Tuesday, July 15 - Augusta 7, Kannapolis 6 (12 innings)
Hitting big grand slams must be a Giants thing.
Rafael Rodriguez hit a game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning to come back from a 6-0 deficit just one inning earlier. I don't have WPA to help me, but I feel confident saying the slam was Augusta's biggest win expectancy swing this season. The GreenJackets went from a 6-2 deficit with one out in the eighth, to a 6-6 tie with one swing.
The GreenJackets completed the comeback in the 12th when Chris Lofton hit a ground ball to shortstop and Jeremy Sy beat the throw home.
Sy also hit a game-tying grand slam June 6 to make it a 6-6 tie. His came in the seventh inning. The GreenJackets completed the comeback that night, too.
In a season where Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner has two grand slams in one year, and their Class-A affiliate has two late-inning, game-tying grand slams in the span of a little more than a month, it's safe to say the organization is coming up grand.
The dramatic comeback would not have been possible without Augusta's bullpen effort. Four relievers combined for no hits, no runs, two walks and 14 strikeouts in six innings. They halted Kannapolis' scoring after a six-run fifth and effectively shut down the opposition to give their own offense a chance to come back.
Ray Montero threw two scoreless innings with two walks and four strikeouts. He was the only reliever to issue a baserunner. Montero struggled in his first stint with Augusta earlier this season, but he has been more effective the second time. He has allowed one unearned run with three walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings.
Ray Black produced perhaps his most dominant performance at Lake Olmstead this season, striking out the side with relative ease just by pumping fastballs. Black sat 95-100 and touched 101. He hit triple digits four times. He only threw two breaking balls and neither were competitive, but he turned to the fastball and worked up and glove side very well. Class-A hitters simply don't have a chance when his arm is loose. It's not exactly common to say a Class-A player has what it takes to get major leaguers out right now, but if you put Black in a big league bullpen this season, I think he would more than hold his own if he throws strikes.
Daniel Slania threw two perfect innings with five strikeouts in what was perhaps his best outing this season. Slania won't overpower batters with velo, sitting low-90s. But he's aggressive and attacks the zone with command. Slania has the mentality of a reliever with good pace and an aggressive style.
Luis Castillo threw a scoreless frame with two strikeouts. Castillo has to rely on keeping the ball down or on the corners with a fastball in the low-to-mid-90s paired with a hittable breaking ball. He doesn't get good plane or extension from a small frame, so he needs to stay on top of the ball and work the lower half of the zone. If he works up, he becomes hittable.
***Rodriguez's grand slam was his fourth home run this season, tying a career high for a season. It was his third career homer at Lake Olmstead. If Rodriguez's season ended today, his .273 average would best his previous high in full-season ball by 37 points.
***Augusta's Ty Ross extended his hitting streak to six games with a 2 for 5 night that included a walk. Ross has 12 hits in his past 25 at-bats over that streak. He has at least one hit in 10 of his past 11 games. Over that span, six of those have been multi-hit games.
***Augusta's Steven Messner allowed at least four earned runs for the third consecutive start by giving up five earned and six total. Since throwing eight shutout innings against Rome on June 26, Messner has allowed 14 earned runs in his past 18 innings.
***Kannapolis' Jeffrey McKenzie had one of his best pro starts, allowing four hits over six shutout innings. He didn't walk any and struck out five. McKenzie induced 13 swinging strikes from strong fastball command and a heavy dose of secondaries.
***Kannapolis' Trey Michalczewski went 2 for 5 with a double and three RBI, giving him 22 doubles this season. The 2013 seventh-rounder has 36 extra-base hits at only 19 years old.
Notable Augusta lines:
Steven Messner: 6 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 12 ground balls, 5 fly balls, 3 line drives, 5 swinging strikes, 88-92
Rafael Rodriguez: 2-3, HR, 4 RBI, BB
Ty Ross: 2-5, BB
Jeremy Sy: 2-6
Cristian Paulino: 1-6, RBI
Notable Kannapolis lines:
Jeffrey McKenzie: 6 IP, 4 H, 5 K, 6 ground balls, 8 fly balls, 2 line drives, 13 swinging strikes, 85-87
Trey Michalczewski: 2-5, 2B, 3 RBI
Adam Engel: 1-5, 2 RBI, BB
Carl Thomore: 2-5