – 1B Mendoza – C Margolis – SS McKnight – 2B Nomura – RF Jackson – 3B Zuhlke – P Foreman

Giving Matt Nunley a day off in favor of Adam Zuhlke took only two innings to turn into a game-forfeiting mistake. After Jeff Becker’s leadoff single in the second, Zuhlke threw Mike Gershkovich’s grounder wildly past first base, placing runners in scoring position for the Thunder. Foreman struck out Steve Hollingsworth before things derailed decisively, with a 2-run single to right by Eric Paull, a 2-out walk drawn by Andy Bareford (who came in batting .173), and finally a 3-run homer by last year’s second-place finisher in the batting race, Bobby Marshall. That made it five for the Thunder, all unearned. While Hanson would fail to have that important shutdown inning following his team throwing up a crooked number and conceded an RBI double to Eddie Jackson in the bottom 2nd, that was very close to everything he allowed; the Raccoons managed only three hits in the first six innings and kept haplessly trailing, 5-1. The main excitement of those middle innings was the cameras catching Foreman wordlessly taking away a plate with cake Zuhlke had fashioned himself while the bottom of the fourth was in progress. Zuhlke hissed at him, Foreman hissed him down, and that was that. Foreman – thankfully! – would go eight innings, allowing only three more hits on the way, and one run, which occurred in the eighth inning. Ezra Branch led off with a triple into the rightfield corner, scored on Mike Pizzo’s grounder to Nomura, and that was more or less it for him. Six runs in eight innings, one earned. The bottom 8th started with a Jackson walk, innocently enough. Zuhlke singled to center before Matt Nunley hit for Foreman and creamed a 1-0 pitch to right center and outta here. Within a blink, the Raccoons were only two runs behind, but not only did Hanson finish the inning, he also retired the 1-2-3 batters rather effortlessly on entirely soft contact. The Raccoons would suffer another setback on a D.J. Fullerton’s pinch-hit homer off Blake Kelly in the ninth inning, but didn’t get their stuff together in the bottom of the ninth anyway… 7-4 Thunder. Jackson 1-2, BB, 2B, RBI; Nunley (PH) 1-1, HR, 3 RBI;

Game 2
OCT: CF Bareford – 3B Marshall – RF Branch – C Pizzo – 2B Becker – 1B Gershkovich – LF Hollingsworth – SS Paull – P Greenfield
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – 3B Nunley – SS McKnight – C Margolis – CF Metts – P Garrett

The Coons stranded two in the first inning after already incurring a deficit on Ezra Branch’s homer in the top of the first inning, a solo job, and it only figured to get worse for Garrett in the second inning, which Jeff Becker led off with a single to right. Gershkovich walked, and Hollingsworth got plunked, putting three on with nobody out. The damage was limited when Eric Paull didn’t quite get all of a meatball and flew out to Mendoza. While deep enough to plate Becker for a sac fly, it also curtailed the Thunder’s inning, with Greenfield bunting as scheduled, but Bareford striking out to continue a horrible April that saw him drop to .160 by now. Becker’s 2-out RBI double in the third deepened the hole to 3-0, and while the Raccoons had Cookie (single) and Mendoza (walk) on with two outs in the bottom of the inning, Hamilton’s drive to left was intercepted by Hollingsworth to end the inning. The Raccoons didn’t make it onto the board until the fifth inning when Cookie reached with a bloop single with two outs. Yoshi hit a ball hard to right where it bounced on the dirt next to the foul line, fair by inches, and well out of the reach of Ezra Branch. Cookie scored on the double, Mendoza singled to left to put the tying runs on the corners, but Hamilton again found Hollingsworth with a fly to left, and the Coons remained stuck at their 3-1 deficit.

Garrett’s suffering appeared to be over after a leadoff walk to Becker in the sixth inning, but a marvelous cat-like play by Danny Margolis on a ball that Mike Gershkovich chomped into the ground in front of home plate started a 2-6-3 double play on which young Garrett had to dive out of the way to not get beaned by Margolis’ pitcher-disregarding laser beam to McKnight. The Coons scored a run in the bottom 6th thanks to a leadoff double by Nunley into the left-center gap, with Margolis plating him with a sac fly, 3-2. Garrett got only one more out before Bareford hit a double in the top of the seventh that drew some polite applause by the home crowd. Garrett – with three left-handers following in the lineup – wouldn’t have faced another batter anyway and now yielded for Sugano, who promptly had to face right-handed pinch-hitter Devon Stephenson. Get him, Mano! Stephenson grounded out to Nunley, Branch struck out, and that inning was done with. The eighth was a tough cookie, however, with Seung-mo Chun putting two on before leaving a mess with runners in scoring position to Jason Kaiser, who faced left-handed pinch-hitter Cory Starmand while pitching in his 52nd game of the season. Somehow, he didn’t have it, and after Starmand walked to load them up we had to go to Noah Bricker against right-hander Chris Evans hitting for Greenfield. Evans tipped strike three into Margolis’ glove to end this inning, with the Thunder having a way more relaxed bottom of the eighth, left-hander Jeff Kearney delivering an immaculate inning as he axed down Hamilton, Nunley, and McKnight. Bricker instead conceded a run thanks to his own throwing error that put Branch on base, then a 2-out RBI double by Pizzo in the top of the ninth. Somehow, the Coons were cursed, I thought. They went down without much noise against Ryan Corkum in the bottom of the ninth. 4-2 Thunder. Carmona 2-4; Nomura 3-4, 2B, RBI;

To make everything that much worse, Matt Hamilton didn’t get better by playing a full game and suffered a setback with that pesky rib cage muscle of his. The Druid said he was out of the frogs and Hamilton should only be used sparingly for the rest of the week.

(staggers back to the liquor cabinet)

Game 3
OCT: CF Bareford – 3B Marshall – RF Branch – C Pizzo – 2B Becker – 1B Gershkovich – LF Hollingsworth – SS Paull – P Kreider
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – 3B Nunley – RF Mendoza – SS McKnight – CF Stevenson – C Margolis – 1B Petracek – P Toner

The only consoling thing for me right now – back to .500 – was not that Jonny Toner was on the mound but that the Raccoons had not played in a sweep the entire season so far and probably never would again, so this was a win by default. Toner was not one bit less **** than in the last two starts. While he struck out Bareford to start the game, Marshall then singled, Branch walked, and Toner’s 0-2 to Pizzo was wild, moving up the runners, Pizzo rallied for a full count, and then was hit in the upper arm to load the bases. While Becker popped up over the infield, Gershkovich cleaned the bases with a double off the fence in left, putting the Raccoons into a 3-0 hole immediately. Nothing got better for Toner, ever, with Jeff Becker hitting a 2-run homer in the third inning, more than just negating the silly run the Coons had tumbled into in the bottom 1st, when singles by Cookie and Yoshi had put them on the corners, but the rest of the bunch couldn’t come up with anything better than a Mendoza sac fly. Toner hit another guy in the fourth (Paull on 0-2), somehow didn’t allow six homers after that, but that was not the only issue. Cookie hit another leadoff single in the third, then was caught stealing for the third time in the series. The fourth saw Kreider walk the bases loaded, but that pulled up Petracek with one out, but Petracek successfully employed that well-cushioned bum of his, being hit by a pitch to force in the Coons’ second run. Toner batted, as for some reason we expected him to get better, plating a run with a groundout to first. Cookie batted with the tying runs in scoring position and two outs, singled past Becker into right, and Petracek was quick enough to score from second – tied ballgame, all back to square one at 5-5!

In odd occurrences, Toner was not yanked after Gershkovich’s leadoff walk in the sixth, and neither was Kreider in a 5-5 game with Gershkovich on second base and two outs. As these things went, Kreider ticketed a 2-2 pitch to center for an RBI single, giving the Thunder another lead, 6-5. Petracek hit a 1-out single in the bottom 6th. Hamilton batted for Toner, who had struck out Bareford to end another ****ed up day, but struck out. Cookie walked, and Yoshi hit a soft line to center. Bareford came in, but couldn’t get it, and Petracek again scored from second base, giving Toner a no-decision. Could he get a win? Nunley? He faced left-hander Chris Rountree, ran a full count, then singled past Bobby Marshall. Cookie dashed home from second, and the Coons had the lead indeed.

They blew it instantly. After Mendoza popped out, Sugano dropped a feed from Petracek at first base to put Marshall on base. Branch singled, and when Bricker came in he walked Stephenson. D.J. Fullerton pinch-hit and singled to tie the game, and Hollingsworth hit a sac fly with the bases loaded to get the Thunder up, 8-7. Bottom 7th: McKnight singled, Stevenson doubled. Margolis singled to center, Bareford was going home for Stevenson, but Nate Brown at short cut off the ball and fired to second where Margolis had been going. Margolis was out, but two runs scored. Lead Coons? I CAN’T KEEP UP!! Petracek walked, Jackson singled, Cookie hit into a fielder’s choice, but when Rountree tried to pick him off first his throw was wide and eluded Cory Starmand, allowing Petracek to score again. 10-8? Adam Cowen got two outs in the eighth, Lillis got one, and Ezra Branch got Lillis for a leadoff jack in the ninth. 10-9, I think. Don’t you worry, though, Brett had this. He struck out the next three, ending this BONKERS game. 10-9 Critters. Carmona 3-4, BB, 2 RBI; Nomura 3-5, RBI; Petracek 2-2, BB, RBI; Jackson (PH) 1-1;

(covers eyes with both hands) Maud, can I look again? Maud? Can I – … Can I look again? … Maud? (uncovers eyes) Huh. (the park lies dark in the middle of the night) Looks like everybody went home hours ago.

These Raccoons are not for those faint of heart, that much is for sure.

Raccoons (11-10) @ Titans (11-11) – April 30-May 2, 2021

These teams were second and third in the CL North to begin the series, with the Raccoons one game, and the Titans one-and-a-half games behind the leading Loggers. The Titans had just buried Chris Almanza (.226, 0 HR, 2 RBI) for the season with a broken kneecap, and overall were in the bottom three in runs allowed, which was an area the Raccoons were heading for at an alarming pace. The Titans were sixth in runs scored, with the Coons ranking second in that regard, while being eighth in runs allowed. While only half a game apart, the Raccoons had a +15 run differential, but the Titans’ was -8. We had taken two of three from them to start the season.

Projected matchups:
Hector Santos (3-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. Tim Dunn (4-0, 2.32 ERA)
Michael Foreman (1-2, 2.25 ERA) vs. Chris Klein (0-2, 4.19 ERA)
Travis Garrett (1-1, 4.50 ERA) vs. John Key (2-0, 5.20 ERA)

Again we get Dunn, but not Rick Ling (2-1, 4.18 ERA) among their left-handed starters. Chris Klein was their opening day assignment, and he still hasn’t won a game. Well, just hold Zuhlke out of that Saturday game and we’re fine.

Game 1
POR: LF Carmona – CF Stevenson – 1B Mendoza – RF Jackson – 3B Nunley – 2B Nomura – C Margolis – SS Zuhlke – P Santos
BOS: CF Reichardt – LF Baker – 3B A. Esquivel – C Salas – 1B Murphy – 2B M. Green – RF Cornejo – SS Janes – P Dunn

Cookie opened the game with a single and was balked over to second base by Dunn, from whence he scored eventually on a Mendoza sac fly to left. After a clean first inning, Santos entered nightmare territory right in the second inning. Pedro Salas bombed him with a 430-footer to start the inning, but it was more about how things progressed with the game tied at one. Stan Murphy singled, which was bad enough. Santos tried to pick him off, although Murphy wouldn’t go anywhere, and threw the ball past Mendoza to move Murphy to second. After Mike Green’s strikeout, Gil Cornejo rolled a ball to the left side of the mound, Santos was slow to play it, and Cornejo had an infield single. Runners were on the corners for Erik Janes, who was ready to line up the middle, but Zuhlke made a spectacular catch to deny the opposing shortstop, which was just before Tim Dunn lifted the first pitch he saw into the gap in right center. That looked like doom – but Eddie Jackson made it over there in time to make a running catch. Zuhlke opened the top 3rd with a double, but with runners on the corners after Cookie’s 1-out single, Stevenson lined to short. Janes made the catch. Zuhlke was - … I don’t know what. He made for home and was actually 30 feet off the base when he was doubled off to end the inning. Santos survived a mild drizzle that started in the bottom of the third, a Zuhlke error in the fourth, but the Raccoons would not support him. The rain briefly stopped in the fifth, then restarted in the sixth, and soon enough forced the game into a rain delay that lasted well over an hour and ended Santos’ day after only five innings. He had pitched to a 2-2 count against Josh Baker leading off the bottom 6th, but the at-bat was picked up by Blake Kelly when play resumed. Baker doubled off him, Antonio Esquivel walked, but at least Nunley got one hit to him for once and started a double play. Murphy popped a ball to shallow right, Jackson blundered it and the ball hit off the edge of his glove and dropped to the ground. Baker scored, Titans up 2-1, and Murphy to second on the error, where he remained when Green grounded out. The Titans got two more off Kelly in the seventh thanks to a Janes single, Roberto Amador’s RBI double that saw him move to third on Jackson’s throw home, and a sac fly by Adrian Reichardt. Despite a completely pale appearance so far and three errors in an attempt of self-immolation, the Raccoons – down 4-1 – had a chance in the top 8th against Willie Alonzo. McKnight pinch-hit for Zuhlke to lead off and singled. Petracek flew out to center, but Cookie had his fourth base hit of the game with a single to right (which gave him more than half the Critters’ total bounty…). Stevenson was the tying run now, grounded out, and Mendoza flew out to Reichardt in center… The question whether there was any hope for this team had to be negated, since Ron Thrasher appeared in the ninth and wouldn’t take prisoners. He struck out the side. 4-1 Titans. Carmona 4-4; McKnight (PH) 1-1;

Kelly (2.2 IP, 4 R, 3 ER) was waived and designated for assignment right after the game ended. Left-hander Ricky Martinez, 26, was promoted to the major league roster for the first time in his career to make the start on Tuesday that Abe wouldn’t be able to appear for. He was 1-1 with a 2.18 ERA in three AAA starts this year, but had spent most of last year injured. The Raccoons had picked him up in the 2011 international free agent period, so it had been a few years. Back then he had cost us $260k.

Game 2
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – 3B Nunley – RF Mendoza – 1B Hamilton – SS McKnight – C Margolis – CF Stevenson – P Foreman
BOS: CF Reichardt – LF Baker – 3B A. Esquivel – C Salas – 1B Murphy – 2B M. Green – RF Cornejo – SS Janes – P Klein

The Furballs started the game with three soft singles into the seams between infield and outfield, loading the bags with nobody down for Mendoza, who was second to Nunley in RBI’s on the team and probably didn’t like it. He would tie Nunley’s mark of 15 with a run-scoring groundout to Mike Green. Hamilton reached ten with an RBI single to right, after which Klein remembered how to pitch and struck out both McKnight and Margolis. The Titans tried to rally quickly, but got only one runner in each of the first two innings against Foreman before putting him in the wringer with two outs in the third. Singles by Baker and Esquivel, a walk to Salas, and here was Murphy, murder in his eyes. He chopped the first pitch into shallow left, Cookie better done the rocket shoes! Here he came, and a running grab, half stumbling, picking the ball knee-high before it could dink into the grass, ending the inning and saving multiple runs!

The fourth started with a no-doubt blast by Ronnie McKnight, estimated at 450 feet to rightfield, lengthening the score to 3-0. Ronnie singled his next time up, leading off the sixth, but was caught stealing, sending the Raccoons to 0-for-5 in their steal attempts this week. Oh well, at least Foreman had every intention to hold on to his status as #1 starter right now, retiring the Titans throughout the middle innings. They only reached base again on a 1-out single by Cornejo, right into no man’s land in shallow center. Janes struck out, Klein was not hit for with two outs, and Foreman K’ed him as well. Foreman’s day ended one out later. Reichardt grounded out to short beginning the bottom 8th, but Baker wrestled Foreman for seven pitches before singling in a full count. That put Foreman over 100 for the day, and Noah Bricker was sent to the rescue. Esquivel popped out, but Salas gave a 94mph fastball a ride to left. Cookie back, back, back – made the catch on the track! Klein went the distance with ten hits against him and ten strikeouts to his credit, and despite a pinch-hit single by Dwayne Metts to start the top of the ninth, the Raccoons didn’t amount to a threat. The bottom 9th thus was Lillis’, with Murphy up first and another right-handed batter behind him in Green. Murphy hit a home run that rivalled McKnight’s in length and put the Titans finally on the board, but it was all they got; Lillis retired the 6-7-8 batters to end the game. 3-1 Coons. Nomura 2-5; Mendoza 2-4, RBI; Metts (PH) 1-1; Foreman 7.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K, W (2-2);

Matt Hamilton was subbed out of the game before the ninth inning, and he still didn’t feel 100%. He was not in the lineup for the rubber game.

Game 3
POR: LF Carmona – 2B Nomura – 3B Nunley – RF Mendoza – SS McKnight – C Olivares – 1B Petracek – CF Metts – P Garrett
BOS: CF Reichardt – LF Baker – 3B A. Esquivel – C Salas – 1B Murphy – 2B M. Green – RF Amador – SS Janes – P Key

Nunley seized single possession of the team RBI lead again in the first inning, hitting a solo home run off John Key for the first run of the game. Mendoza was no comparison to 2020, when he at times had collected more RBI than the next two Coons combined, and rolled out easily to end the inning. Garrett was rocked for three runs right away, with Reichardt reaching on an infield single, Baker getting walked, and Pedro Salas hitting the third 450-footer the park had seen in 24 hours, this one putting the Titans up 3-1 and probably sending the Raccoons all the way to .500…

Garrett at least got in the way of a 2-1 pitch in the second inning. Key was charged with a hit-by-pitch, and it loaded the bases with two outs for Cookie to come up and do good. At 0-2 Cookie rolled the softest-possible grounder past Mike Green and into shallow right for a game-tying 2-run single. Yoshi struck out, and maybe Garrett could keep his holes closed for an inning or two to restore order in this game. At least the second was scoreless – never mind the singe mark that John Key’s 2-out liner left in McKnight’s glove. Nunley and Mendoza opened the third with singles. McKnight flew out to left, bringing up Olivares, who was batting .158 despite a single his first time around. Key ran a full count before getting his ticket punched as Olivares hit a 388-footer, trivial in comparison of what we had seen so far this weekend, over the leftfield fence, a tie-breaking 3-run shot and the first of his career! Petracek’s triple and Metts’ groundout even brought in another run, handing Garrett a 7-3 lead in the middle of the third inning. Travis, don’t you ****ing dare!

The defense held him together for the next two innings until he came to bat with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth. This was Adam Euteneuer’s second inning of work. The former Loggers starter did not have a good day and had walked two along with a single so far in the inning. Garrett flew out, but that was on a 2-0 pitch, showing that Euteneuer was probably going to blossom the score further. Cookie was willing to do harm here and hit another soft and easy 2-run single to rightfield, 9-3, before Yoshi popped up and Nunley grounded out. Portland stranded another pair in the sixth, and the bullpen began to warm up in the bottom 6th after a leadoff single to center by Josh Baker. Alas, Garrett held up, getting an easy fly to Metts from Esquivel, struck out Salas, and got Murphy to pop out to short. His pitch count was getting well up, though, and he probably would need replacement in the seventh one way or another. He did however take his turn in the box to start the top of the seventh against Willie Alonzo, striking out. The next three batters reached, as Cookie walked, Yoshi singled to center to liven up a dreary 0-for-4, and Nunley also walked. Chance for Mendoza! Baker caught his fly coming in and McKnight struck out, stranding another three runners… Garrett however completed the bottom 7th with two strikeouts before heading for the shower, and looked like a winner after all. The Titans almost got a run across against Kaiser and Cowen in the eighth, but Baker was thrown out at home on McKnight’s relay after a strong throw in from Cookie on Esquivel’s single to left, which ended that inning. Mendoza got ANOTHER chance with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth against Mitch Onley. He FINALLY did damage with a 2-run single to center. McKnight hit an RBI double, and another run scored on Olivares’ groundout. Salas’ second homer of the day off Cowen was too little, too late, in the bottom 9th, and by a wide margin. 13-4 Raccoons! Carmona 3-4, 2 BB, 4 RBI; Nomura 2-6; Nunley 3-5, BB, HR, RBI; Mendoza 2-5, BB, 2 RBI; Olivares 3-5, BB, HR, 4 RBI; Petracek 2-5, BB, 3B; Garrett 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, W (2-1);

In other news

April 26 – The Stars rally from a 7-4 deficit for four runs in the ninth to walk off the Buffaloes, 8-7. With one out and the tying and winning runs on the corners, 40-year old LF/RF Johnny Crum (.250, 1 HR, 5 RBI) hits a walkoff *triple*. In a career with over 4,000 plate appearances, Crum has tripled only 22 times, and hadn’t achieved the feat in five years before his ninth-inning heroics on Monday.
April 26 – Indy’s SP Shane Baker (2-1, 2.73 ERA) 3-hits the Knights in a 4-0 shutout. The 24-year old strikes out six, going the distance for the first time in his 11th career start.
April 27 – Terrible news for the Crusaders, who lose their young up-and-coming starting pitcher Mike Rutkowski (1-3, 3.71 ERA) for the season. The 25-year old righty has torn his rotator cuff and figures to miss an entire year.
April 27 – WAS INF Guillermo Obando (.490, 0 HR, 11 RBI) has his second 5-hit game in as many weeks, connecting for four singles and a double against the Wolves, including a 13th-inning walkoff RBI single in the 3-2 game.
April 27 – The Canadiens get not only routed for 12 runs by the Falcons, they also get shut out on three hits by CHA SP Doug Moffatt (2-2, 2.80 ERA).
April 28 – The Canadiens are routed and held to three hits and zero runs for the second straight day by the Falcons, this time with Alex Vallejo (2-2, 5.23 ERA) doing the honors. The Falcons win 8-0.
April 28 – In a 3-hit shutout one league over, PIT SP Pedro Hernandez (1-2, 2.78 ERA) whiffs 11 Warriors in a 5-0 Miners win.
April 30 – The Canadiens draw four walks and hit one single off MIL MR Quinn MacCarthy (2-2, 3.48 ERA) to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 walkoff win in the ninth inning. MacCarthy, who led the CL with 47 saves last year, takes his second loss in as many days and doubled his season walk total in a single outing.

Complaints and stuff

Cookie time! Ricardo Carmona collected 14 hits this week in 25 attempts (.560) and drove in six to win CL Player of the Week honors. It’s his first POTW award in *seven* years. Just as astounding: all his hits were singles.

Going 5-0 with a 2.19 ERA, including two wins over the Critters, Tim Dunn was the CL’s Pitcher of the Month. Yeah, I wouldn’t be able to come up with a valid candidate from our fold…

You go, Johnny Crum! The sports news were full of the Stars’ home crowd going berzerk when Grandpa Crum tripled the Buffaloes into their dugout. You may or may not remember Crum as a pretty decent starting outfielder for the Condors in the late 2000s. He was an All Star in ’10, the only accolade of his career, and the last time he racked up 500 plate appearances in a season. He spent his entire 30s as a fourth or fifth outfielder, and pretty much vanished off our radar here when he migrated to the Federal League in 2015 after stints with the Thunder and Knights. He’s since had eight stints with five FL teams, including the Stars, Warriors, and Gold Sox twice each, without collecting as many as 200 at-bats in a season even once. Career .299 batter with 76 home runs. Well, you usually don’t make it that long as a corner outfielder that slaps singles here and there.

Yes, Maud? Cookie wants a word with me?

It’s been a few weeks, so how is our Cuban addition doing in AAA? Jesus Chavez, 23, is … well… not overwhelming the competition. He’s 1-0 with a 3.91 ERA in three starts, striking out 16 in 23 innings. I would have hoped for a wee bit more. My search for a spot start on Tuesday will not lead me to Damani Knight immediately because of that – even my desperation is not unlimited at this point – but maybe we can pick five innings from Ricky Martinez’ non-prospect body?

No strikeout leaderboard today – there was no movement we care about this week. But Toner will pitch twice next week, which can mean anything and nothing, and Santos should move up with a decent start.

Instead of the leaderboards, BNN came up with this one:

ACTIVE LEADERS BY CAREER WHIP
1st – Jonathan Toner – 0.95
2nd – Angel Casas – 0.96
3rd – Hector Santos – 1.01
4th – Arturo Lopez – 1.08
5th – Salvadaro Soure – 1.11

Angel and Soure are free agents, both are old, Angel is hurt. But I find it astounding that we had our paws on four of them at various points.

The Raccoons will be on a Pacific Northwest tour next week, playing in Vancouver and Salem (those teams are a combined 18-31) before beginning another homestand that will last two weeks and 13 games, including a series with the Loggers. Overall the CL North has been drummed by the South so far in a reversal of recent fortunes. As a whole our division is already 14 games under .500 and the season has barely started. And what the heck is with the Aces!?
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__________________
Portland Raccoons, 45 years of excell-.... of baseball: Furballs here!
1983 * 1989 * 1991 * 1992 * 1993 * 1995 * 1996 * 2010 * 2017 * 2018 * 2019
1 OSANAI : 2 POWELL : 8 REECE : 10 BROWN : 15 HALL : 32 WEST : 46 SAITO

Meeets!
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