I had the good fortune to spend Memorial Day weekend on the road at Hadlock Field on Saturday and on to Fenway Park for the Red Sox- Rays battle Sunday.
First, the Sea Dogs quasi-doubleheader vs. the New Britain Rock Cats on Saturday. The first " game" was a continuation of Friday's game which had been fogged out after 4 innings. The Dogs pulled out a 4-3 win paced by the pitching of relievers Marco Duarte and Aaron Kurcz. Kurcz, who was the second piece of compensation for the Cubs for Theo, gave up a 2-1 lead in the 8th in his first inning on the hill. But the Dogs paced by a double by speedy shortstop Derrik Gibson had their own 2 run rally and Kurcz survived the ninth to get the win. Gibson was drafted in the 2nd round in 2008, and was considered a top prospect. However, he has never hit much in the minors. On Saturday, he showed outstanding speed on the bases and range in field. He could be a big league utility infielder if he can hit at all, but he is nearing the point of washing out as a prospect.
The most interesting offensive player in the lineup for the Sea Dogs in both games was right fielder Bryce Brentz, a member of the RSM Top 12 prospects list. He did not exhibit his right handed power, but did hit a blooper down the right field line and showed better than expected speed and turned it into a hustle double.
The highlight of the day, from a prospects point of view, was the second game starting pitcher for Portland, Anthony Ranaudo. Ranaudo after joining the Dogs in May from extended spring training, due to a groin injury, had had 2 rough outings before Saturday. And his first inning vs. the Rock Cats was more of the same. Ranuado, in the first, pitched well then poorly to every other hitter.A two pitch ground out to first, walk, K, HBP. The after hitting Evan Bigley, the next hitter took him over the Maine Monster for 3 quick runs.
After the rocky first, however, Ranaudo went on the pitch 5 shutout innings. Helped by a double play in the second, and two or three strikeouts all swinging on his off speed pitch. In the first three innings Ranaudo's fastball topped out at 91-92 according to the Hadlock radar readings. In the latter innings his heater ranged from 89-91. Not sure how accurate the readings were, a few pitches popped the mitt sounding a little higher than 92.
Overall, it appears Anthony still needs to get some early season rust off his game, but he certainly showed flashes of the promise he has. A later season comparison game would be interesting to see.
At Fenway Sunday it was a beautiful sunny, mid 70's day in Boston. The Sox looked to build on the momentum of the their first walk off win of the year via Jarrod Saltalamacchia's walk off homer Saturday night. They drew a tough customer in Jeremy Hellickson, and the Sox featured Clay Buchholz, hoping to continue his turnaround. The Sox belted a number of early liners off Hellickson with naught to show for it. In the first Pedey screamed a liner down into the LF corner, but was called out at second on a very questionable was he tagged or not play.
Buchholz pitched his best game of the year and after six it was 1-0 Rays. The one run scored aided by a mishandled relay from Adrian Gonzalez, still playing daily in right field, to Pedroia. In the seventh there was an identical play at second as on Pedroia in the first. This time the Rays runner was called out and changed to safe in mid-call. The runner was singled in to give the Rays a 2-0 lead. In the seventh after a walk to Papi and a Youk single, Gonzalez pounded a ball into the monster seats into the glove of ten year old sitting three seats inside the Fisk Pole, giving Boston a 3-2 lead. I was hoping Adrian would thumb his nose at Maddon and Price on his way to the plate, but did not.
Morales and Padilla shut down Tampa in the 8th, and in the bottom half the Sox loaded the sacks, but Gonzalez with a chance to completely bury the Rays, lined out into the shift. Aceves came in the close the Rays out and give Boston a 6-3 season series lead. But he immediately committed the the cardinal sin of walking the first hitter, the so-called All Star, but in reality the .208 hitting Ben Zobrist. After getting one out, AA fell behind Sean Rodriguez 3-1 and then left the ball over the plate and the non-power hitting Rodriguez crushed the ball over everything in left. Salty lead off the Sox ninth but a shattered bat prevented a Salty encore from Saturday. Over managing by Valentine ( not to mention our light hitting bench) left us with Punto and Byrd to bat and the game ended with a 4-3 Rays win.
So, for the fourth or fifth time this year, the Sox fail to get over .500 and threw away a great chance to stick it to Rays after Friday night's broohaha, and to take the aforementioned 6-3 series lead over the Rays, half thru the season series ( have to settle for 5-4 lead).
Other than the result always great to be at Fenway. Carlton Fisk was there as it was New Hampshire Day, and got a brief chance to meet and get an autograph from Billy Conigliaro before the game.
Sox are playing better, a good sign to see Buchholz outpitch Hellickson, and lots of home games coming up. Also lots of fun to see Ranaudo in Portland.
Happy Memorial Day to all.